Born: ?, as Ward T. Russell.

Education: University of Kansas [Theatre Department] [graduated in 1968 with a BFA degree with an emphasis on theatrical and lighting design].

Career: Started as theatrical lighting designer at the American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco, the San Francisco Opera and the Old Globe Theatre, San Diego.

Ph 500+ [1989-present] commercials dir by Tony Scott, Chris Mosera [for Ford], Bob Eggers [for City of Santa Fe], Jeff Gorman [for eToys.com], etc. Ph the special venue film 'Daytona 500' [d: Bobby Carmichael; 70mm] for Daytona Speedway.

Directed commercials.

Operated his own camera rental business in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Owns the prod company Brite Lite Productions. 

Turned to still ph and runs Ward Russell Photography, a Fine Art and Portrait Studio/Gallery in Santa Fe.

Is married to former film prod coordinator Mary Cay Hollander.

Gives lectures and classes at the College of Santa Fe and at various schools in the area.

Is a member of the Board of Directors of Silver Bullet Productions, Santa Fe, prod educational films.

Website: Ward Russell & Ward Russell Photography

Ward Russell: 'I aspired to be a theatrical lighting designer. It was my interest in lighting that eventually led me into films… and the fact that you can't make any money in theater. [...] I made the transition through the lighting department. I had been doing lighting for the stage in San Francisco. When I moved to LA, I met a film gaffer whom I questioned a lot about the differences between stage and set gaffing. You have to remember that when I went to school there were no film schools. A gaffer that befriended me recommended me to the union. A few weeks later I was working on the Universal lot. From there it was a progression working my way through the electrical department. First as a best boy, then gaffer, and finally I realized that lighting was a major part of being a cinematographer. After that I sought out ways to finagle my way into the camera department. At the time I went in I was happy being a lighting person. I really enjoyed the use of light and as a gaffer you're the right hand man to the Director of Photography. As the years went by I started to understand what photography was all about and how it worked in conjunction with the lighting. My knowledge from working with cameramen, going to films and studying dailies made me feel that I knew enough to call the shots. I figured it was a better way to express my artistic side than just doing the lighting. So I did. [...] A producer friend of mine managed to get a job working on English commercials. The production sent Tony Scott and the boys over from England and he asked me to be lead gaffer on the project. I agreed and we shot the commercial in an old McDonald's restaurant. I met Tony Scott on that shoot and we got along really well, he liked the work that I did. He had an English D.P. with him and they were impressed with what us gaffers do in the US. In England the gaffer isn't allowed to be as creative in designing the lighting. Here I was, on their set; I just took the ball and ran with it. They'd tell me what needed to be lit and I'd light it up ahead of time. From then on every time Tony came to the United States he would request me as his gaffer. Tony used to only work with English cameramen until he finally used Jeffrey L. Kimball. Tony told him that I'd be on as gaffer and that's how I met Jeff Kimball. For the next five years the three of us worked on a series of films. [...] Over the years Tony and I had become friends and I knew his style of working. He's a visualist, involved in every single aspect of what the film will 'look' like. When 'Days of Thunder' came up, Jeff Kimball who usually shot for him was off working with Adrian Lyne on 'Jacob's Ladder'. Tony interviewed a lot of L.A. cameramen and didn't find one that he felt understood him and how he worked. He approached me and said; "Do you think you can do it?". Of course I told him yes. Now I just had to get in the union. I spent the next two months finagling my way in and the rest is history, I became a D.P. and a union member. ['Days of Thunder'] was a nightmare. Little did I know, I was young and eager. I wasn't about to screw-up so I worked my tail off. The shoot lasted for six months. Then we had to go back for pick-up shots at a race track a week before the film was due to be printed for its release. Tony Scott is a perfectionist and he won't let things go without it being his vision. [...] I've always been interested in still photography, but I never took it seriously. I never really thought of it as a passion until I slowed the film work down. It wasn't until digital photography got to the point in which the cameras caught some decent images and the computer could print nice quality. That's when I thought "Hey, this is something that I can work with". For the last five years I've been concentrating exclusively on my still work. The set of photographs that I used for my first show was a challenge. I set out with no crew or lighting equipment and I started to do night photography using just the available light. The first show was ‘Santa Fe Nights‘. It went over very well; people were not used to seeing their city that way. I'm happy doing stills. Filmmaking is a young person's business. At a certain age the idea of working a 12-14hr. day isn't appealing. As much as I enjoy shooting I don't enjoy the politics, the people, or the hours that go with it. I'd love to shoot a movie, but I'd like to do it for eight hours a day. After awhile it gets too trying.' [From interview by Jason Rugaard on the 'Movie Mavericks' website (2010).]


About 'The X Files': "They gave me a stack of TV episodes for reference, and I found there were many elements in the series that were much like the style I've developed working for Tony Scott - very moody, a lot of smoke, colorful images," Russell explains. "In the early days of the TV show there were massive quantities of atmosphere in the air, but they no longer felt that was appropriate, so we continually used less ambience, only where it was necessary." The one element from the TV series he used liberally was darkness, "not by just making things dark, but even in brightly lit scenes by surrounding the foreground in darkness." The opening sequence involves creatures traversing an ice field and going down into subterranean caverns. "We would just light small areas of the cavern, and the rest would be surrounded in blackness; we used that as an element of the frame," Russell says. The scene was mostly lit "by torches the creatures were carrying; the only augmentation was a bit of flicker light on the surrounding bits of cave." In a later scene, some boys are playing outdoors and one of them falls through a hole into an underground chamber. "That is lit merely by the shaft of sunlight that comes through the hole and the bounce light that emanates from that. Again, vast areas were just left in blackness." [Amy L. Slingerland in 'Lighting Dimensions', June 1998.]



Days of Thunder [Tony Scott] p (+ 70bu)/c; addph: Charles Mills; 2uc: Chuck Cohen; was originally hired as 2uc (and shot a NASCAR night race in Bristol, TN, before principal ph began); later replaced Jeffrey Kimball (who wasn't available) as 1st unit ph.


The Last Boy Scout [Tony Scott] p (+ 70bu)/c


Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace/Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War [Farhad Mann] p/c; 2uc: John J. Connor; blue screen unit ph: Alex Funke; miniature vfx ph (+ unit dir): Michael O. Sajbel


The X Files/The X-Files/The X Files: Fight the Future [Rob Bowman] s35/c; addph: Lloyd Ahern II, Josh Bleibtreu & Daryn Okada; 2uc: Mike Benson; London unit ph: Dick Pope; Washington D.C. 2uc: David Insley; glacier unit ph: Jon Joffin & Jan Kiesser; aph: Phil Pastuhov & John Trapman (uncred)


Unstoppable/9 Lives [David Carson] c; 2uc: Ross W. Clarkson (+ addph) & James Jansen (+ c.op)


Cruel World [Kelsey T. Howard] c


Believe in Me [Robert Collector] s35/c; landscape ph; ph: James L. Carter


Wildfire [pilot dir by Steve Miner + 4 ep dir by John Behring, a.o.] 51-part tv-series, 2005-08; 1st season, 2005; 2uc (pilot) + c.op (4 ep); ph: Frank Perl; for ABC Family Channel


The Burden Carriers [Pierre Barrera] c; short/15m


Undead or Alive - A Zombedy [Glasgow Phillips] s35/c; 2uc; ph: Tom Callaway



Our Winning Season [Joseph Ruben] best boy; ph: Stephen M. Katz


The Idolmaker [Taylor Hackford] electric best boy; ph: Adam Holender


Soggy Bottom, USA/Swamp Rats [Theodore J. Flicker] best boy; ph: George Bouillet


Independence Day/Follow Your Dreams [Robert Mandel] best boy; ph: Charles Rosher Jr.


Dreamscape [Joseph Ruben] gaffer; ph: Brian Tufano


Frankenweenie [Tim Burton; short] lighting gaffer; ph: Thomas Ackerman


Mussolini: The Untold Story [William A. Graham; tv-miniseries] co-gaffer; ph: Robert Steadman


Top Gun [Tony Scott] chief lighting tech; ph: Jeffrey Kimball


Back to School [Alan Metter] gaffer; ph: Thomas Ackerman


Beverly Hills Cop II [Tony Scott] gaffer; ph: Jeffrey Kimball


Revenge [Tony Scott] gaffer; ph: Jeffrey Kimball


Elvis Has Left the Building [Joel Zwick] c.op 'b' cam; ph: Paul Elliott