It was while he was a student in Austria in the mid-'60s that John Bailey knew he would spend his life making films. This was the high point of the Nouvelle Vague, and young people in Europe and the United States were drawn to film in the way that earlier generations had gravitated to philosophy or writing. It was also a period of considerable artistic and technical experimentation, when first-time directors were the rule rather than the exception.
It was against this background that Bailey decided to enroll in film school at USC in the graduate program.
Bailey brought together the technical and aesthetic aspects of camera and lighting to become a cinematographer. After becoming a member of the Hollywood union camera guild in 1969 he began a 10-year apprenticeship first as a camera assistant (Monte Hellman's Two Lane Blacktop), then as a camera operator (Terence Malick's Days of Heaven and Robert Altman's Three Women), finally becoming a director of photography in 1978.
Bailey has worked with directors Paul Schrader, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Apted. He has also worked with such leading directors as John Schlesinger, Robert Redford, Herbert Ross, Walter Hill, Stuart Rosenberg, Harold Ramis, Wolfgang Petersen, Johnathan Demme, Robert Benton, James Brooks and Sam Raimi.
In an eclectic career, Bailey has photographed mainstream Hollywood studio films such as Ordinary People and The Accidental Tourist, offbeat "auteur" films such as Norman Maller's Tough Guys Don't Dance and Jason Miller's That Championship Season, and genre bending pictures such as Swimming to Cambodia and A Brief History of Time.
Some years ago Bailey decided to expand his filmmaking horizons and directed and photographed the film of Lily Tomlin's Tony Award winning Broadway play, The SEarch for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Bailey directed China Moon starring Ed Harris, Madeline Stowe and Charles Dance for Orion Pictures. Several years later he produced and directed Mariette in Ecstasy from the acclaimed novel by Ron Hansen.
Bailey received a special Artistic Achievement Award from the Cannes Film Festival in 1985 for his work on Paul Schrader's Mishima - A Life in Four Chapters.
Bailey's recent work as cinematographer includes James Brooks' As Good as It Gets, Richard LaGravanese's Living Out Loud, Sam Weisman's The Out-of-Towners, For Love of the Game by Sam Raimi and Forever Mine by Paul Schrader.
He is an on-camera spokesman for the documentary Visions of Light and the PBS series American Film. He has also served on the juries of the Venice Film Festival and of Camerlmage.
Bailey serves on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is also on the Board of Governors of the American Society of Cinematographers and is on an advisory board of the trustees of the American Film Institute.
Bailey is married to film editor Carol Littleton, with whom he has worked on many projects.
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