When you watch a film at the cinema, you can tell the film industry people. They are the ones who make their partners stay behind for the entire credits, even as everyone else heads for the light and the loos.
When camera people watch credits roll, they look for letters like ASC, ACS, CSC, BCS, and NZCS. These letters sometimes appear after the director of photography’s name and they have special meaning in the camera world.
These acronyms represent accreditation by the American, Australian, Canadian, British, and New Zealand cinematographers’ societies. Accreditation by one of these societies is acknowledgement that you are a master cinematographer who has a consistently high quality body of work to your name, and that you have earned the recognition and acknowledgement of the profession.
Although details vary around the world, cinematographers’ societies accredit members in ways similar to other professional associations. After an appropriate qualifying period as a full member, if they feel ready, a cinematographer may apply for accreditation by submitting a range of projects. Their application is assessed by an accreditation panel and, if successful, they earn the exclusive right to use the society’s acronym after their name – in our case NZCS for New Zealand Cinematographers Society.
Full membership of NZCS is itself recognition of professional standing and something to be proud of. It requires that cinematographers have worked as directors of photography for at least five years. But until you earn accreditation, you can’t put those crucial letters after your name.
Of course, these days NZCS is not just composed of cinematographers. About half of the society are associate members who are not yet eligible for full membership, are other professional camera crew, or work with cameras and images in other ways.
Accreditation is different from a prize or award. Awards are for a particular project, and deserve lots of applause, but accreditation is awarded to the cinematographer for their body of work, requiring a level of experience and consistency that you don’t get from an individual award. Winning awards adds gloss to your CV and some NZCS members seem to have a pretty good run of awards by entering in the Australian ACS. In other countries awards are considered helpful in leading up to accreditation, but in the past there was no dedicated NZCS cinematography awards. However, this year planning is well advanced on our own new and exciting NZCS awards to be held in October.
These days NZCS, like other cinematography societies around the world, has a pretty broad definition of cinematography encompassing the full gamut of genres and formats, that involve lighting, composition and processing of moving images. This means accreditation it not just about feature films but is open to cinematographers who might specialise in areas like commercials, reality, or documentaries, all of which have their own challenges.
So as 2016 applications for NZCS accreditation are accepted, a look at some of the 18 current NZCS accredited members reveals cinematographers who have accreditations not just with NZCS, but also with Australian, Canadian, and US cinematographers’ societies. This shows NZCS accreditation is valued in the international camera world, and is worth watching for next time you watch those credits roll.
Photo: Murray Milne, NZCS, in Iceland on Toa Fraser’s upcoming doco Welcome to the Thirll