Three things urgently needs fixing … now!

By IMAGO President, Paul René Roestad FNF

1. Cinematographers needs control of their images

In many countries, cinematographers are still not recognized as an author and are therefore not protected by the copyright laws.
If a stills photographer and a cinematographer makes an exact identical image, the still photographer is recognized as an author and has the copyright of his/her image and can therefore protect it from misuse, unlawful copying and/or unlawful changes.

Also in the USA, the stills photographer is protected by the Federal Copyright Act.
The still photographer is protected from other individuals cropping, colouring, or using his/her image in any way the stills photographer disagrees with.
The cinematographer´s images is far from protected in the same way.

Some of the IMAGO committee members meeting in Rome. From left; Paul René Roestad FNF, IMAGO President, Rolv Haan FNF, Arko Okk ESC, Jost Vacano ASC BVK, Kurt Brazda AAC, Cristina Busch, IMAGO legal advisor, Nigel Walters BSC, Astrid Heubrandtner AAC, Jan Weincke DFF and Argyris Theos GSC. Vittorio Storaro ASC AIC, Luciano Tovoli ASC AIC and Barry Ackroyd BSC was absent.

From too many parts of the World, reports are coming in to IMAGO that producers increasingly exclude cinematographers from the grading of their images and from the post production process.

Colourists are grading cinematographer´s images together with producers and/or directors without the cinematographer being either invited or informed, and we experience our images being cropped to the unrecognizable and getting coloured miles away from the cinematographer´s artistic intentions.

Cinematographers needs the right to control their images!
IMAGO believes that, with correct information and explanation, a vast majority of our colleagues in the film business can understand and agree with our demand that cinematographers needs control of their images, and that cropping, colouring and changing our images in other ways without the cinematographer´s agreement, is gravely unjust.

Just as it is unacceptable that someone colours Van Gogh´s sunflowers blue, that the film´s script is changed without the consent of the scriptwriter, or the music is played with a guitar instead of a trumpet without the consent of the composer, it is unacceptable to make significant changes to the cinematographer´s images without the consent of the cinematographer!

Cinematographers are great diplomats. Without this absolutely necessary quality, cinematographers would soon be out of work. Cinematographers understands that compromises sometimes, or often, may be necessary, and I am in no doubt they will cooperate to their greatest extent to find compromises that are acceptable to all parties, should a change to an image be necessary. What we ask for is to be consulted. We need to be part of the post production work and decisions, and we need to be present to make the best result as closely as possible aligned with the cinematographer´s artistic intentions of the images we create.

The problem is also highly present when it comes to how national film archives in Europe often work when they digitize and restore historic films. Although they do a great, creative and important job, too often, archivists and restorers themselves alone decides how the film is to be graded and how the images shall look when finished, and the cinematographer (if still amongst us), is not even informed that the work is performed.

Colour graders are one of the closest and most valued partners of cinematographers, but we not least need also them to fully understand this important challenge.
International cinematographers needs to enter into a closer relationship with colour graders, so they are informed and understand the fact that cinematographers needs to have control of their images. It is a matter of quality and attitude.

Cinematographers need colourists, and we depend on a good working relationship with them, no doubt. Especially in this day and age of RAW files.
But let there be no doubt, the image consists of the quality of the lighting, the choice of lenses, exposure, framing and movement of camera, filters, and the composition of the image. Most often, all of these are cinematographer´s artistic choices alone.
It is the cinematographer that more than anyone knows how the image is supposed to look!
That is why directors or producers don´t do cinematography. Images are done so much better when done by people dedicating their whole life to them!

From left: Luciano Tovoli ASC AIC, Nigel Walters BSC and Jost Vacano ASC BVK.

The IMAGO Authorship Committee, led by Luciano Tovoli AIC ASC, discussed this during their Summer Rome meeting, to conclude the road forward on this important topic.

To change this practice and to place the cinematographer firmly in the grading room, we need a world-wide and extensive campaign – a campaign to make our colleagues recognize how fully unjust and fully unacceptable the present practice by many producers is.
We need an extensive campaign not only towards producers and directors, but we also need to partner also with international colour graders, to make sure our problem is fully recognized and understood by all - of course in full recognition of the grader´s specialized job, and in full recognition that the cinematographer needs a good relationship with the grader to get the maximum quality and result the cinematographer aims for.

But that is just the normal story of film production: good collaboration between a large number of specialized artists is necessary to get great and unforgettable results.
We also need to partner with colour graders educational institutions to reach the aspiring and future colourists for better understanding of the problem.

This matter will have greatly increased focus for IMAGO in the year to come, and together with our Authorship Committee, we intend to find the right tools to reach understanding for what IMAGO for a long time have seen as obvious:
It is time international cinematographers gets acceptance for the right they have to not have their images changed without the cinematographer´s agreement!

2. 12 on – 12 off!

A 14 to 16 hour work day and 6 days working weeks are not unusual for a film crew on far too many productions. A 14 hour day, six days a week, means an 84 hour work-week. More than twice the normal work week for “normal” people. And the problem is increasing!

These unacceptably long days does not only gravely affect safety on set (tiredness greatly increases the chances for accidents), it affects diversity and inclusion (what disabled person, or woman or man with responsibility for children, can work 14 hour days 6 days a week).
They affects age groups too (what 50-60 year old can work 14 hour days 6 days a week without seriously affecting their health?). And, not least, tiredness can significantly reduce the quality of our images, and thereby seriously affect the final quality of the production.

Some of the members of the IMAGO Working Conditions Committee: From left: Cristina Busch IMAGO legal
advisor, Astrid Heubrandtner AAC, Paul René Roestad FNF, Kurt Brazda AAC, Nigel Walters BSC andZora Bachmann.

In their last meeting, the IMAGO Working Conditions Committee, led by Kurt Brazda AAC, debated this important matter. 

Film sets are usually planned for 12 hours days, but that is most often shooting time. When the last shot is finished for the day, there is still time needed for rigging down, next day prep, discussing with the director, getting props and costumes ready, and checking rushes.

Film work is glamourous, and if you as a young person without family are starting in the business, you are often willing to work until you fall over to please the production, for whom time is money. But it is the immensely valuable experience of the crew over 30 we need to keep as our colleagues in a long time perspective, and it is those we need to campaign for. And we want the international film business to be inclusive, diverse, and, not least: also to fit people with a family and children.

In the 1950-ties and ´60s, on studio productions at least, 8 hour days were normal. Later, ten hour days became normal, and then 12 hour days. Now 14-15 hour days is the new normal.

Some say the digital era has some of the blame, where every scene is shot from many more angles and often with several cameras. When our business was analogue, more careful planning was necessary, film stock was expensive. Today, better planning might be part of the answer.

Extraordinary, bright and talented women are needed for the future of the film industry.
During my long life as a cinematographer, I have employed many women in my camera crews. But today, none of them are still working in the film business. Having a family and children were not compatible with their lives in film production. And that is in Scandinavia, where film productions very rarely work more than eight - ten hour days. But, of course, extensive travelling is part of our job, also in Scandinavia.

Today we see the same trend. Even if 50% of the students in film schools are women, only around 10% of them remain in the business over a longer period of time. Working hours has to be reduced to have a chance of reaching IMAGO´s aim to have film production crews that reflect the society we live in.

Diversity and inclusion are essential aims for IMAGO, just as they should without doubt be for the whole industry. We cannot reach our aims without doing something about excessive working hours.

IMAGO will seek partnership with our 53 world-wide member societies and with all international film-related unions to strengthen the work internationally for the 12-on / 12- off campaign started by Haskell Wexler and Roderick E. Stevens in 2004. But we wish to go further. The IMAGO Working Conditions Committee wish to intensify the work to make international producers and filmmakers accept that a maximum 60 hour week should be a standard.

IMAGO is already discussing with the EU regarding their new EU film production support call Media 2020 with the aim make a maximum 50 hour week as a standard compliance to be eligible to get EU support.

3 The environment

Of things also urgently needing to be fixed, is the film production´s environmental footprint.
IMAGO is working towards Media 2020’s call for film productions to raise awareness amongst film production crews about the important environment issue, and that film producers applying for funding in the EU support system must, in their application, provide a plan on how to reduce their film production’s environmental footprint.

Of the 20 warmest years in global history, all of them has been in the last 22 years, and the last 4 years have been the warmest ever registered according to the World Meteorological Organization.

What can we do? Travel by train when possible, cooperating with partners with a specified and clear green policy, re-use materials, carpool, drive electric, reduce the use of plastic on production and sustainable catering are all good examples.

And green is cash! It pays to fly less when and if possible, to saving on energy (with Led lamps), to be aware of CO2 emissions, what raw materials we use, to avoid plastic cups, plates and cutlery, and also, perhaps to eat vegetarian once or twice a week during production.
All of that is not only good for the environment, it is good for our health!

This is not any longer the sole responsibility of Greta Thunberg!

Also cinematographers, film producers and filmmakers have to take these matters seriously. If we do not have an active and effective policy on this, we might not have a liveable earth to leave to our children or the film crews that comes after us!

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