John Bailey, A.S.C (Groundhog Day, How To Be A Latin Lover) is the first cinematographer in nearly 60 years since George Stevens (Giant, The Diary Of Anne Frank) held the office.
A recipient of the American Society of Cinematographers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, Bailey has served the Academy for 14 years as a Governor of the Cinematography branch. Bailey’s win came as somewhat of a surprise, but he was perhaps the most experienced nominee for the position that also saw actress Laura Dern (who declined the nomination), documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy and casting director David Rubin in the race, each of which with far smaller terms of office than Bailey, if not more public visibility.
Bailey’s election also represents a win for the below-the-line branches of the Academy, many who feel they’ve been pushed to the side in the organization over the years. It also comes at a busy time for the Academy, as they are faced with the years long project of the Academy Museum construction and funding, the recent years of membership diversity foibles and the falling ratings of The Oscars telecast.
Bailey’s credits include Open Window, Boulevard Nights, Ordinary People, American Gigolo, Continental Divide, Cat People, That Championship Season, Racing with the Moon, The Big Chill, Mishima — A Life in Four Chapters, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Silverado, The Accidental Tourist, Groundhog Day, In the Line of Fire, As Good as It Gets, The Anniversary Party, The Way Way Back and A Walk in the Woods.
He also keeps a blog at the American Cinematographer site, John’s Bailiwick, where he discusses numerous topics regarding cinematography, photography and filmmaking as a whole. A fascinating read, Bailey began his first post on the blog as such:
“I can’t promise you that any of what I say will conform to the tenets of Cartesian logic, much less have any immediate relevance to your daily concerns as cinematographers. What I will try to do is draw out what I know as a person interested in the arts and how it intersects my work as a cinematographer.
“I am not a techno nerd and cannot even suggest that I can be a source for any technical or scientific information, if that is your bailiwick. My whole frame of reference for motion pictures is not even especially visual. I was not a picture taker as a child and came to movies as a graduate student at USC only after an undergrad literature major at Loyola LA. I hoped to learn film ‘grammar’ in order to be able to write about filmmaking. It was hoped by many of my generation that a New Wave of filmmaking would break on the shores of Malibu and Hollywood, cresting as high as the French, Italian and Swedish ones, which at that time were re-inventing cinema. The critical mouthpiece of the French New Wave was Andre Bazin.
“It was my dream to become the American Andre Bazin, though I had no desire to die prematurely like him at age 40.
“So, for this blog I will try to write about some of the issues of concern to us all in the immediate and evolving world of film. But for me that is really a small factor in the whole equation. I came to film with the baggage of a liberal-arts education, and I have dragged it like a character out of Beckett through the last four decades of my life and work. For good or indifferent, I will be opening some of it out into the light here, examining how deeply intertwined aesthetics and the arts must be with our technical work. I hope I can give you some window into my aesthetic ramblings as I stumble across the pitfalls of technology.
“Also, I will not confine my subject matter to motion pictures. There are many ideas and issues in the arts that are relevant to our work as cinematographers if we choose to engage them. A broad-based and fertile immersion in the arts and literature enriches the work and enlightens our lives. I don’t know how often I will be able to post, but I will make best efforts to be regular. It will be a process — an experiment, actually.”
Congratulations to John Bailey, A.S.C., and we wish you a successful Presidency!
For more on John Bailey’s work in the industry, you can visit his IMDB page, the International Encyclopedia of Cinematographers and his blog at ASCMag.com/blog/Johns-Bailiwick