Tom Ackerman

A long and varied career has equipped Tom Ackerman to teach in the real world. "Frontline careers in the film business tend not to be easy or convenient," he says. "Students aspiring to make movies need to learn the right stuff, facts that are accurately delivered."

Fifty years of motion picture creation are the foundation of my approach to teaching, which recognizes that two qualities are essential to cinematographers. The first, probably obvious, is an ability to create strong imagery. Next is being able to handle the job itself. You've got to have a split personality, that of an artist/athlete. You bring not only vision, but also leadership.

"I owe a lot to a diverse filmography—military filmmaking, documentaries for Charles Guggenheim, partnering in a successful Hollywood production company, shooting music videos with major artists at the dawn of MTV, hundreds of commercials as cameraman/director, and 38 motion pictures as Director of Photography.

"With a number of Iconic films, I have helped create nearly $3 billion in worldwide gross. I'm proud of that and although, obviously, it is not something we discuss very often in class, I want my students to understand that by working hard and growing as an artist, a life in the picture trade can provide a good living."


  • 50 years in motion picture creation, 47 as a Director and Director of Photography, including:
    • Cinematographer and film editor at The University of Iowa Motion Picture Unit
    • Motion Picture Production Officer, US Air Force
    • Cinematographer and film editor at Guggenheim Productions, Washington, DC
    • Director and cameraman for Robe/Ackerman, Inc., Hollywood, CA
  • Teaching at UNCSA's School of Filmmaking since 2009

Career Highlights

  • Shot for multi-Oscar-winning documentarian Charles Guggenheim (1970-1973)
  • "Beetlejuice"(1988) - Director of Photography
  • "Christmas Vacation" (1989) - Director of Photography
  • "Jumanji" (1996) - Director of Photography
  • "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004) - Director of Photography

 Awards, Recognitions and Honors

  • CINE Golden Eagle for "The Oceans: Source of Life" (1978) United States Information Agency, Writer/Director/Cinematographer
  • First Prize, Documentary, ECOFEST, for "The Oceans: Source of Life" (1977)
  • CINE Golden Eagle for "The Computer: A Universal Tool" (1979) United States Information Agency, Writer/Director
  • Award of Excellence, Chevrolet Truck Spot (1990), The Detroit Creative Director's Council


  • American Society of Cinematographers
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  • International Photographers Guild Local 600
  • Directors Guild of America


BFA Speech and Dramatic ArtThe University of Iowa