William A. "Bill" Fraker, ASC, BSC, will receive the prestigious Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award at the 11th Annual International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography, scheduled for November 29 to December 6 in Lodz, Poland.
"Bill Fraker is one of the great artists of contemporary times," says Marek Zydowicz, founder and director of the festival, which has become a global forum for the art of cinematography. "He has made significant and enduring contributions to advancing this important art form. The originality of his work and his dedication to the art are an inspiration for filmmakers with unrealized dreams in every part of the world."
Fraker was part of the first wave of a new generation of cinematographers who brought a different way of thinking to Hollywood during the 1960s and '70s. He earned Oscar nominations in the Best Cinematography category for Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1978), Heaven Can Wait (1979), 1941 (1980), War Games (1984), and Murphy's Romance (1986), and a sixth one for visual effects camerawork on 1941. His other memorable cinematography credits include Bullitt, Rosemary's Baby, Paint Your Wagon, Day of the Dolphin, Tombstone, and most recently, Waking Up in Reno. Fraker also directed Monte Walsh, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, and A Reflection of Fear.
Fraker will join an international list of stars who have received Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Awards, including Sven Nykvist, ASC; Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC; Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC; Giuseppe Rotunno, AIC, ASC; Haskell Wexler, ASC; Conrad Hall, ASC; Laszlo Kovacs, ASC; Billy Williams, BSC; Owen Roizman, ASC; and Freddie Francis, BSC. Fraker previously received a lifetime achievement award from his colleagues in the American Society of Cinematographers in 2000.
Fraker was 18 years old when he joined the military service after the United States entered World War II. The GI Bill of Rights enabled him to enroll in the cinema studies department at the University of Southern California (USC) after the war. Fraker recalls that his grandmother encouraged him become a cinematographer, but a college degree in filmmaking didn't open doors in Hollywood after graduating from USC.
Fraker worked at various jobs after graduation. He was a still photographer for awhile. Fraker also shot 16mm educational and industrial films, inserts for commercials, and "grab shots" for features. It took him 13 years to qualify to work on studio films as a member of the International Cinematographers Guild. Fraker worked as a camera operator with his USC classmate Conrad Hall, ASC, for five years, including Morituri and The Professionals.
He began to make his mark as a cinematographer while shooting cutting-edge commercials during the mid-1960s. This enabled him to experiment with different techniques, including using long lenses and soft light to create new looks. Fraker earned his first feature film credit in 1967 for Games.
What kept him motivated during the difficult years when he was relegated to working on the fringes of the industry after graduating from USC? Fraker, who now teaches at his alma mater, is frequently asked that question by his students. In reply, he cites 19th-century English poet Robert Browning, who wrote, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" Fraker amplifies, "You have got to go for it. You have to reach beyond your grasp every time you shoot. If you sit on your laurels, you will only have one laurel."