As one of a handful of successful female directors of photography, Lisa Rinzler has become established for her direct, no-nonsense work in such independent films as the Hughes Brothers' "Menace II Society" (1993) and Steve Buscemi's "Trees Lounge" (1996).
The New Jersey-born Rinzler originally intended to pursue a career as a painter when she suddenly decided to become a cinematographer. Changing schools and majors, she completed her studies at NYU, earning a Louis B Mayer Fellowship. After graduation, she worked as often as she could on everything from music videos to short films (including Wim Wenders' "Reverse Angle" and two by Robert Mapplethorpe). Working her way up through the ranks, she began as an electrician and advanced to camera assistant ("Conversations with Willard Van Dyke" 1981) to shooting her first feature, the Troma Inc-produced comedy "I Was a Teenage T.V. Terrorist" (1985). Rinzler first garnered notice, however, for her work on Amos Kolleck's screwball comedy "Forever, Lulu" (1986).
Rinzler went on to collaborate with several female directors. She shot Lilyan Sievernich's documentary "John Huston and The Dubliners" (1987), a harrowing look at the director on the set of his swan song, "The Dead." Nancy Savoca hired Rinzler to photograph "True Love" (1989) and Tamra Davis chose her for "Guncrazy" (1992). With Karen Bellone, Rinzler made her directorial debut on a short film, the AIDS drama "Death by Unnatural Causes" (1991).
In 1993, Rinzler scored a major success with the Hughes Brothers' "Menace II Society," a dark, gritty tale of inner city gangs and a teen trying to escape them. It was a hard-edged film with no stylistic flourishes and her spare work earned her an Independent Spirit Award. She later worked with the Hughes Brothers again on the crime drama "Dead Presidents" (1995), the story of a Vietnam vet turned crook.
Her work for Wim Wenders' "Lisbon Story" (1995) earned better reviews than the film itself, as Rinzler's artistic view of Portugal--a far cry from the ghettos of the Hughes Brothers--showed an artistry and impressive control of her medium. After the dreamlike experimental short "Black Kites" (1995), Rinzler photographed Steve Buscemi's dark comedy "Trees Lounge," set in the flat and tacky suburbs and bars of Long Island. She also offered crisp gorgeous images of Vietnam in the American independent "Three Seasons" (1999). Rinzler was among the interviewees discussing their work in the documentary "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography" (1992).
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First credit as camera assistant, "Conversations with Willard Van Dyke"
First credit for cinematography, "I Was a Teenage T.V. Terrorist"
Directed short film "Death by Unnatural Causes"
Interviewed in documentary "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography"
Breakthrough feature work as director of photography for the Hughes Brothers' "Menace II Society"
Earned particular notice for her work on Wim Wenders' "Lisbon Story" (released in USA in 1997)
Reteamed with the Hughes for "Dead Presidents"
Was director of photography for Steve Buscemi's feature directorial debut "Trees Lounge"
Provided the crisp, haunting images for "Three Seasons", the first American independent film to be shot in Vietnam