Take Five – Michael Goi, ASC

Litepanels sits down with the Emmy®-nominated cinematographer to talk inspiration, art, and reflections on the past and future.

1. What inspired you and got you started in your career?

I’ve loved cinema since I saw 8mm films with Frankenstein and Dracula at a friend’s birthday party, which motivated me to make my own 8mm and 16mm movies. Seeing “Days of Heaven” made me want to become a cinematographer.

2. What is one of the most difficult shots you have ever had to create?

For the telefilm “Red Water,” I had to make a scene being shot at high noon on a sunny day in Capetown, South Africa, look like it was taking place in the very dim, ambient light just before dawn. Using a combination of low-contrast filters, selective fill lighting and underexposure, I was able to achieve a believable result. When one of the production executives saw the rushes, he called me to find out what went wrong with the photography, because he was there when we shot it. He expected it to look like a sunny day.

3. Looking forward, if you could have one innovation delivered or product invented, what would it be?

A button that would make the cast and crew want to watch rushes every morning together in a screening room again. Then they could all be on the same page about the film they were making and be excited about what they were creating.

4. Do you have one piece of advice or a tip for someone just starting out?

It is important to be directly inspired by people in the industry who do the kind of work you want to do. Do not be afraid to approach these people to mentor you. Don’t be a pest, but don’t be invisible. People who have achieved a certain level of expertise expect to be approached. If you are afraid to contact people, only do it for 10 minutes every day. Make up your phone list, pick up the phone and call the first number. You will most likely have to leave a message. Explain who you are and why you would like to have a brief chat or a cup of coffee with that person. Hang up the phone, and immediately pick it up again and call the next number. When the 10 minutes are up, stop. You’re done for the day. The next day, start again.

5. If you hadn’t become a cinematographer, what career might you have pursued?

I would be the Indiana Jones of film preservation, searching around the world for lost films, like Lon Chaney’s “London After Midnight.”

About Michael Goi, ASC
Michael is a Chicago native who studied filmmaking at Columbia College Chicago. He has earned some 50 narrative credits for feature films and episodic television programs. Michael earned ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards nominations for the telefilms The Fixer (1999) and Judas (2005), and Emmy® nominations for American Horror Story (2013), My Name is Earl (2009), and Glee (2012). He also wrote, produced and directed the narrative film Megan is Missing. Goi served three terms as president of the American Society of Cinematographers.

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