Yuri Neyman, ASC President & Founding Partner, Global Cinematography Institute Global Cinematography Institute. All rights reserved.
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend Vilmos.
When I heard few days ago, from his wife Susan, that he passed away, I immediately began reflecting on all the wonderful times we spent together talking about life, cinematography, photography, arts, about our native countries and politics, about our film schools, our mentors and their influences on us, about our families and friends, colleagues and peers, about Global Cinematography Institute, about its students and teachers, about our dreams and realities, about what happened and what not and why.
I remembered our trips to Budapest, Oslo and Camerimage; I remembered how our friendship began in such an improbable place as Mosfilm studio in Moscow, where Vilmos photographed the HBO film "Stalin" and on the next stage I photographed the Twenty Century Fox film "Back in the USSR" ("Icons") and how we, two Los Angelinos who arrived in Hollywood from Hungary and the Soviet Union, "bumped" into each other in the Mosfilm cafeteria "for foreigners only."
Now, in retrospect, I cannot help but think about the symbolism of the event that happened to me in Rome, when I had just arrived from the Soviet Union, where I saw my very first American film abroad, It was "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", photographed by my [soon to be] dear friend Vilmos Zsigmond!
Humanity in his images is almost unprecedented. His love for people is shown in every film he did, in every frame, in every lighting and camera set up starting from his documentary footage about the nightmarish invasion of the Soviet Army in his beloved Budapest, continuing through his earliest Hollywood days when he was called "William Zsigmond," shooting the classic horror B-Film, "The Incredibly Strange Creatures."
He then reached apogee as Vilmos Zsigmond in the fantastic "Close Encounters" before his personal favorite, "The Deer Hunter."
I am smiling and amused just thinking of him now and that's the way he would want it. His sense of humor, intelligent irony and sarcasm made me laugh quite a bit! Not so many subjects of our jokes and stories were "sacred" art, Hollywood, personalities, history, current events. We always managed to find funny and light-hearted angles on all of those subjects.
But the subject that was taken seriously was the art of cinematography, respect for cinematographers, and admiration for truly artistic accomplishments and triumphs.
Vilmos often mentioned sources of his inspiration and his art. He said once in the interview for Gamma and Density Magazine: "My School, My Teachers, Italian Neorealism And Few Soviet Films Which Made Me Who I Have Become"
We had many conversations about "Bicycle Thief", "Mama Roma", "Rome the Open City" – classics of neorealism. One of the first questions he asked me, when we became close friends, was if I knew where to get one of the most favorite Soviet films of his youth – "Village Teacher," one of the first films photographed by Sergei Urusevsky, mostly known for his virtuosic camera work in "I am Cuba" and "Cranes are Flying."
I was so happy to find this DVD for him and then talk about Urusevsky, his artistic evolution from the military documentary cinematographer in WW2 to unsurpassed poet of the moving camera and imaging human emotions.
When we founded Global Cinematography Institute in 2011 we discussed, many times, the danger for young cinematographers to become "technological junkies" without understanding the core of our profession – the love of humanity and artistry.
Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC conducting a lighting class at Global Cinematography Institute
And when we coined the term Expanded Cinematography ® covering traditional and new concepts and techniques for GCI – we both always were on guard to protect the artistry of expression no matter what technology was used or would ever be used.
From the very first day of our collaboration Vilmos and I really believe that we're making a difference with Global Cinematography Institute. The objective was, is and always will be to find new ways for cinematographer's education and to show our students the new ways how to enhance and to improve their art and skill.
The greatest legacy Vilmos would like to pass on to the next generation of cinematographers is a legacy of character, love to the people and love to the art of cinematography, and those Global Cinematography Institute traditions and Vilmos' legacy will continue.
He was a truly remarkable man and artist who possessed the gift of enjoying life and laughter, but most of all people's humanity, which he had an enthusiastic passion to share visually with the world.
Though I know, that even in his transition to another world, Vilmos would want all of his family, friends and fans to find a way to laugh and enjoy their own lives and art, so please honor him with me by viewing his films many times again and again!
I will miss you my dear friend Vilmos and remember you always!!!
Rest in Peace
1930 – 2016
Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC: Advice for Young Cinematographers
Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC: The Role of Collaboration
Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC: The Growth of Expanded Cinematography