Janusz Kaminski: Oscar win bolsters Columbia

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
March 23, 1999

Janusz Kaminski has a brother for 5-year-old Oscar. His name is . . . Oscar.

The Columbia College graduate won his second Academy Award Sunday night for best cinematography for “Saving Private Ryan.”

Comparing his second win to his first (for “Schindler’s List”), Kaminski said, “It was better this time, in the sense that now I am conscious of what it really means . . . what you can have offered to you. The first time I was totally innocent . . . I had no idea of what it truly meant.”

Kaminski was 21 when he arrived in Chicago in 1981 as a Polish immigrant. He left for Hollywood shortly after graduating from Columbia in 1987. Since then, the filmmaker – who is married to actress Holly Hunter – has been a strong supporter of his alma mater.

“He came and visited us after winning his last Oscar,” said Kaminski’s former teacher Charles Celander, production manager in the film and video department at Columbia College. “We’re hoping he’ll do so again.”

Asked whether he knew when Kaminski was a student that he was a future star, Celander laughed.

“He worked for me as student in 1986 and 1987, and he was certainly in the group of students that you felt were going to go on and make careers for themselves,” Celander said. “He had a really good mix of technical ability and a great personality.”

With just under 2,000 students enrolled in its film program, Columbia College boasts one of the country’s largest film schools. While it hasn’t acquired the reputation of the film schools at New York University or UCLA, Celander said alumni such as Kaminski are helping change all that.

“People are starting to see Columbia as a rising source of serious filmmakers,” he said. “Janusz’s success is just making us that much more visible.”

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