By Donna Parker
Bill Bennett ’73 is a man dedicated to his craft—a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by his fellow cinematographers in Hollywood. Recently, Bill was invited to join the American Society of Cinematographers—a high honor from an organization that boasts only 260 members worldwide—the best of the best, you might say.
“I was quite honored when they nominated me because I didn’t think my work was significant enough,” Bill says humbly.
His work began in the ‘80’s when he traveled 180 days out of the year shooting television commercials for major car companies. These on-location shoots took him around the world.
“I came out to LA and got married to my career. The nature of my business required commitment. Every once in a while I see a dad and son and wistfully think that I missed something, but I do spend a lot of time mentoring and being a surrogate dad to college-age kids eager to get into the business.”
Bill’s business has included designing a 360 degree camera that could rotate around a car driving at top speed down the highway.
“It was my job to figure out how to do this and get it on screen,” says Bill who developed a method using a special crane which is now used routinely during film shoots.
“You end up creating special solutions to get a result and you never know which one will catch on.”
Sometimes those special solutions put him in harm’s way like the time he had his eye to his camera lens while several cars whizzed by.
“I’ve had cars drive past at 90 MPH and brush my pants leg unexpectedly. It’s hard to judge distance when you’re looking at an image through the camera.”
As is the case with many other graduates, Bill credits Trinity’s own Paul Baker, former speech and drama professor, with teaching him how to integrate his abilities.
“Paul was brilliant. He taught us all how to allow yourself to become inspired and also how to follow that creative process to a successful conclusion. Many people have ideas, but can’t run with them,” says Bill who concludes, “This city and the world are filled with people who are technologically brilliant yet they can’t line up a decent composition.”
“Trinity allowed me to adapt the college experience and go where I wanted to go instead of being rammed along in the large pipeline. I could be very flexible, which has been integral to my success.”