American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 77

IN MEMORIAM

Fred J. Koenekamp, ASC, 1922-2017

Fred J. Koenekamp,
ASC, an Academy Award
winner for the iconic disaster
film The Towering Inferno,
died on May 31 at the age of
94.
Born in Los Angeles on
Nov. 11, 1922, Koenekamp
was introduced to filmmaking
in his youth by his father,
special-effects cinematographer Hans F. Koenekamp,
ASC, who often took him to
work on Saturdays at the
Warner Bros. Camera and
Special-Effects Department.
"There was a balcony that
overlooked the stage where
they had all the miniatures, [and] I used to
just love to go up there and look around,"
the junior Koenekamp told AC (Feb. '05). But
the bug didn't bite until many years later,
after he was honorably discharged from the
U.S. Navy following World War II. He had
met a woman he wanted to marry, and
when the head of the camera union offered
him a job as a film loader at RKO, "all of a
sudden, I was totally fascinated by the
picture business," he explained with a smile.
He spent the next decade working his
way up the ranks, mostly at MGM, where he
arrived as a camera assistant in 1955, moved
up to operator in 1958, and then moved up
to cinematographer (on the TV series The
Lieutenant) in 1963. At MGM he also shot
four seasons of the series The Man From
U.N.C.L.E. - receiving two Emmy nominations in the process - as well as its bigscreen spinoff, The Spy With My Face, his
first feature as a cinematographer.
Koenekamp became an ASC
member on Aug. 7, 1967, after his father
proposed him for membership, and his
biggest break came soon thereafter: Patton,
directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (AC Aug.
'70). To tell the story of maverick U.S. Army
Gen. George S. Patton's quest for victory in
World War II, the filmmakers shot on 71
locations around the world, filming just 20

percent of the picture onstage.
Adding to the scope was the format:
Dimension-150, a widescreen process that
paired the titular lenses with Todd-AO
Mitchell 65mm cameras. The process was
named for the 150-degree angle of view
facilitated by its widest taking lens, the
18mm; proper D-150 exhibition required a
wall-to-wall curved screen and custom
optics, but release prints in the usual range
of formats could easily be struck from the
negative. Koenekamp did extensive handheld operating with the Mitchell AP-65,
which weighed about 30 pounds minus the
lens. "I gave the AP one big workout," he
told AC. "[Often] I would handhold the
camera on an approaching tank or vehicle
and inch it out of the way of the treads as it
passed. The 28mm lens was very effective
for this."
Patton brought Koenekamp his first
Oscar nomination, and he and Schaffner
went on to collaborate on five more
pictures, including Papillon and Islands in
the Stream. "Frank was the most congenial
gentleman I'd ever met," Koenekamp
observed, "and the most prepared director
I've ever worked with." Noting that Patton
often achieved 20-30 setups per day, he
added, "With all the complexity of that
shoot, it's amazing how smoothly it went."
www.ascmag.com

To capture all the
drama of a conflagration in a
San Francisco skyscraper for
The Towering Inferno (AC Feb.
'75), producer Irwin Allen
formed two units to handle
the principal photography: a
main unit led by Koenekamp
and an action unit led by
Joseph Biroc, ASC. The logistics included location work in
San Francisco and soundstage
work on 57 sets built at 20th
Century Fox, a record for the
studio at the time. Only eight
sets were intact when production wrapped; typically, when
Koenekamp's team finished
with one, Biroc's team would move in and
burn it to the ground, saturate it with water,
or both. "I keep telling Joe he had most of
the fun!" Koenekamp told AC. Koenekamp
and Biroc shared the Oscar for their work on
the film, and Koenekamp accepted their
statuettes.
The Nov. '76 issue of AC featured
Koenekamp's production journal from
Islands in the Stream, which brought him his
third Oscar nomination. The complexities
posed by the Hawaii-based shoot included
extensive day-for-night photography with
interior and exterior in shot, filming aboard
a 36' yacht, and shooting on the open
water.
Koenekamp's feature credits also
included Uptown Saturday Night, Fun with
Dick and Jane, The Champ, The Amityville
Horror and The Adventures of Buckaroo
Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He retired
after shooting Flight of the Intruder (AC July
'90).
When he was honored with the ASC
Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, he
noted, "What I still miss is the camaraderie
of the crew. I'd love to call every one of
them today and tell them we're starting a
picture tomorrow."
- Rachael K. Bosley
‚óŹ
August 2017

77


http://www.ascmag.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - August 2017

Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Intro
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 1
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 2
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Contents
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 4
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 5
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 6
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 7
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 8
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 9
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 10
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 11
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 12
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 13
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 14
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 15
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 16
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 17
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 18
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 19
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 20
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 21
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 22
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 23
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 24
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 25
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 26
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 27
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 28
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 29
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 30
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 31
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32a
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32b
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32c
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 32d
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 33
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 34
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 35
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 36
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 37
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 38
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 39
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 40
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 41
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 42
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 43
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American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 77
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American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 79
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - 80
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - August 2017 - Cover4
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