Michael Bucher: The Radicals CinematographerMichael was born and raised in the farm community of Astoria, Illinois. When he was 11 he fell in love with movies, but was even more fascinated with the projection beam over his head at the Hughes Astoria Colonial Theatre. He found it absolutely magical. The beam drew him to it's source and by age 14 he became the resident projectionist and worked in that capacity through high school. This was just the start of an award winning career that would win him two CINE Golden Eagle Awards for his brilliant work in cinematography. After many years working for other companies, Michael became a free agent and moved to Helena, Montana. One of his many career highlights was photographing long-time friend actor/producer/director JamesBrolin's feature motion picture MyBrother'sWar (1997) in Ireland. It won best feature at the First Annual Hollywood Film Festival in the budget over 1 million dollars category. Michael restored a 1950s 35mm Super Simplex projector, identical to the ones used when he was a projectionist as a teenager and installed it in his screening room. The classic projector serves as a reminder of his many dreams that came true. He often said if realizing one's dreams is a measure of success then he was as wealthy as Bill Gates. Michael lost his battle with cancer in 2012 at the age of 73. Many in the movie industry believe that we will never see anyone as masterful with the use of light again. His work in cinematography was often said to be as masterful as Rembrandt creating a painting. This is especially true of his work on The Radicals. Due to budget constraints Michael also served in the capacity as lighting director in addition to his cinematography role. Whereas dim or candlelit scenes on film can look dingy or even muddy, his candlelit interior scenes show a warm glow that illuminate the actors and the set perfectly without losing any detail in the least.
Michael Bucher (
Two of Michael’s closest friends in the film industry, Robert Nowotny and Erik Brown, both wrote touching tributes for Michael.
I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with Michael Bucher on three separate occasions. I know that all of my projects benefitted enormously because of his professional expertise, his willingness to work in very trying conditions and to do so with undeniable skill and grace and with a ton of dry humor thrown in for extra measure. Just take the time to screen The Radicals, for example, and you will readily see what I mean -- his immaculate lighting and carefully constructed compositions have been compared to the paintings of Rembrandt by a number of industry professionals and everyday filmgoers as well. That's high praise indeed, especially for a Maverick residing all the way up in Big Sky Country.Michael, you see, chose to live in the beautiful state of Montana where most other world-class cinematographers wouldn't even consider living, believing that if they are not immediately available for face-to-face meetings in either Los Angeles or New York City job opportunities would be few and far between. But Michael didn't see the need to play that game, his remarkable body of work did the talking for him. And talk it did -- loudly!Most importantly, Michael was a friend, a very good friend, who for years I would call every Friday thanks to my cell phone service offering "Free Fridays" -- a great promotion long gone and one that will never be duplicated I am sure. What we discussed ranged from politics to religion to current events to sports -- you name it. And yes, we did discuss films and filmmaking as well. But it is mostly the jokes and the laughs that we shared that I remember the most. Unfortunately, many of these jokes were a bit too off-color to share now -- so I'll simply think back and chuckle and remember all the good times -- those good times may be gone, but they are most certainly not forgotten. Come to think of it, I would have called Michael every Friday even if the calls weren't free... --Robert A. Nowotny
I met Michael by chance and good luck in the late 1980’s on a small commercial shoot in Helena, Montana. I was either just out of college or soon to be and quite excited to be working with someone who everyone told me was the “real deal” - a talented, internationally experienced cinematographer. I was nervous. After all, I had no real experience and I have no doubt looking back that Michael realized this immediately yet chose to be somewhat kind and generous and somehow I managed not to embarrass myself completely and for whatever reasons cause relationships to happen, we hit it off and thus began a fantastic twenty five year friendship. I guess I must have caught him on a good day! Michael was at times a father figure, a mentor, a sounding board, a therapist, but most importantly, he was my friend. We had the pleasure of working together many times over the years and I am thankful for all that he taught me. However Mike taught me much more than just cinematography techniques. He taught me the importance of living within your means and the importance of family and numerous other of life’s lessons that ultimately were more important than just making pretty pictures! We spoke all the time. Michael always wanted to know what I was working on, where I was or where I was traveling to next, about the latest technology I was working with and what my opinions were of it, who I was working with and how it was going. More often than not, he had spent time at whatever location I was at and had a favorite place to visit or restaurant to recommend. He would begin every phone conversation or voice mail message with a deep sarcastic tone belting out a long drawn out version of my last name, “Broooooown.....” Followed by something classy such as, “I was just thinking of you or you just came to mind as I was using the toilet.” I would always try to respond with a rejoinder that was just as classy! I miss Mike and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. Sometimes it’s at work and other times while I’m enjoying Montana or my family. He could put on whatever rough or gruff exterior he wanted but I always knew that what was underneath was all class. As Michael was fond of saying, “There are only two classes, first class and no class.” I can only hope that Michael is traveling first class in his favorite seat - 1A on his latest journey. I miss you and love you and thank you for all the years of your support and friendship! -- Erik Brown