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Jerry Finnerman (17 December 19316 April 2011; age 79) was director of photography for the first and second seasons of Star Trek: The Original Series and the beginning of the third. In 1996, he was honored for his work on Star Trek by becoming the first director of photography to be inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame, for his cinematography on that series.


Early career[]

Finnerman's career spanned over three decades, from the early 1960s to the mid-1990s. The son of cinematographer Perry Finnerman, he began his career as the apprentice of his father, then his godfather, the famous cameraman Harry Stradling. He worked as a camera operator on some of Stradling's films, including the 1961 comedy A Majority of One (featuring Madlyn Rhue and George Takei), the 1964 musical My Fair Lady (featuring Theodore Bikel), and the 1966 comedy Walk, Don't Run (starring Samantha Eggar and featuring George Takei). [1] He also worked as camera operator on many other films, such as Cheyenne Autumn (1964, with Ricardo Montalban and Charles Seel).

Star Trek[]

In 1966, soon before production began on "The Corbomite Maneuver", the first regular episode of The Original Series, the production staff realized they didn't have a director of photography. The producers originally wanted Harry Stradling, Jr. (the son of Stradling, Sr.) for the job. However, he was busy working on Gunsmoke.

Stradling, Sr. then went to the Desilu offices with his young protégé, wanting to recommend him for employment in place of his son. Robert H. Justman, after meeting Finnerman and his godfather, went into Gene Roddenberry's office, claiming that he had found a cameraman for the show. Roddenberry replied, "If you want him, I want him," and immediately ordered to hire Finnerman. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p 112-113) Star Trek being his first job as a director of photography, Finnerman was eventually very concerned if he would be able to do the series properly. [2] Finally, it was Stradling who convinced him to take the assignment. [3]

Several sources (including The Making of Star Trek) claimed that Finnerman worked as camera operator on the two pilot episodes, "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before". However, Justman's crew sheets revealed these claims are false (Richard A. Kelley was the camera operator on "The Cage"). (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p. 36)

Finnerman was also referenced in the revised final draft script of TOS: "Dagger of the Mind", which stated that a crewman in that episode was to be "framed in Finnerman composition."

After he finished working on Star Trek's first season, Finnerman photographed the final three episodes of the first season of Mission: Impossible (including one directed by Joseph Pevney). However, he decided to return to Star Trek for its second season instead of continuing on Mission.

Finnerman remained with the series until early in the third season, quitting after production of the episode "The Empath". He left partly because he felt the series had become ridiculous, but mainly due to a dispute with Fred Freiberger, who wanted Finnerman not only to accept a wage reduction, but to have his equipment allowance hugely reduced. However, the main reason behind his departure is that he was offered the chance to photograph a feature film (The Lost Man, with Paul Winfield). [4] Gene Roddenberry invited Finnerman back to Trek for Star Trek: The Next Generation, but he turned the offer down.

Before filming of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" began, Jonathan West called Finnerman and asked him about the type of lighting used on Original Series and how the Deep Space Nine episode could recreate the famous "Finnerman lighting". (Trials and Tribble-ations novelization introduction)

Many of those who worked on the Original Series, including Justman, director Ralph Senensky, and actress Grace Lee Whitney, praised Finnerman for his outstanding work, especially for his use of artistic lighting and colored lights, which were mainly responsible the famous visual look of the series. [5] [6] (The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, p. 78) Nichelle Nichols claimed that Finnerman was the unsung hero of Star Trek. [7]

Post-Trek career[]

After The Lost Man, Finnerman worked as director of photography on two more feature films starring Sidney Poitier, They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970, with Anthony Zerbe, Jeff Corey, Ted Gehring and Garry Walberg, Bob Herron and Dick Dial as stunt performers, and Rusty Meek as First Assistant Director), and Brother John (1971, with Paul Winfield, Michael Bell, directed by James Goldstone, and featuring Herb Wallerstein, Charles Washburn, and George H. Merhoff in the production staff).

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Finnerman served as Director of Photography on such television series as The Virginian, Mission: Impossible (including an episode directed by Joseph Pevney), Kojak (where he worked with director Leo Penn on three episodes, and was replaced by Charles Correll after he left the show), Night Gallery, the Ricardo Montalban series Fantasy Island, and Moonlighting. On Night Gallery, he worked with directors including John Newland, Jeff Corey, and Leonard Nimoy. He also directed two episodes of the series, including "She'll Be Company for You", starring Leonard Nimoy and Kathryn Hays. He also photographed the short-lived Planet of the Apes television series, in which directors included Ralph Senensky, John Meredyth Lucas, and Don McDougall. The series' recurring cast included Mark Lenard as Urko and Booth Colman as Zaius. He was also the director of photography on Gene Roddenberry's failed pilot, Genesis II, which starred Majel Barrett, Ted Cassidy, Mariette Hartley, Harvey Jason, and Percy Rodriguez.

Finnerman won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography in Entertainment Programming for a Special for NBC's 1978 TV movie Ziegfied: The Man and His Women. This production featured David Opatoshu and Nehemiah Persoff in the cast and, like the aforementioned Walk, Don't Run, starred Samantha Eggar.

Finnerman also received Emmy nominations on five other occasions: one for his work on the series Kojak; another for an episode of From Here to Eternity; a third for the first chapter of the 1981 mini-series The Gangster Chronicles (starring Michael Nouri, Jonathan Banks, Michael Ensign, Louis Giambalvo, and Kenneth Tigar, with set decoration by John M. Dwyer) and two more for his work on Moonlighting. The last occasion saw him running against cinematographer Edward R. Brown, who was nominated for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Big Goodbye". Neither Finnerman nor Brown won the award, however.

He later became director of photography on a number of films, including two featuring Paul Winfield: 1969's The Lost Man and the James Goldstone-directed Brother John (1971, also featuring Michael Bell). His other films include They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970, starring Jeff Corey and Anthony Zerbe), SSSSSSS (1973, featuring Ed McCready, Charles Seel, and Felix Silla), and the Joseph Sargent-directed Nightmares (1983, featuring Robin Gammell, Louis Giambalvo, and Tony Plana). Among his many TV movie credits is the 1980 drama The Dream Merchants, which starred Robert Picardo of Star Trek: Voyager fame.

Personal life[]

Finnerman was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of cinematographer Perry Finnerman. He attended Beverly Hills High School, which fellow Star Trek alumni such as Corbin Bernsen and Roxann Dawson later attended.

In 1969, Finnerman survived a plane crash that killed fellow Original Series director Robert Sparr while the two were scouting locations in Colorado.

Finnerman died on 6 April 2011 in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 79. [8] [9]

Other Trek connections[]

Additional projects on which Finnerman worked with fellow Star Trek alumni include:

Star Trek interview[]

  • "Careers: Gerald Perry Finnerman", Adam Lebowitz, Cinemagic, issue 36, Fall 1987, pp. 32-37

External links[]