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23-30 September 2017

The winner of the GOLDEN CAMERA 300 for Lifetime Achievement at the 37 edition of the MANAKI BROTHERS Festival 2016 is the Australian cinematographer,
the Oscar-winning:

 

John SEALE, ACS/ASC

 

Foto John Seale 29.06.2016John Seale is one of the top, not only Australian but also international cinematographers. His signature on the latest absolute international blockbuster MAD MAX
- FURY ROAD (launched after the world premiere at last year's festival in Cannes) is just another solid proof of this.
John Seale was born on 5 October 1942 in Warwick, Queensland, Australia, as John Clement SEALE. In 1967 he has been married to Louise Seale (herself a film professional).
After graduating from high school in Sydney, John SEALE was fortunate enough to enter ABC-TV when he was only 21 years old. The veteran cinematographer Bert Nicholas gradually introduced him to the craft of cinematography, while John had the fortune of being guided by the experienced cinematographer Bill Grimond. In 1965 Grimond convinced the managers of ABC-TV to give John a chance as a camera-operator, and thus John, together with experienced Grimond, worked on the kids TV show WANDJINA! then continued to collaborate. So, from the very start of his career and professional growth and development as a cinematographer, he gained precious experience working with other camera operators and cinematographers, trudging the road towards becoming an independent cinematographer by working as the camera operator of many experienced colleagues, and even working as the camera operator in the films that he signed as a cinematographer which is one of the key attributes of his career. Meaning that he understood the duality of being a camera operator and cinematographer as a professional whole, being self-sufficient as his own camera operator entrusted with the shaping of the final product with his hands, combining this great artistry with the creative vision of a cinematographer who makes the synthesis of the photography and the setting up of the lighting in the kinesthetic process of creating the future work of art in collaboration with the film director. The foundation of his certainty as a camera operator can be described through the examples of films shot by the creative trio: the leading director of the Australian new wave cinema, Peter Weir, who in the course of the 1970s hired the two colleagues from the same generation: John Seale as the camera operator and the two-year-younger Russell Boyd as cinematographer. This led to the production of the film: PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975, an effectively depicted mysterious atmosphere about the disappearance of a group of girls from a girls' college during their visit to the countryside, which earned cinematographer Boyd the BAFTA Award, and is definitely something that John Seale himself is to be credited for), THE LAST WAVE (1977), and especially the war drama from the blood-drenched episode of the Australian soldiers at the Mediterranean front against the Turkish army in the First World War, in the film GALLIPOLI (1980) which earned this creative trio increased international recognition and led to visible affirmation of the new Australian cinema at the time.

john seale 3The tandem Seale (as second unit photographer/cinematographer) and Boyd (as cinematographer), went on to have another successful collaboration in 1982, once again in a film by Peter Weir, which was the international new success THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY, with visually suspenseful, effectively and dynamically shot dramatic events during Suharto's dictatorship in Indonesia, the whirlwind of which consumes young reporter Guy (Mel Gibson) and his photographer (in the Oscar-winning role for Linda Hunt). John SEALE's personal international recognition as a successful cinematographer came with the film GOODBYE PARADISE which brought him Milli - the ASC Award, the Award of the Australian Cinematographers' Association, the award for best Australian cinematographer of the year. 1985 was a turning point when SEALE moved to USA at Peter Weir's offer to work as a cinematographer on WITNESS (earning him the first Oscar and BAFTA nominations in 1986), not only one of the most acclaimed films in the director's career, but also one of the best films in the then Australian new wave, which marked the start of SEALE's international career. The thriller-suspense love drama revolves around a family from the Amish community when police officer John Book (Harrison Ford) gets wounded in a confrontation with the criminals he is after and must hide with them, at the same time trying to protect the child-witness who has seen the crime committed by the gangsters and starts to fall in love with his mother (Kelly McGillis). John Seale demonstrated his entire cinematic mastery in this film and narrowly missed the well-deserved Academy Award. Over the 1970s, John Seale had a few more significant collaborations as a camera operator of fellow cinematographers, contributing largely to their artistic and creative success. In 1986 he continued his collaboration with Peter Weir in THE MOSQUITO COAST, once again starring Harrison Ford as a dogmatic inventor with new visions against the western civilization who, together with his family, moves to South America and undergoes a personal breakdown. This was another of John Seale's directorial and cinematographer's adventures in the dual role of cinematographer and first unit camera operator (while David Burr, his close colleague, was the camera operator of second unit photography, and years later reprised this role as second unit cinematographer in the MAD MAX: FURY ROAD spectacle - a master-piece that we will came back to later on in this portrait, to give it due emphasis, as the peak in John Seale's creative output). In 1988 the successful collaboration of the tandem Seale-Weir continued with the excellent, poetic and intimate, spiritually subtle drama - DEAD POETS SOCIETY. Apart from Peter Weir, an important creative partner in John Seale's career was the British director Anthony Minghella, with whom, in the course of the 90s and at the start of the 2000s, John Seale, as an experienced cinematographer with international reputation, first shot the Oscar-winning film THE ENGLISH PATIENT, which was his first and only Academy Award as a cinematographer, in 1997, which means that exactly this year, at the 37 edition of the Manaki Brothers Festival, Seale celebrates the 20th anniversary since he won the award. From the lovers' moral temptations in the tumultuous whirlwind of passion and guilt, near the end of the Second World War, in the backdrop of a desert, the duet of Seal-Minghella takes us into the even more explosive relationship between crime and punishment in the psycho-visual storm of their second creation THE TALENTED Mr. RIPLEY (1998, where Seale was also the camera operator, while his son Derin Seale was the video playback operator) and ends with the culmination of the American Civil War in the raw Western force and a happy-ending lovers' catharsis in the Academy Award nominated COLD MOUNTAIN (2004).

john seale 1The list of Seale's successful creative collaborations as a camera operator/cinematographer, goes on with a number of films made together with prominent international directors such as: CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (1986, directed by Randa Haines), GORILLAS IN THE MIST (1987, directed by Michael Apted), then the Oscar-nominated RAIN MAN (1988, directed by Barry Levinsion), LORENZO'S OIL (1991, directed by Gorge Miller), THE FIRM (1992, directed by Sidney Polack), THE PAPER (1993, directed by Ron Howard), BEYOND RANGOON (1994, directed by John Boorman), THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT (1995, directed by Rob Rainer), the two films by Wolfgang Peterssen THE PERFECT STORM (199) and POSEIDON (2005), then HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE (2000, directed by Chris Columbus). - All the films from this impressive list, with their anthological values, serve to highlight the greatness of the artist/camera operator/cinematographer - Joan Seale.- However, the film we mentioned at the very start of this text, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, from the aspect of its production-technological-visual-cinematographer's performance and cinematic power, is the peak not only of the opus of the great John Seale, as an artistic creation, but also the peak in the entire big budget blockbuster galaxy so far. After the prototypical MAD MAX (1979 shot by cinematographer David Aggby) and the two sequels from 1981 and 1985, the writer-director-producer George Miller finds the real conductor of this visual symphony of the anti-utopian, post-apocalyptic vision of Australia in cinematographer John Seal, together with the new Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in their joint battle against tyranny and evil. The duet of cinematic masterminds, Miller-Seale, have a genre masterpiece created with superior cinematic technology. The very numbers of the production credits are a sufficient proof of this with the several: A, B, C cameras, camera-operating, cinematography units, steady cam operators, RED camera construction, camera design and construction (with the best viewer's experience coming from the IMAX 3D screening), and only the section of visual effects numbers over 500 credits, to which we need to add the stunts (over 150) and their significant contribution to this cinematographic spectacle, adds yet another layer to the story. All of this awarded by a mere Oscar nomination for an Award that John Seale absolutely deserved, would be on the soul of the members of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, and it will not be their first unforgivable mistake! However, the International Federation of Film Critics/FIPRESCI, pronounced MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Best Film for 2015, thereby paying the due tribute to John Seale's creation.
Therefore, introducing John Seale to the Club of Greats of the Manaki Brothers Festival, at its 37 edition, is a superior achievement that we are very proud of, because in the calendar year of 2015/2016, with the still uplifting global aura of the enormous popularity and undeniable production-creative potentials, we have managed to bring to Bitola as a great Laureate, the visual creator of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, one of the greatest among the great, the cinematographer John Seale.

 

Blagoja KUNOVSKI - DORE
Festival Director and Selector of the "Camera 300" Competition