IPA News Item

Looking Back at Tesla Honoree Jerry Lewis

        On Sept. 13 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) will present “Both Sides of the Camera: the Innovative Genius of Jerry Lewis” to highlight the technical prowess of the legendary entertainer in a conversational setting with VFX supervisor Craig Barron and sound designer Ben Burtt. Widely known as a stand-up comic who later hit it big in cinematic pairings with Dean Martin, and then as an iconic comedian in a solo career, the real Jerry Lewis (born Joseph Levitch) is a man of hidden talents.

Worldwide audiences know him as one of the first pro-active humanitarian fundraisers for children’s charities, but his mechanical and scientific explorations went unnoticed by the general public. But in 2005 Lewis received the International Press Academy’s Nikola Tesla Award for his pioneering achievement in creating the now industry-standard “video assist” technology.

At the time, his long-time manager Rick Saphire deftly described the legendary performers’ behind-the-camera skills. “As a motion picture producer, director, and actor, Jerry Lewis’ passion was to utilize every bit of new technology in the creation of his product. In some cases, if something didn’t exist, he would develop it himself. His marriage of the motion picture camera, the closed circuit TV camera, plus the introduction of video tape changed the way movies were made.”

Saphire, who met Jerry Lewis through a family friend in 1953, said “in my opinion, Jerry Lewis was not thinking about becoming heralded as an inventor or innovator. He just wanted to come up with a way of doing his job better and providing the best in entertainment for his fans. On the other hand, I know he is bursting with pride for being recognized by the International Press Academy for his development of the ‘Video Assist.’”

In his acceptance speech, the “King of Comedy” said “I really can’t tell you what this award means to me, and I’ve got a lot of them.”

Even at age 86, Jerry Lewis continues to share his talent and expertise in all facets of the industry as a dynamic mentor with a new generation of filmmakers, friends, and fans.