On February 15 at the Academy Sci-Tech Awards, the ASC membership was well represented. At the top of the list was Peter Anderson, ASC, who was presented with the Gordon E. Sawyer Oscar, a special award given for technological contributions that have brought credit to the industry. This special award is recognition from his peers on the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards Committee, which was formerly endorsed by the Academy’s Board of Governors.
Over the past 34 years, only 24 people have been so honored. Among the previous winners are many friends and colleagues of Peter’s. Many have also been ASC members or associates, including the very first recipient, Joseph Walker, ASC.
Walker, a beloved figure at the ASC Clubhouse, held twenty patents on various filmmaking inventions, including the Double Exposure System, several zoom lenses, the Duomar Lens, the Variable Diffusion Device, the Facial Make-Up Meter, lightweight camera blimps, and optical diffusion techniques. If you haven’t read Walker’s book, “The Light on Her Face,” order it right now. It’s a fascinating, personal glimpse into cinematography history, and a reminder that the art and the science have always gone hand in hand.
The list of ASC members or associate members who have also received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award includes Linwood Dunn, ASC, Petro Vlahos, Don Iwerks, Dr. Rod Ryan, Irwin Young, Ed Di Giulio, Tak Miyagishima, Gary Demos and Douglas Trumbull.
Trumbull made the presentation to Peter, saying, “I love Peter dearly. . . when I think of technological contributions that have brought credit to the industry – that is Peter Anderson. . . When I need information on some aspect of old or new technology, I know who I’m going to call. 24/7, there is one person I can count on. Peter is gracious, forthright, and informed. . . the go-to guy for the future of cinema. . . Peter commands my deepest respect.”
Asked about the Academy event, Peter is quick to turn the keylight onto others: Charles “Tad” Marburg, a good friend of the ASC who was presented with the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, in appreciation for outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy.
Also, the ASC CDL – and by extension, the ASC Technology Committee (of which Peter was a founding member) – was recognized with a Technical Achievement Award. Joshua Pines, David Reisner, Lou Levinson, Curtis Clark, ASC accepted the honor on behalf of the committee.
After Josh Pines loosened up the crowd by referring to the proceedings as “the winter Olympics for geeks,” among other quips, Clark acknowledged that those on stage were a small sampling of those who contributed.
Of the ASC Technology Committee, he said, “It was that group and the diligent efforts they put in that enabled us to achieve this success. It’s a great group ethos, and this represents the best of what our ASC committee is all about.”
Lou Levinson used his time at the podium to thank Allen Daviau, ASC and Stephen Burum, ASC, because “They were the ones who put me on the path of endless volunteering.”
Peter arrived in California in 1962 on the Super Chief from Chicago. Years prior to embarking, he had worked as a photo lab processor, projectionist and filmmaker. The walls of his room at home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin were hung with posters of Bell & Howell, Revere and Auricon cameras (and one of a Sunbeam Alpine sports car). For a high school science fair project, years before he ever set foot on a professional movie set, he built a detailed tabletop scale model of an entire film studio, down to tiny development tanks that ran 3 mm-wide strips of actual film. The model also included a sound recording system with a tiny light that modulated in intensity as one spoke into a microphone. The carbons in his working miniature arc lights were from discarded flashlight batteries.
After two years attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Peter came west to attend The Art Center College of Design. He remembers being the only cinematography major, and the only cinema student at the school, which at that time did not own a movie camera.
“They only had one beat-up projector, and that didn’t work all the time,” he recalls. Soon he had a job at Pan Pacific Camera at 646 N. La Brea, where he purchased his own 16mm camera – one more early step on the path that led eventually to Oscar recognition and the respect and admiration of his peers at the Academy.
You can see a clip of the Peter receiving his honor here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUVFfJnmkgk
And you can see a clip of the ASC-CDL presentation here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SV6AKXo-ro