David Muir ACS BSC
David was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia in 1935. In his youth there were no film schools there, so one learnt about film through Film Societies. While a young art and photography student at Caulfield Technical College, David's attendance at the Society there introduced him to film history. This was then augmented by Realist Film Association (RFA) screenings, which introduced him to classic Russian films and formed his ambition to be a cinematographer - a new Eduard Tissé to a new Sergei Eisenstein. He was coached in movie camera use by left-wing filmmakers at the RFA and had his first documentary assignments at age 16. His day job as assistant to legendary industrial stills photographer Wolfgang Sievers gave him unforgettable lessons about lighting and composition.
In 1954 David moved to Sydney and at 20 became cameraman at the new Ajax Films, shooting TV commercials and short theatrical documentaries. His expanding skills showed in his last Ajax Film, a dramatised documentary for the Department of the Interior Film Unit. His work impressed the DOI Producer, who recruited David to join what then became the Commonwealth Film Unit, working for the Australian Government all over Australia and Papua New Guinea. This experience, shooting everything from 16mm B&W training films to big screen 35mm anamorphic colour, equipped him for his move to London in 1964, the same year in which he achieved Australian Cinematographers Society accreditation.
His directional soft lighting innovations, mainly on TVCs, helped earn him cinematography awards in Europe, the USA and Britain, attracting the attention of feature film directors and producers. After some TV drama series and his first features, David was invited to join the British Society of Cinematographers while still quite young. His career as DOP on seven feature films, innumerable documentaries and TVCs in 30 countries saw him win awards in America, Australia, Britain and Spain. David is most grateful to cinematographers he knew, such as Walter Lassally, Gianni Di Venanzo and Raoul Coutard who (typical of all great DoPs) unstintingly shared their ideas with him.
In 1976 he came home to Australia to work for director Fred Schepsi, then moved to Sydney where he mainly wrote, directed and photographed documentaries, his first and most abiding interest.
Active in BSC events while in Britain, on his return he served for decades on Australian Cinematographers Society committees, including four terms as Victorian President. David also spent periods on the Australian Film Institute Board, as well as judging for film festivals and awards. He started teaching in the 1980s and this aspect of his career included teaching cinematography at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, and filmmaking at Macquarie and La Trobe Universities, along with Footscray College and The Victorian College of the Arts. His contributions, not only as a cinematographer and filmmaker, but also as a mentor, film teacher and advocate for Australian film production, earned him induction into the ACS Hall of Fame in 2012.
David is now retired from active filmmaking, due to spinal surgery, but still teaches a little and is writing his memoirs. These will not be a chronological ‘autobiography’ but thematically arranged true stories about filming in 30 countries between 1955 and 2018. He hopes this endeavour will help future generations to understand the huge differences in equipment, techniques, creative attitudes and audience perceptions which occurred during one person’s working lifetime.