Founded in 1954, the South African Society of Cinematographers (SASC) aims to advance the art and science of cinematography in the country. The SASC is well known for its running

jul-cusack
Harman Guy Cusack
of the annual Spectrum Awards for best cinematography.

Harman Guy Cusack, a member of the SASC, has had 35 years of experience as a cinematographer, starting his career in the then Rhodesia with the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation and carrying on to direct many programmes during his time with the broadcaster. He later became a Director/Cameraman for the Ministry of Information's film unit.

Cosack returned to South Africa in 1983, when the local movie industry was beginning to flourish, and freelanced as a cinematographer.  Since then he has worked on many big name features.

In Focus spoke to Cusack about his fascinating career:

In Focus: You returned to South Africa in 1983 were you able to find work relatively easily?

Cusack: I had a lucky break. I was approached to operate one of the cameras on the feature King Solomon's Mines in 1984. This movie really launched my career, with one thing leading to another after this introduction into the SA film industry.

In Focus: We seem to be focusing on the feature side of the industry are you involved in other genres as well?

Cusack: Yes, I also do drama productions, models, blue screen and aerial cinematography.

In Focus: What type of productions have you worked on over the years?

Cusack: On the international front, I have worked on Blood Diamond, King Solomon's Mines, Platoon Leader, Any Man's Death, Bopha, The Air Up There, The Ghost and the Darkness, Hooded Angles, Stander, Red Dust, The Constant Gardener and Catch a Fire. I have also had the privilege of working with top class cinematographers such as Walter Lassally, Alex Phillips, David Watkins, Alex Thompson, Vilmos Zsigmond and Eduardo Serra.

In Focus: That's an extremely impressive list. No doubt you have operating credits as well?

Cusack: I have been extremely honoured. In 1985 I was nominated for the SASC's Visible Spectrum Award for the cinematography of the television series Faulkner's Law, and in 1989 I was again nominated for the cinematography of the motion picture Crossing the Line. In 1999 the SASC honoured me with the "Stewart Farnell Award" for exceptional achievement and dedication to the South African Film and Television Industry and furthering the art of Cinematography.

In Focus: What was the last project you worked on?

Cusack: The last production in Gauteng was Life is Wild, a CBS/Paramount TV production, and this year I'm currently doing an aerial shoot, also in Gauteng, on Silent Witness directed by Tim Fywell, a BBC production facilitated by Out of Africa Productions.  In both cases, we shot on HD using the Sony 900R cameras supplied by Take Two, while the lenses were 35mm using the Pro 35.

In Focus: Any anecdotes or advice for aspirant DOP's?

Cusack: Never be afraid to admit if you are wrong. If you make a mistake, admit it, and suggest ways of solving the problem. Never be afraid of pushing the creative envelope. I must also add that I think that BEE is essential, but it is causing a drain of qualified young Black and White talented people to other countries. The industry and government needs to look at this as a matter of urgency.

Cusack is a very keen sportsman and still plays hockey, squash and golf. He is also a licensed private pilot. He currently sits on the Board of Governors of the South African Society of Cinematographers.