Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC to light up Chicago

It isn’t everyday that a legendary cinematographer visits Chicago, so it was no surprise that the workshop Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC will conduct in Chicago on Feb. 8 was instantly sold out.

Zsigmond and fellow cinematographer James Chressanthis, ASC will headline the three-part Celebration of Cinematography Feb. 7 at the Gene Siskel Film Center and Feb. 8 at Essanay Studio & Lighting.

The Celebration was organized by Fletcher Cameras’ general manager, Zoe Iltsopoulos Borys, whose many years of working for Panavision and Kodak in Toronto, Chicago and Orlando has provided close relationships with A-List cinematographers throughout the world.

Two parts of the three-part series are exclusively open to the trade, while the public part will be the Midwest non-commercial premiere of Chressanthis’ award-winning documentary, “No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos,” at the Film Center on Feb. 7.

“No Subtitles” traces the remarkable 50-year journey of Zsigmond and his friend and fellow cinematographer, Laszlo Kovacs, ASC, who died last year, beginning with their arrival in the U.S. as political refugees from Communist Hungary in February, 1957.

Chressanthis, who also produced, is a two-time Emmy winner and cinematographer primarily of television shows, including the current “The Ghost Whisperers” CBS series.

But the giant once-in-a-lifetime event will be the Master Cinematography Lighting Workshop conducted by Zsigmond and Chressanthis primarily for film/digital cinema students from Northwestern and DePaul, Columbia College and Flashpoint Academy.

Students will comprise 75% of the attendees, the others being members of Cameraman’s Local 600 and Studio Mechanics Local 476.

“Vilmos is such an incredible icon, and always surrounded by people, that the students attending our program would not be able to meet him if this event were held in Los Angeles,” said Borys.

For the Sunday workshop, Borys arranged for a stage setup with the cooperation of Big City Sets, Essanay’s Jules Tomko as gaffer and putting the crew together and Peter Kuttner, first assistant cameraman taking care of the camera portion.

The second trade-exclusive part of the Celebration will be a Saturday lecture and the screening of scenes from Zsigmond and Chressanthis’ respective bodies of work and collaborations with actors, directors and others at the Film Center.

Since 1963, Zsigmond has been the cinematographer on more than 80 features, including such classics as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “The Deer Hunter,” “Deliverance,” and “Five Easy Pieces.”

The Celebration was initiated in early December when Borys attended Camera Image in Lodz, Poland and met James Chressanthis, a friend from her Toronto Panavision days. They discussed the possibility of a Midwest premiere of “No Subtitles,” accompanied by a Fletcher-hosted student workshop.

Within six weeks, schedules had been nailed down and the event organized.

Said Tom Fletcher, who was recently recognized as an ASC associate: “I was thrilled at the reaction of the community to this amazing event. It shows again that the community is hungry for access to major filmmakers like these.”

Sponsors of the Sunday workshop are Filmworks Club, Kodak, Barbizon, Sony, Essanay, Big City Sets, Fletcher Camera, Local 600, Local 476, the four colleges, and special thanks to the Illinois Film Office and the Gene Siskel Film Center, Borys said.

Tickets are $20 exclusively to the trade for the Saturday lecture at the Film Center, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. $9 tickets go on sale Jan. 23 the screening of “No Subtitles,” 7:30 p.m.