James Chressanthis

Seeds of Change – Dance Film – 8K Panavision Millennium DXL Camera


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img_4485 img_4446 img_4168 img_4141SEEDS of CHANGE on vimeo CLICK HERE                          When I was approached by Panavision and Light Iron to test a prototype of their new 8K Millennium DXL camera I leaped at the opportunity to create something that was beyond a dry studio exercise. For cinematographers, David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” photographed by Freddie Young, BSC is a touchstone for its remarkable 65mm images. That story was made in and about an era that focused almost solely on men. In making a film today with a digital equivalent of that 65mm camera, I felt it should portray the strength, beauty and power of women. The music Seeds of Change by Naser Musa and Steve Wood inspired Melanie and our dancers when we filmed on the mountainside of Trust Ranch in Topanga. What we created is sacred, sensual and ecstatic all at once.

Words cannot express my deep thanks to everyone who contributed to the splendor of this project.

Director-Cinematographer – James Chressanthis, ASC, GSC
Choreographer – Melanie Kareem

Dancers – Laura Cutler, Vanessa Frazier, Melanie Kareem, Diana Mathur, Rachel Moore, Dawn Marie Yurkovic

Music composed by Naser Musa and Steve Wood                   Solo Oud – Naser Musa, Keyboards & Guitar – Steve Wood, Qanoon – James Grippo, Violin – George Hamad, Percussion – Petro Al Ammar, Faisal Zedaan, Mastering – Joe Gaswirt

Produced by James Chressanthis and Melanie Kareem

Chief Lighting Technician – Ricky Lewis
1st Assistant Camera – Greg Williams, Darin Miller                 2nd Assistant Camera – Laura Odermatt
Makeup & Hair – Penelope Irwin                                             Still Photography – Robin Becker, Michael Cioni
Production Manager – Jesse Liliedahl                                     Production Assistant – Gaea Adrian
8k Post Production by Light Iron-Hollywood                         Colorist – Jeremy Sawyer
Panavision Millennium DXL Camera & Primo 70mm Lenses
Special Thanks: Sue & Martin Schmitt, Trust Ranch,                 Dan Sasaki, Bob Harvey, Michael Cioni, Amit Dave

Filmed in Heaven – Topanga, California
© 2016 James Chressanthis and Melanie Kareem

Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC 1930-2016

We miss Vilmos. A brave man, cinematic genius, a great artist and a generous, humble spirit.

Vilmos Meters As film students in Hungary, Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond took to the war-torn streets of Budapest to shoot footage of the Russian invasion. They subsequently volunteered to smuggle it out of the country. Barely escaping with their lives, the two friends fled to America and settled in Hollywood.















After working in the underbelly of Hollywood for ten years on a string of low-budget horror and   biker movies, both men soon rose to prominence in the late 60’s and 70’s, shooting the films    that defined what came to be known as the American New Wave: with Laszlo lensing breakout classics like Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Shampoo and Paper Moon and Vilmos framing The Hired Hand, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Deer Hunter among many more. Working with directors including Robert Altman, Bob Rafelson, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, they helped create a new American film aesthetic, and pioneered innovative, fearless ways to tell stories.

No Subtitles Necessary_Vilmos Zsigmond_James Chressanthis

Told through interviews with Laszlo (who died during the making of the film) and Vilmos, as well as directors including Rafelson, Bogdanovich, John Boorman, Graeme Clifford, Richard Donner, William Richert, Mark Rydell, composer John Williams and actors such as Jon Voight, Peter Fonda, Sandra Bullock, Karen Black, Sharon Stone and Dennis Hopper in one of his last feature film appearances.

“When it comes to Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond, it’s clear that the American New Wave of the late 1960’s and early ’70s wouldn’t have flowered as it did without them.”  – Leonard  Maltin

No Subtitles Necessary is an intimate portrait of two giants of modern image making and their deep bond of brotherhood that transcended every imaginable boundary. Two Heroes. One Road.


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Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, HSC 1930-2016


This  “Flash Exhibition” is open Sunday, May 10, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and May 11-15 by appointment.


Using traditional photographic techniques, digital tools, painting and drawing Chressanthis combines images from around the world: Europe, Greece, Russia, Thailand and across North America. Subjects are as varied as shepherds living on a mountaintop beneath an ancient temple, a Muslim family in coastal Thailand, a rapper and his crew in Oaktown California, the people living at the end of the Trans Siberian railway, the estuaries of Eastern Quebec, Nomads in Mongolia who carry a satellite dish with them.

“I always look where the ancient and traditional intersect with the archetypal and modern.”

artist website: http://www.chressanthis.com/
Alternative website: http://www.alternativerentals.com/   

Chressanthis@Alternative – Saturday, May 9, 2015


Cinematographer and artist, James Chressanthis, ASC, GSC will be mounting an installation of his large scale mixed media and photographic works.

Alternative Digital Cinema, 5805 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles – Tel: (310) 204-3388

Reception: Saturday May 9, 2015 from 3:00 to 8:00 pm.

This is a “Flash Exhibition” and will be open Sunday, May 10, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and May 11-15 by appointment only.

Using traditional photographic techniques, digital tools, painting and drawing Chressanthis combines images from around the world: Europe, Greece, Russia, Thailand and across North America. Subjects are as varied as shepherds living on a mountaintop beneath an ancient temple, a Muslim family in coastal Thailand, a rapper and his crew in Oaktown California, the people living at the end of the Trans Siberian railway, the estuaries of Eastern Quebec, Nomads in Mongolia who carry a satellite dish with them.

“I always look where the ancient and traditional intersect with the archetypal and modern.”

artist website: http://www.chressanthis.com/
Alternative website: http://www.alternativerentals.com/   

image above: Bella Medea Pink  (2013) pigment ink print on Somerset cotton rag paper

Reprise from 2010: Vladivostok: A Soviet Time Machine

Vladivostok Train Station

Vladivostok Train Station – the end of the Trans Siberian Railway its cornerstone was laid by Czar Nicholas and actor Yule Brynner’s grandfather. I walked Vladivostok looking everywhere. I can’t read any signs so I focus completely on the people, what they are doing, details of dress, what they carry, their energy. It’s busy here, jammed with traffic but as packed as the streets are the sidewalks flow with people, most walk with purpose, the ones that wait sit with intention.The light is amazing, a silky veil of marine clouds softens the edges, it often glows. I’m shooting a black and white photographic portrait so in keeping with this city’s face: harbor, ships, train station, shopping districts, pedestrian underpasses filled with little shops, new construction everywhere beside decaying buildings and crumbling roads, passageways, begging bubuschas and striking, gorgeous fashionistas (are all the Russian women so beautiful?) strutting on amazing heels, North Korean laborers digging with picks and shovels, choking traffic jams of Japanese cars, army trucks and smoky diesel buses, the whole city a fifties Soviet time machine pasted with gaudy billboards, bustling with the brightly dressed carrying Blackberries and iPhones.

I conduct a filmmaking seminar workshop at Far Eastern State Technical University. The students are bright, friendly and optimistic. They smile so much I kid them that they defy the stereotype of dour Russian pessimism. They laugh at that, they want to be free of their Soviet baggage and the opening of my film reminds them of their grandparents world only half known through the propaganda of official history versus first hand accounts. You get the feeling they want to throw that deadweight overboard but can’t. I point out parallels in the American experience that they have to “own” their history to ultimately be free of it (or free of repeating it). Through their lives Laszlo and Vilmos show us that out of great tragedy can come great art and beauty and ultimately forgiveness and renewal. When talk turns to the corporate and political oligarchs or Putin, an unspoken tension arises, looks and shrugs acknowledging that this is the big problem and challenge of their time.

Cinema is the universal language, its inherently natural to communicate with images, ever more so with each succeeding generation. The seminar becomes a workshop, I gather everyone in a tight group. Our camera has a live feed to a large flat screen monitor and we review the grammar of shot making, that we all grasp, even if we have not analyzed how we see movies and television. I tell them first of all that they already have a deep grasp of the language of images and cinema and we know how to read them as well as we do our native language. The camera is a pointing device; you point it at what is important. It is free to move and point at anything your own mind decides: “This girl’s hand writing a note panning up to her face watching the class, panning over to this man’s face watching her, panning to the rest of the group.” We quickly review all the kinds of shots and angles we can make without restriction: wide angle, telephoto detail, high or low, close and intimate or distant and objective, camera movement with almost invisible subtlety or swiftly with sharp dramatic intent. We stage little scenes and try different camera grammar. I ask them what is the next shot that we need to see? They realize they know intuitively how to shoot. We talk about the editing of those shots and point of view. To make a film you the filmmaker has to have a point of view.

Cesar’s Last Fast – World Premiere – 2014 Sundance Film Festival

Cesar breaks his fast_RobinBecker

Cesar Chavez breaks his 36 day fast with Ethel Kennedy, his mother Juana Estrada Chavez and Rev. Jesse Jackson, August 21, 1988

Cesar’s Last Fast – World Premiere – 2014 Sundance Film Festival – U.S. Feature Documentary Competition
January 19, 2014 – 3:00 PM – Temple Theater, Park City

In 1988, Cesar Chavez embarked on what would be his last act of protest in his remarkable life. Driven in part to pay penance for feeling he had not done enough, Chavez began his Fast for Life, a 36-day water-only hunger strike, to draw attention to the horrific effects of unfettered pesticide use on farm workers, their families, and their communities.
Using never-before-seen footage of Chavez during his fast and testimony from those closest to him, director Richard Ray Perez weaves together the larger story of Chavez’s life, vision, and legacy. A deeply religious man, Chavez’s moral clarity in organizing and standing with farmworkers at risk of his own life humbled his family, friends, and the world.
Cesar’s Last Fast is a moving and definitive portrait of the leader of a people who became an American icon of struggle and freedom.

I was very fortunate to have filmed Cesar Chavez during his 36 day fast. My wife Robin was with me and recorded sound. She also shot the remarkable still photo below of the moment that Cesar broke his fast, taking holy communion with Ethel Kennedy, his mother and Jesse Jackson while I filmed the culmination of his astonishing act of sacrifice. The lessons that Cesar taught us are even more relevant today given the plight of low wage workers everywhere and the threat to the environment, our air, our water, our food.

Robin Becker and James Chressanthis, 1988, Delano, California the day Cesar Chavez broke his 36 day fast

FRESH FOCUS City Hearts Photography Benefit Auction and Party – October 19

Saturday, October 19 3:00-5:30 with VIP After Party 6:00pm  –  Old Canyon Ranch, Topanga   https://freshfocus.eventbrite.com tickets & map

Please give your generous support to City Hearts Kids Say “Yes” To The Arts. This critical program that has reached thousands of young people is in its 28th year providing after-school arts programs in Music, Dance, Theater, Art and Photography in the Los Angeles public schools. http://www.cityhearts.org

The auction includes vintage and contemporary images of Ray Charles, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Seymour,  Federico Fellini, Cesar Chavez, Kristen Chenoweth,  Chevy Metal, Emma Thompson, Judy Davis and Max Adler. 40 photographers exhibiting and donating their work include Vilmos ZsigmondJeff BridgesRobin Becker,  Anthony FriedkinWalton GogginsKim Gottlieb-WalkerJane KerrJessica LangeGraham NashJane Seymour, Peter SorelBarbra Streisand, Raul VegaFelice Willat, and Henry Winkler. All this is complimented by great folks, food and music. We hope to see you there but if you cannot attend in person please consider the Online Auction by contacting City Hearts or making a direct donation  https://freshfocus.eventbrite.com

Below: GET HAPPY: Judy Davis as Judy Garland, 2000 by James Chressanthis, ASC archival print from 35mm black & white negative

Get Happy_2013_small_Judy Davis as Judy Galand_20a























Don’t miss THE MAKEOVER, Sunday, January 27 on ABC

Watch the trailer here

“Prosecuting Casey Anthony” airs January 19 on Lifetime

This Saturday, January 19, at 8pm Eastern and Pacific, the Lifetime movie, which I shot, “Prosecuting Casey Anthony,” will air. Starring Rob Lowe, “Prosecuting Casey Anthony” tells the story of the eponymous trial that attempted to convict the defendant for the death of her 2-year-old daughter in Orlando, Florida in 2008. This true story of the mind-blowing trial will astonish and move you. Please tune in!

The Client List: Season 2 Coming Soon…

Here we are making The Client List, which returns to Lifetime this Spring!

“The Client List” shoots season 2

This fall I am returning to shoot the second season of ”The Client List” for Lifetime, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt as Riley Parks, a deserted Texas housewife who leads a double life running a sexy spa, The Rub of Sugar Land, while meeting the challenges of a single mother who’s trying to raise her kids right.

See more at http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/the-client-list

Notes from the field: “The Makeover” (2013)

We’re just about ready to wrap on “The Makeover,” a Hallmark Hall of Fame production that will air on ABC in January 2013. The star, Julia Stiles, and the production itself have been garnering quite a lot of attention from the press in Boston, who are proud to welcome Hollywood to work in their fair city.

A couple few slideshows of us at work have appeared on various blogs. Check out some behind-the-scenes production shots on Bostinno and Zimbio.