James Chressanthis, ASC, GSC

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

James Chressanthis, ASC, GSC has shot studio motion pictures, independent features, giant limited series, television drama, documentaries and music videos. His recent cinematographer credits include: Oprah Winfrey’s Greenleaf (OWN/NETFLIX); Electra's Revenge a documentary of the creation of a new ballet from rehearsal to its premiere performance based upon the drama by Sophocles; The Tale (additional photography, starring Laura Dern, Sundance premiere/HBO); the FBI kidnap procedural GONE (NBC, RTL-VOX, TFI); the dark political drama The Family (ABC); American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX) and the civil rights drama The Watsons Go To Birmingham. Major features include the cult hit Urban Legend and additional photography on the Oscar® winning Chicago.

James was born in Philadelpia and eclectically trained in engineering, sculpture and photography. While a young art professor he shot his first professional film portraying the life of an isolated Greek mountain village from the end of winter to the summer wheat harvest. Re-tooling his life at the American Film Institute he made his break-through lensing iconic west coast hip hop clips and music videos of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s including jazz artist Bobby McFerrin, NWA's “Straight Otta Compton” and Hammer which led to a clip with the legendary James Brown and a Grammy® nominated clip “Smells Like Nirvana” for ’Weird Al’ Yankovic. From music videos he moved into narrative cinema and has been a cinematographer on over than twenty feature films and television movies and over two hundred hours of dramatic series and pilots for network and cable. He is a three-time Emmy® nominee. He shot the pilot of Ghost Whisperer and was a cinematographer and a regular director for the entire five-year CBS series. Chressanthis has been nominated for a cinematography Emmy® twice for the definitive film biography Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows and Four Minutes, about record-breaking distance runner Roger Bannister.

Chressanthis produced and directed the Cannes premiere documentary No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos which follows cinematographers Laszlo Kovaks and Vilmos Zsigmond who as students filmed the war-torn streets of the Hungarian Revolution, barely escaping with their lives. The two friends fled to America and settled in the underbelly of Hollywood working in obscurity on no-budget and low-budget horror and biker movies. Both men rose to prominence in the late 60’s and 70’s, shooting films like Easy Rider, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, Paper Moon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and many others that defined the American New Wave. Featuring Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Karen Black, Peter Bogdanovich and Sharon Stone. This multiple award winner has screened at more than forty film festivals worldwide. The PBS Independent Lens version earned James his third Emmy® nomination. Two Heroes. One Road.

After giving Cinematography Master Classes around the world connected with his film, Chressanthis was invited by the United States Department of State to serve as a Cultural Envoy to Russia and Mongolia.

He gave Master Cinematography Classes, lectures and screenings in Moscow, Vladivostok and Ulaanbaatar. In 2011 he mounted a large black & white still photography exhibition: Vladivostok: A Soviet Time Machine at the Arseniev State Museum of the titular city.

James shot the Sundance premiere (2014) documentary Cesar's Last Fast, the extraordinary life story of civil rights and labor leader Cesar Chavez and another Cannes premiere (2016) documentary Close Encounters With Vilmos Zsigmond. He lives with his wife artist Robin Becker, producing mixed media and monotype editions at their home-studio complex in the mountains of Topanga, California.


Cesar Chavez breaks his 36 day fast protesting pesticides in our food. photo: Robin Becker

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