Czech cinematographic legend is rewarded for his lifetime of achievement

Miroslav Ondricek

The legendary cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek will be presented the American Society of Cinematographers International Achievement Award this weekend in Los Angeles, California. The prolific cameraman began his career in Czechoslovakia, with the emergence of what was known as the "New Wave" of Eastern European filmmakers in the early 1960s. He began his career working on documentaries and later started studying at the Prague film school FAMU. He entered the Hollywood mainstream during the late 1970s and now has 40 film credits and a number of Oscar nominations under his belt. Mr. Ondricek made some time to speak to Kay Grigar before he flew to LA Wednesday morning.

When you forged a working relationship with Milos Forman one could say you became the legendary cameraman/director tandem. How do you compare working on projects in the sixties in Czechoslovakia to making blockbuster movies in Hollywood?

"It's the same small budget or big budget. You must make it good. You must be perfect regardless of having a lot of money or no money. When I was developing working in cinematography I always thought to myself I have to work with the story. My job is to sell the story."

Perhaps Blockbuster films provide bigger crews and more time but as Mr. Ondricek proceded to tell me, it's the cameraman's ability to transcribe the story and put it onto the screen. Who would have thought that a young boy who spent countless hours in his friend's basement watching movies from the West banned under communist Czechoslovakia soon would entertain and enlighten audiences around the globe? The ASC award is given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to advancing the international art of cinematography and will be presented to Mr. Ondricek on February 8th, 2004. His ability to tell the story led him to create original work in genres ranging from musicals and comedies to period piece dramas such as the Oscar-winning Amadeus in 1984.