The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry

Cinematographer John Bailey, ASC to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

August 31, 2011

The Big Bear Lake International Film Festival (BBLIFF) announces John Bailey, ASC as the recipient of their inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in Cinematography. Bailey will receive the award Friday, September 16 at the Big Bear Lake Performing Arts Center in Big Bear Lake, California.

In an eclectic career, John Bailey has photographed such mainstream Hollywood films as “Ordinary People,” “Silverado,” "The Big Chill," “The Accidental Tourist,” “Groundhog Day,” “In the Line of Fire,” “As Good as It Gets,”  “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” “Must Love Dogs”; such offbeat films as Norman Mailer's “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” and Jason Miller's “That Championship Season”; and such genre-bending pictures as “Swimming to Cambodia,”  “A Brief History of Time” and “The Kid Stays in the Picture."

Bailey's interest in film while studying German language and culture in Innsbruck and Vienna, where he became influenced by the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) films of the 60s. "What I sensed in the French New Wave was a sense of freedom and spontaneity that caught me totally off-guard. I found a sort of crazed new spirit happening - everywhere really, but especially in the French New Wave - and somehow it just spoke to me in terms of its energy and its sense of breaking loose. And yet the themes it was dealing with were the same themes most novelists were trying to deal with. It was the beginning of a lot of experimentation in the literary form. Given my bent toward literature, I just saw it as a new kind of writing. When I entered film school at USC, I thought I would get into an area of criticism or writing or film aesthetics and history. When I took a beginning camera course, that changed my whole perspective: I really saw the camera primarily as the writing instrument."

That didn't stop him from making literary contributions, however. He counts among his writing credits essays and film articles for the New York Times, American Cinematographer Magazine, ICG Magazine and the DGA Monthly, along with a weekly blog on film and the arts, hosted by the American Society of Cinematographers at

Bailey’s other film credits include “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood;” “The Anniversary Party;” “American Gigolo” and “Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters,” for which he shares the 1985 Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Artistic Contribution with composer Philip Glass and production and costume designer Eiko Ishioka; “Incident at Loch Ness” for Werner Herzog and Zak Penn; and “The Architect,” which debuted at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.  

His recent projects include John Krasinski’s directorial debut film “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" and  Shana Feste’s “The Greatest” -- both selected for competition in the 2009 Sundance Festival. In 2010 Bailey's projects “When in Rome,” “Ramona and Beezus” and “Country Strong” were released. He recently completed “Everybody Loves Whales” in Anchorage, Alaska, his fifth film with director Ken Kwapis.

Other leading directors Bailey has worked with include Robert Redford, Paul Schrader, Lawrence Kasdan, Wolfgang Petersen, Jonathan Demme, Sam Raimi, Michael Apted, John Schlesinger, Harold Ramis, Norman Mailer, Herbert Ross, Walter Hill, Stuart Rosenberg, Robert Benton and James L. Brooks. He has also filmed for Richard LaGravenese, Jennifer Jason Leigh & Alan Cumming, Shana Feste and Callie Khouri, on their feature film debuts.

Beyond his work as a cinematographer, Bailey directed the 1994 film noir thriller “China Moon,” starring Ed Harris, Benecio del Toro and Madeline Stowe, “Mariette in Ecstasy” from Ron Hansen’s acclaimed  novel, as well as the one-person shows, David Hare’s “Via Dolorosa”  and Lily Tomlin’s “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.”  He also photographed and directed the Imax concert film “N’Sync: Bigger Than Live.” Onscreen, he appears in the documentary "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography" and the PBS series "American Film." 

He has served on the juries of the Venice Film Festival and CamerImage in Poland and has conducted workshops and seminars internationally. He currently serves on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Society of Cinematographers and on the National Film Preservation Board. 

He has been married to film editor Carol Littleton since 1972.

Other 2011 honorees at BBLIFF include Michael Giacchino (Film Music) and Stephen Tobolowsky (Acting). For a list of past honorees visit the "Past Festivals" link on our website. 

The Big Bear Lake International Film Festival attracts an average of 5,000 attendees to its scenic location yearly and will be celebrating its 12th anniversary at this year’s event; September 15th – 18th, 2011. Tickets can be purchased online at; at the Big Bear Lake Performing Arts Center Box Office (39707 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake, CA 92315); or by phone: 909-866-4970. For more information about the festival call 909-866-3433 or email