Cinematographer Thomas Ackerman was born on 14 September, 1948 at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and enrolled in the University of Iowa, where he took a cinema course. He was hired by the university to shoot football games and training films for its School of Dentistry. In 1968 he went to work for Oscar-winning filmmaker Charles Guggenheim, who became his mentor. After a stint in the US Air Force he went back to work for Guggenheim in Washington, DC. He moved to Los Angeles in 1973, hooked up with his Air Force buddy Mike Robeand was hired as a camera operator on a succession of Hollywood films, includingFrancis Ford Coppola's One from the Heart (1981). He was director of photography onBeetlejuice (1988) for director Tim Burton (for whom Ackerman had previously shotFrankenweenie (1984)). In addition to cinematographer, he has also served as a second-unit director, notably onAlvin and the Chipmunks (2007) and Furry Vengeance (2010).