From interview [Camerimage, 2013]





Born: 18 October 1960, Los Angeles, CA, USA, as John Marc Schwartzman, son of entertainment lawyer/prod Jack Schwartzman [1932-94], who was married to Talia Rose Coppola [= Talia Shire], sister of Francis Ford Coppola.

Education: Oakwood School [Fine Art], Los Angeles; University of Southern California [USC], School of Cinema-Television [expelled in 1985].

Career: 'I was expelled from USC in 1985 and at the same time I won an award called the 'Focus Award', which was sort of the equivalent of a student Academy Award for cinematography. The director was named Phil Joanou, who's gone on to have a very big career. After the screening, a writer from Columbia Pictures came up to me and said, look, I really want to direct but the studio's not going to give me an opportunity. So I'm going to save - I've got $30,000, I've got some friends that are actors. I'm going to write a short film, and would you shoot this for me. I can't pay you, but would you do it, you know, gratis? And I thought - absolutely. I mean, this is what I want to do. So we did a little short, called 'Video Valentino', in five days. And he said, look, if I ever get a feature film, I'm going to call you to shoot it. And I thought, yeah, sure you are. But sure enough, a year later, I got a call to shoot this picture called 'You Can't Hurry Love', which was an expansion of this movie 'Video Valentino' that we had done. [...] I was fortunate in that my uncle was Conrad Hall's doctor, and Conrad had been sick for about ten years in the '80s. He couldn't work; he had some kind of weird tropical disease that had been misdiagnosed. My uncle actually cured him of this illness. So Conrad was very indebted to my uncle and my uncle said, hey, do you want to go meet Conrad Hall? And I thought, oh my God, Conrad Hall. So I went and met this kind of scraggly-looking guy at the bar at Musso & Frank's one night, and we started talking. I said, you know, should I become an assistant or what should I do? And he said, you know, you're already a cinematographer, why do you want to become an assistant? Just stick it out. Find a way to survive the lean times. You already know what it's like to shoot a movie. There's nothing wrong with being an assistant, but it's not going to put you closer to where you want to be, because you're already there now. [...] Shortly after that a friend of mine who I'd grown up with, a director named Michael Bay, was going to Art Center College of Design. Their program is such that directors are allowed to use whoever they want outside of school. At USC you had to pull all your crew from within the student body. At Art Center it was the opposite. I was the only cinematographer that Michael knew, so I started shooting. Michael and I did all these spec commercials, throughout 1988. And then he took his spec reel when he graduated from Art Center and immediately got signed to Propaganda Films. And it was great - Michael and I - very early on we had a lot of success in music videos. And for probably two years, we did a video every week. And it was a great place to learn. I certainly was not an accomplished cinematographer. I think I had a good eye. I had a sense of how I wanted things to look, but I didn't necessarily know how to get there. It was a time also when the budgets were getting bigger, so I was able to go out and hire crew people that had a lot more experience than I did. And that was something I always did. I always went out and thought, I'm going to get the best people I possibly can to work with me because I don't know everything. And it was like going to college all over again, and getting paid for it.' [From the ICG website, 2003.]

Ph a Playboy Video with 'Playmate' Tawnni Cable. Ph commercials dir by David Fincher, Michael Bay, Jeremiah Chechik, a.o. Ph music videos: 'Wherever Would I Be' [1990; a: Cheap Trick; d: Nigel Dick], 'Can't Stop Falling Into Love' [1990; a: Cheap Trick; d: Nigel Dick], 'Shot of Poison' [1991; a: Lita Ford; d: Nigel Dick], 'It's Been a Long Time' [1991; a: Southside Johnny; d: Nigel Dick], 'Having a Party' [1991; a: Southside Johnny; d: Nigel Dick] and with a: Poco, Madonna, Paula Abdul, a.o.

Directed commercials, e.g. 'Army of One' [for US Army; ph: Mitchell Amundsen].

Member of the ASC since 1997.

Appeared in the doc/47m 'Journey to the Screen: The Making of 'Pearl Harbor' [2001, Doug McCallie; ph: Jack Kney], 'The Making of Seabiscuit'' [2003, Laurent Bouzereau; ph: Ron Siegel] & 'Cinematographer Style' [2005, Jon Fauer; ph: J. Fauer, Jeff Laszlo, Brian Heller & David Morgan].

Awards: ASC Film Award nom [2002] & Golden Satellite Award nom [2002] for 'Pearl Harbor'; ASC Film Award [2003], 'Oscar' AA nom [2003] & Golden Satellite Award nom [2004] for 'Seabiscuit'.

Website: John Schwartzman

About Super 35: Following his breakthrough success with 'The Rock', Schwartzman shot 'Conspiracy Theory', a big-budget action-thriller directed by Richard Donner. The cameraman's successful introduction to the anamorphic format on 'Conspiracy Theory' greatly affected the making of 'Armageddon' at every level. Though Schwartzman and Bay expressed enthusiasm for the Super 35 process while shooting 'The Rock', the theatrical prints were a bit of a letdown for both men. "The drag about Super 35 is the grain and its 'optical' feeling," Bay attests. "We did about 30 ENR-treated prints on 'The Rock' to keep some of the contrast. Those were shown in major cities, but the other prints lost a lot of snap. The film looked good for Super 35, but we were still working with this tiny negative." Asked to recount the lessons he learned on 'Conspiracy Theory', Schwartzman relates, "What became very apparent to me was that Super 35 is not just an optical process that makes the grain more apparent; the grain is also bigger because it's enlarged so much during projection. You're getting boned on both ends. The beauty of anamorphic is that there is no intermediate optical process. If you like your dailies, you're going to love your release print. The larger negative also gives you greater shadow detail and greater latitude, so even though I was shooting deeper stops in 'scope, I felt I was using [relatively] less light to get more image." [From 'American Cinematographer' magazine.]



Last Chance Dance [Phil Joanou] ?; short/20m & 33m; cph: Robert Brinkmann; prod USC


Video Valentino [Richard Martini] c; short/37m


You Can't Hurry Love/Greetings from L.A./Lovestruck [Richard Martini] c; cph: Peter Lyons Collister; based on the short film 'Video Valentino' (1986); 'After film school, I shot a short film for a writer who wanted to direct, and he promised me that if the short became a feature, he would hire me to shoot it. When it became a feature, the completion-bond company wouldn't approve a first-time director and a first-time director of photography. I asked Peter Collister, who wasn't in the ASC at the time, to co-shoot the movie with me because he was 'bondable.' He did the most altruistic thing anyone has done for me and said yes. The result was an unmemorable film, but it was the start of a career for a young cinematographer' [From the ASC website.]


Waxwork [Anthony Hickox] c; 2uc; ph: Gerry Lively


The Unholy [Camilo Vila] c; ph add sfx unit; ph: Henry Vargas


Olympus Force: The Key [Robert Garofalo & James Fortune] c; cph Hollywood unit; ph: John Ward


Rockula [Luca Bercovici] c


"Red Surf"



Red Surf [H. Gordon Boos] c


Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Brokenhearted [David Lynch] c; exp film/50m


Benny and Joon [Jeremiah Chechik] c; 2uc: Mark R. Streapy


Airheads [Michael Lehmann] c


A Pyromaniac's Love Story/Burning Love [Joshua Brand] c


Mr. Wrong [Nick Castle] c; plate ph: Terry Moews


The Rock [Michael Bay] s35/c; addph: Mauro Fiore; 2uc (Alcatraz): Peter Lyons Collister; aph: Larry Blanford & David B. Nowell; uwph: Pete Romano; efx ph: Scott Beattie (superv), Kevin Fitzgerald, Rick Johnson, Craig Moore & Brian Mussetter; filmed 1995-96


Conspiracy Theory [Richard Donner] p/c; aph: Kurt Soderling & John M. Stephens; + small part


[Right] with dir Michael Bay - "Armageddon"



Armageddon [Michael Bay] p (+ 70bu)/c; uncred cph: Mitchell Amundsen (finished film after J. Schwartzman left prod to prep 'EDtv'); 2uc: Mauro Fiore; addph (Shanghai destruction, 1998): Janusz Kaminski; international unit ph: Mark Plummer; vfx ph: Tony Cutrono; high speed ph: Scott Campbell; miniature ph: Scott Beattie


EDtv/Ed TV [Ron Howard] c; 2uc: Mitchell Amundsen & David M. Dunlap


Superman Lives [Tim Burton] scheduled for June start; prod cancelled


Pearl Harbor/Pearl Harbour [Michael Bay] p/c; addph (+ 2uc): Mitchell Amundsen; aph (+ dir aerial unit): David B. Nowell; uwph: Pete Romano; miniatures unit vfx ph: Ray Gilberti, Martin Rosenberg, Kim Marks (+ main unit c.op 'b' cam), Carl Miller& Vance Piper


The Rookie [John Lee Hancock] p/c


Seabiscuit [Gary Ross] s35/b&w-c; 2uc: Mitchell Amundsen & Bill Roe; addph (+ aph): Kurt Soderling; uncred main title seq ph: Mark Eberle; filmed 2002-03


Meet the Fockers [Jay Roach] c; 2uc: Michael Pinkey; aph: Kurt Soderling


The Bucket List [Rob Reiner] s35-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema)/c


National Treasure: Book of Secrets [Jon Turteltaub] s35 (+ D-Cinema)/c; cph: Amir Mokri (was replaced by J. Schwartzman); 2uc USA: Josh Bleibtreu; 2uc UK: Fraser Taggart; aph: David B. Nowell & (UK) Adam Dale


Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian [Shawn Levy] s35+RED (vfx)-to-35mm scope (+ IMAX-70bu & D-Cinema)/c; vfx ph: Tim Angulo; vfx element unit ph: J. Eric Camp


The Green Hornet [Michel Gondry (replaced Stephen Chow)] p+35mm+RED (3-D reshoots)+HD (Phantom HD)-to-35mm scope (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; 2uc: Peter Collister; aph: Kurt Soderling; filmed 2009-10


Red Dawn [Dan Bradley] p (+ D-Cinema)/c; addph (2010 ?); ph: Mitchell Amundsen; released in 2012; remake of film (1983-84, John Milius; ph: Ric Waite)


The Amazing Spider-Man/Spider-Man 4 [Marc Webb] RED Epic-to-35mm scope (+ IMAX-70bu [also 3-D version] & D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; plate unit ph 2u (+ 2ud): Peter Collister; aph: Kurt Soderling; filmed 2010-11


Life of Pi [Ang Lee] HD (ARRI ALEXA)-to-35mm (+ D-Cinema [also 3-D version])/c; addph Montreal (reshoots in July); ph: Claudio Miranda (2011)


Saving Mr. Banks [John Lee Hancock] p (+ D-Cinema)/c; ph UK: Ben Smithard


Dracula Untold/Dracula [: Year Zero] [Gary Shore] p (+ D-Cinema)/c; addph (reshoots 2014): John Mathieson; 2uc: Patrick Loungway; addph 2u (+ c.op 'a' cam): Peter Taylor; main title seq ph: John Frost


Jurassic World/Jurassic Park IV [Colin Trevorrow] s35+p70+RED Epic Dragon-to-35mm (2.00:1) (+ D-Cinema [2.00:1; also 3-D version])/c; 2uc/splinter unit ph (New Orleans & Hawaii): Patrick Loungway; aph: David B. Nowell & Michael Kelem; uwph: Peter Zuccarini & Topher Jones; edge ph: Ronald Hersey; see also Dean Cundey (2005) & Shelly Johnson (2008)


The Founder [John Lee Hancock] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT/p)-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; edge ph: Ronald Hersey


The Book of Henry [Colin Trevorrow] p (+ D-Cinema)/c


Fifty Shades Darker [James Foley] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT Plus/p)-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; addph: Alar Kivilo; 2uc Vancouver: Roger Vernon; aph 2u Vancouver: Michael Kelem & Phil Pastuhov; uncred edge ph: Ronald Hersey


Fifty Shades Freed [James Foley] HD (ARRI ALEXA XT Plus/p)-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; addph: Alar Kivilo; 2uc Vancouver & Seattle: Roger Vernon; aph 2u Vancouver: Michael Kelem (+ 2u Seattle) & Phil Pastuhov; aph France: Steve Desbrow


Star Wars: Episode IX [Colin Trevorrow] pre-production; film was dir by J.J. Abrams and ph by Dan Mindel in 2018


The Unicorn [Robert Schwartzman] HD (Panavision DXL)-to-D-Cinema (scope)/c; cph: Michael Rizzi


A Simple Favor [Paul Feig] HD (Panavision DXL)-to-D-Cinema (2.00:1)/c; aph (New York): Brian Heller


Last Christmas [Paul Feig] HD/c; filmed 2018-19




To Save a Child/A Child for Satan/The Craft [Robert Lieberman] tvm


The Highwaymen [John Lee Hancock] HD (Panavision DXL)-to-UHD (scope)/c; 2uc: Patrick Loungway & Michael Applebaum; Edge ph 2u: Brooks Guyer; for Netflix




A Nightmare on Elm Street [Wes Craven] electrician; ph: Jacques Haitkin


Stand Alone [Alan Beattie] co-grip; ph: Tom Richmond & Tim Suhrstedt


Rad [Hal Needham] title seq des; ph: Richard Leiterman


Tucker - The Man and His Dream [Francis Ford Coppola] uncred apprentice (+ ph EPK footage); ph: Vittorio Storaro


Moonwalker [anthology seg dir by Jerry Kramer] co-c.op; ph: Fred Elmes, Tom Ackerman, Bob Collins & Crescenzo Notarile; filmed February 1987-May 1988


Heathers/Fatal Game/Lethal Attraction [Michael Lehmann] add c.op; ph: Francis Kenny


Limit Up [Richard Martini] 2nd c.op; ph: Peter Lyons Collister


Metallica: Live Shit - Binge & Purge [Michael Salomon; concert film] co-c.op; ph: Crescenzo Notarile; filmed 29 & 30 August (Seattle); released in 1993


Carlisle School [dir] announced in February; status unknown