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February 2015

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Page 43 of 51 42 POST FEBRUARY 2015 lthough his feature credits in- clude American Gigolo, Ordinary People, The Big Chill, Silverado, Mishima, Groundhog Day and the new films The Forger, starring John Travolta, and A Walk in the Woods, starring Robert Red- ford, John Bailey, ASC, refers to himself as an "accidental cinematographer." The winner of the Lifetime Achieve- ment Award, presented by the American Society of Cinematographers, Bailey was a fan of European art house cinema of the late 1950s and early '60s — Berg- man's Wild Strawberries, Antonioni's L'Avventura, Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Truf- faut's The 400 Blows — as a student. He expected his career path to be writing about filmmaking and film aesthetics, rather than actually being behind the camera. "I thought I could be the young Andre Bazin of the American New Wave," he chuckles. After spending his junior year at a col- lege in Vienna, he enrolled in the cinema school graduate program at the Universi- ty of Southern California, where cine- matography was one of his introductory courses. He had "never done much with a camera," and he feared he "botched" his first still photography assignment. "I had severely overexposed the neg- ative, so I was barely able to retrieve any kind of print in the darkroom," he says. "But Woody Omens, ASC, was a teach- ing assistant, and he very generously said I did a very unusual photo essay: Instead of a documentary-style shoot of a ham- burger stand near campus, I'd chosen to do a high-key, very bright almost fash- ion-style shoot. He gave me the courage to go on from there." Bailey became "enamored" of the camera, realizing "the writing of cinema is done as much with the camera as with the pen." After graduation, he spent 11 years apprenticing as a crewmember with such notable cinematographers as Nestor Almendros, ASC; Vimos Zsig- mond, ASC; and Don Peterman, ASC. "Unlike a lot of areas in the industry that are very cutthroat, cinematography is very collegial," he notes. "Cinema- tographers really support and look out for each other. I guess it's because the way you come up through the business: There's still a lot of apprenticing, being a journeyman, working your way through the ranks. A lot of my peer group has worked side by side on shoots and devel- oped strong bonds. Logically, when we became cinematographers we continued those relationships and draw upon each other for 2nd unit work or when we need a substitute." As Bailey looks back on his work, he's reminded of the variety of films he's done. "I don't feel I have a style," he says. "Because my orientation has never been toward photography but toward filmmaking." If there's any continuity in Bailey's film credits "it's the drama of the nuclear fam- ily: in its purest form in Ordinary People, and in a broader sense in The Big Chill. There are three generations of a broken family in The Forger," he adds, director Philip Martin's new film, which is slated for release this year. There's even an extended family angle in A Walk in the Woods, the true story of high school best friends reuniting after decades to walk the Appalachian Trail. Optioned by Redford a number of years ago and making its debut at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the film is direct- ed by Ken Kwapis and marks the sixth outing for the director and cinematogra- pher. It also celebrates the reunion (after shooting Ordinary People together) of Bailey and Redford, whom he admires as a man and a filmmaker, and who will present him with the Lifetime Achieve- ment Award. Bailey still loves to shoot film, and had an opportunity to do so for a portion of A Walk in the Woods. He has used "about a dozen" different digital camer- as, but calls Arri's Alexa "the only digital camera I really care to shoot with right now. It was developed by a film camera manufacturer so it has the feel of a film camera in the way you work with it and the look of a film camera in the way it captures imagery." He's always been "very involved in answer printing and DI," but "as the last generation of cinematographers that's fully film-trained," Bailey believes "very much in creating as much [of the look] as I can in the composition and lighting; I'm not big on on-set color management." Despite the diversity of his work there are genres he'd still like to tackle: a contemporary western and an original musical. "I'd love to do film noir and more documentaries," he adds. "The few I've done are very meaningful to me." LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT WINNER JOHN BAILEY, ASC BY CHRISTINE BUNISH A TRIBUTE TO HOLLYWOOD'S 'ACCIDENTAL CINEMATOG- RAPHER' A CAREERS

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