The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has dedicated the 2008 Heritage Award competition for film school seniors and recent graduates in the United States to the memory of Laszlo Kovacs, ASC who died on July 22. The organization simultaneously issued a call for entries in the annual competition. The deadline for submissions is October 31. The Laszlo Kovacs Heritage Award will be presented to one or more recipients during the 22nd Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards on January 26 at Hollywood & Highland.
“Laszlo Kovacs was both an extraordinary artist and human being,” says ASC President Daryn Okada. “He was chairman of the ASC Education Committee for many years, and was tireless in his efforts to support students and other young filmmakers. Laszlo envisioned the Heritage Award as a tangible way for us to inspire talented young cinematography students to pursue their dreams. It was his idea to annually re-dedicate the Heritage Award to the memories of different ASC cinematographers.”
Kovacs was born in 1933 on a farm in Hungary. When he was 16 years old, his parents sent him to school in Budapest, hoping he would find a better life as an engineer or doctor. Instead, the youngster developed a passion for movies at local cinemas and enrolled at the Academy of Drama and Film in 1952.
During a spontaneous uprising against the communist regime in Hungary in October 1956, he and Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, who had graduated from the school the previous year, borrowed a 35 mm motion picture camera and documented civilians fighting soldiers and tanks on the streets of the city. After the Russian army crushed the revolt, they made a perilous 20-mile trek carrying the film out of the country. They arrived in the United States as political refugees in February 1957. Kovacs subsequently worked at odd jobs and shot very low budget films after moving to Los Angeles in 1960. His star ascended after Easy Rider became an instant classic in 1969.
Kovacs compiled more than 70 narrative credits, including such memorable films as Five East Pieces, Shampoo, What‘s Up Doc?, The King of Marvin Gardens, Paper Moon, New York, New York, The Runner Stumbles, Frances, Ghostbusters, Mask, Legal Eagles, Return To Me and My Best Friend‘s Wedding.
Kovacs received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Camerimage International Festival of the Art of Cinematography in 1998 and the ASC in 2002.
Applicants for the Laszlo Kovacs Heritage Award must be in either their final year of a U.S. film school or a recent graduate. Requirements include a recommendation by the dean, department head or a faculty member, and submission of a student film. Entries will be judged by an ASC jury who will evaluate both the artistry and skill with which the contenders tell stories with moving images that augment the visions of the directors and performances by the actors.
The ASC was chartered in January 1919. There are currently 290 active members of ASC who have national roots in some 20 countries. There are also 150 associate members from sectors of the industry that support the art and craft of filmmaking. Membership and associate membership is by invitation based on contributions that individuals have made to advance the art of visual storytelling.