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July 28, 2011

Gerald Finnerman, Cinematographer for Star Trek, Many Other Series

Finnerman earned six Primetime Emmy nominations and won in 1978 for the telefilm Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women.

Gerald Perry Finnerman, the primary director of photography for the classic Star Trek series, died on April 6, 2011, in Los Angeles. He was 79.

Born on December 17, 1931, in Los Angeles, Finnerman attended Hollywood High School and followed in his cinematographer father Perry’s footsteps, beginning his career as his apprentice. That led to a stint as a camera operator on some of the films of cinematographer Harry Stradling, including The Majority of One in 1961 (with future Star Trek co-star George Takei), musical My Fair Lady in 1964, and Walk, Don’t Run in 1966 (also with Takei).

Finnerman’s long and prosperous career on television was launched on Star Trek, where he remained until early in the third (and final) season for a chance to photograph the feature film The Lost Man. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry ultimately invited Finnerman back for the first Star Trek sequel, Star Trek: The Next Generation, but he turned the offer down. In the late 1960s, Finnerman worked on episodes of Mission: Impossible and The F.B.I., and luckily survived a 1969 plane crash that killed television director Robert Sparr, who worked with him on Star Trek.

Finnerman was busy in the 1970s as director of photography in episodes of series The Bold Ones, Emergency!, Hec Ramsey, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, Quincy, M.E., Tabitha, Kojak (which resulted in the first of his six Emmy Award nominations), Police Woman, Fantasy Island, Quark, Salvage 1, and all 14 episodes of short-lived Planet of the Apes, which was a continuation of the then popular movie franchise.

In 1978, Finnerman won a Primetime Emmy, his one victory, for Outstanding Cinematography in Entertainment Programming for a Special in the TV movie Ziegfeld: The Man and His Women.

Finnerman was off and running in the 1980s with an Emmy nomination for the TV show version of From Here to Eternity, and worked on episodes of The Gangster Chronicles, Tales of the Unexpected, The New Mike Hammer and a host of TV movies until Moonlighting with Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis came along in 1985. Moonlighting led to two more Emmy nominations. He also worked as a cinematographer in episodes of newspaper drama Capital News in 1990, and short-lived comedies Double Rush and Too Something, both in 1995.

In 1996, Finnerman was the first director of photography inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame, for his cinematography on Star Trek. That same year he was nominated for “Philanthropic Man of the Year" by the Motion Picture and Television Foundation.

“I’d like to be remembered not so much as a great cinematographer, but a nice guy. That’s important,” said Finnerman in an interview at the Archive of American Television. “If people say ‘he’s a nice guy,’ I’d just be happy that way. If he’s a gentleman. I mean, I know what I’ve done. It speaks for itself. But it’s more than making films. It’s having intimate relationships with your peers. That was the most wonderful experience I’ve had, working with the guys. They may be a little crazy, but they were always wonderful.”

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