GSCA Achievement Awards

The 2023 Achievement Awards were presented the evening of Tuesday, September 19, at the GSCA International Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, during a ceremony held at the IMAX Theater at the Indiana State Museum. IMAX Corporation, sponsor of the awards ceremony, presented the IMAX Hall of Fame Award, which goes to a giant screen film that is at least 10 years old and is selected by vote of the IMAX theater network.

Greg MacGillivray

Outstanding Achievement Award

Greg MacGillivray of Laguna Beach-based MacGillivray Freeman Films has been producing and directing award-winning films for more than 50 years and is one of the giant screen industry’s most ardent and effective champions. After an early start producing surfing documentaries (Let There be Surf, A Cool Wave of Color, Five Summer Stories) with filmmaking partner Jim Freeman in the 1960s and 70s, and together making names for themselves as aerial cinematography specialists on Hollywood studio projects, the young filmmakers were hired by the Smithsonian to produce a film using a nascent film medium called IMAX. The film, To Fly!, was to be the signature film for the National Air and Space Museum’s new IMAX theater and would form an important part of the nation’s 1976 bicentennial celebrations in Washington DC. The museum didn’t want a standard film on the history of flight, but a fun and experiential film that would surprise audiences. To Fly!, with its expansive and visceral aerial shots, more than fit the bill. Tragically, Jim was killed in a helicopter crash just days before the film’s premiere, but Greg honored his friend and colleague by keeping Freeman in the company name.

To Fly! was an overnight sensation, leading to a surge in IMAX theater construction around the world. In 1995 the U.S. Library of Congress included To Fly!, along with Gone with the Wind and Star Wars, in a list of 100 films worldwide to celebrate the first 100 years of filmmaking.

Greg has more than 60 films to his credit, including over 40 giant screen productions and 5 of the top 10 highest-grossing giant screen films of all time. His giant screen films include the two Academy Award-nominated films The Living Sea (1995) and Dolphins(2000), as well as Behold Hawaii (1983), To the Limit (1989), The Discoverers (1993), Stormchasers (1995), The Magic of Flight(1996), Everest (1998), Adventures in Wild California (2000); Journey Into Amazing Caves (2001), Coral Reef Adventure (2003), Mystery of the Nile (2005), Hurricane on the Bayou (2006), Grand Canyon Adventure (2008), To the Arctic (2012); Humpback Whales (2015), National Parks Adventure (2016), Dream Big (2017), America’s Musical Journey (2018), Into America’s Wild(2020), and Ireland (2022). The 1998 film Everest was the giant screen industry’s first blockbuster and the first giant screen film to open with a true “day and date” release, opening in nearly 100 theaters within the first 90 days. His work also appears in the Hollywood films The Towering Inferno, The Shining, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Blade Runner.

Greg’s list of “firsts” for the giant screen industry include:

  • the first to take IMAX images from inside the human body for To The Limit
  • the first to enlist an A-list Hollywood celebrity as narrator of a giant screen film (Meryl Streep) and to collaborate with an A-list musical talent (Sting) on a film’s soundtrack, both for The Living Sea
  • the first, together with IMAX engineers, to design and build the lightweight, extreme-weather IMAX camera, used to capture IMAX footage from the summit of Mt. Everest

Greg has shot more 70mm film than anyone in cinema history and is the first documentary filmmaker to cross the $1 billion benchmark in worldwide ticket sales.

A passionate ocean conservationist, Greg and his wife Barbara founded the MacGillivray Freeman Films Educational Foundation, a nonprofit public charity dedicated to educating and inspiring the public through giant screen films and science education programming, and the One World One Ocean campaign to raise awareness of ocean degradation and spark a global movement to protect our seas.

Producer, director, actor, and environmental activist Robert Redford, who narrated the MacGillivray Freeman film National Parks Adventure, has said, “Not only are Greg MacGillivray’s films stunningly beautiful and well crafted, they also inspire us to renew our appreciation for the wonders of the natural world and challenge us to become better guardians of our earthly home.”

Patricia and David Keighley

Outstanding Achievement Award

For over 50 years, Patricia and David Keighley’s relentless drive to exceed the standards for an immersive cinema experience has inspired audiences and colleagues alike to accept only the very best and not allow shortcuts. They have been involved in every step of filmmaking, with a special focus on postproduction, since the beginning of IMAX. In 1971, while watching North of Superior, the first IMAX film, together at the world’s first permanent IMAX installation at Cinesphere in Toronto, David turned to Patricia and said, “I’ve got to figure out how to get involved.” And get involved they did.

Said IMAX Co-founder Graeme Ferguson in a 2018 video celebrating the Keighleys’ 45-year anniversary at IMAX, “When we decided to invent IMAX, we had in mind to put on very large screens the finest pictures that anybody had ever seen. It was a very good idea, but there was one flaw. Those strips of films go through tanks that have to be exactly the right temperature, and if they’re off by a degree, you get different colors. David Keighley perceived that there was a real need to develop a quality control system.”

In 1972, David and Patricia founded IMAX Post/DKP Inc., an IMAX subsidiary since 1988, where they established the quality control system to develop 15 perf/70mm prints in the lab and ensure every print was near perfect. Originating in Toronto, Canada, and now based in Los Angeles, the company has been involved in the theatrical, film, and digital large-format postproduction of more than 500 films released in 15/70 film, digital, and IMAX with Laser theaters worldwide. They were also key to working with the major Hollywood studios and directors when IMAX introduced feature films to the giant screen, starting with Roy Disney and Fantasia 2000, and including filmmakers Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, James Cameron, and Jordan Peele.

Though they are known as the industry’s dynamic duo, their individual contributions cannot be overstated.

From what is presented on screen to theater interior lighting, David Keighley’s influence as Chief Quality Officer is evident in every single IMAX presentation and theater. His commitment to quality and the audience experience is so fervent that his contact information appears on screen at the end of every IMAX presentation so audience members can reach out with technical concerns.

In the 2008 complex and multi-faceted transition from film to digital, Patricia led the IMAX digital postproduction workflow. Her involvement and knowledge of the technical side of filmmaking was critical to this effort. Patricia served as Executive Vice-President of the 8,000-member Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) in 2021-2022. This 100-year-old organization sets standards for compatibility of systems in the audio-visual world and Patricia has been a key player in this global effort. She has been honored by SMPTE, the Advanced Imaging Society and most recently by the Hollywood Professional Association.

David and Patricia are each members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and associate members of the American Society of Cinematographers.

Though they have worked with the biggest names in Hollywood and the giant screen documentary industry, they never forget the sometimes unnoticed, unsung heroes working in the dark: the projection booth staff. Recognizing that the booth staff is the final link in the chain to getting a quality presentation onscreen, they established the IMAX Best Booth Award to celebrate excellence in this effort.

“You can point to the technology. You can point to the movies. You can point to the theaters. You can point to lots of things,” says IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond. “But in certain ways it’s magic. It’s a secret sauce, and David and Patricia are part of that secret sauce. I think they own the secret to the brew.”

Arctic: Our Frozen Planet

Best Film-Short Subject (tie)
Best Film for Lifelong Learning
Best Original Score
Best Best Cinematography
Best Sound Design

Pictured here are Tyler Mifflin, Alex Mifflin, Amber Hawtin, and Wendy MacKeigan of SK Films; Jonathan Williams of BBC Studios; Phil Streather of Principal Large Format; Tony Maher, Simon Craddock, and Andy Lee of Onsight. Arctic: Our Frozen Planet is directed by Rachel Scott, produced by BBC Earth, distributed by SK Films. Cinematography by Benjamin Sadd, Jamie McPherson, John Aitchison, Olly Jelley, Barrie Britton, Bertie Gregory, Florian Ledoux, Ted Giffords, Justin Maguire, Garath Whyte, and Rolf Steinmann. Sound design by Tim Owens and Kate Hopkins. Composed by Hans Zimmer, Adam Lukas, and James Everingham for Bleeding Fingers Music.

Secrets of the Sea

Best Film-Short Subject (tie)

Pictured here are Howard Hall and Michele Hall; Jonathan Bird and Noah Ramirez of Oceanic Research Group; and Alan Williams of Silverscreen Music. Secrets of the Sea is directed by Howard Hall and Jonathan Bird, produced by Michele Hall, and distributed by MacGillivray Freeman Films.

Grand Canyon: Rivers of Time

Best Visual Effects

Pictured here is Rick Gordon, RPG Productions. Visual effects by Alan G. Markowitz, Visceral Image Productions; Marios Kourasis, Astrobear Studios; Michael Roderick, Digital Artist Coalition.

Avatar: The Way of Water: An IMAX 3D Experience

Best Film-Feature Length

Directed by James Cameron, produced by Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Studios, distributed by 20th Century Studios.

Carnegie Science Center, Wings Over Water

Best Film Launch by a Theater (tie)

Pictured here are Marcus Harshaw and Sarah Reichle.

Museon-Omniversum, The Netherlands, Secrets of the Sea

Best Film Launch by a Theater (tie)

Pictured here are Alexandra Van Der Zee and Esther van Amstel

MacGillivray Freeman Films

Best Marketing Campaign by a Distributor, Secrets of the Sea (tie)

Pictured here are Amanda Sosa, Patty Collins, Lori Rick, Mary Jane Dodge, and Chip Bartlett

SK Films

Best Marketing Campaign by a Distributor, Arctic: Our Frozen Planet (tie)

Pictured here is Amber Hawtin

Sinking Ship Entertainment, The Dino Dana Experience

Big Idea

The Big Idea Award is given for a significantly innovative and impactful idea from a marketing campaign. Pictured here is Jennifer Lee Hackett.

Rick Gordon, RPG Productions

Big Shoe

The Big Shoe is selected by GSCA staff to recognize exemplary volunteers. Pictured here are GSCA Executive Director Tammy Barrett, Rick Gordon, and GSCA Director of Communication and Membership Kelly Germain

Maximum Image Awards, Presented by IMAX

Flight of the Butterflies

IMAX Hall of Fame Award

During the GSCA awards ceremony, IMAX Corporation presented the Hall of Fame Award, which is voted by the IMAX theater network and honors a giant screen film that is at least 10 years old. This year’s winner was Flight of the Butterflies, released in 2012, directed by Mike Slee, produced and distributed by SK Films. Pictured here are Tyler Mifflin, Wendy MacKeigan, Amber Hawtin, and Alex Mifflin.