John M. Stephens

John Morley Stephens (born November 17, 1932 Valparaiso, Indiana died Huntington Beach, California June 18, 2015) was an American cinematographer. He was noted for his innovative work on the 1966 film Grand Prix, for which he pioneered the use of a number of camera mounts and developed the first remotely operated pan-and-tilt-head camera.[1] For this latter invention, he received a Technical Achievement Award from the Society of Operating Cameramen in 1994.[2]

John M. Stephens
John Morley Stephens

November 17, 1932
DiedJune 18, 2015(2015-06-18) (aged 82)
OccupationCinematographer, camera operator


Stephens learned how to use a camera when he served in the US Navy in the 1950s. Working as a photographer in Sun Valley, Idaho, he entered film work as an assistant cameraman and stills photographer on Bus Stop (1956} and South Pacific (1958). [3].

As a cinematographer, Stephens was known for his work on such films as Billy Jack, Blacula, Martin Scorsese's Boxcar Bertha, and William Friedkin's Sorcerer. He also shot the memorable bicycle chase for Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, though he did not receive on-screen credit for his work. He was also the second unit director and cameraman for John Landis' comedy Three Amigos and the aerial photographer for Phil Alden Robinson's acclaimed Field of Dreams. From the late 1980s onward, he more prominently worked as a second unit director of photography, most notably on Martin Brest's Midnight Run and James Cameron's Titanic.

Stephens died in Orange County, California on June 18, 2015. He was 82.[4]

Partial filmography

As camera operator

As cinematographer

As second unit director of photography


  1. Stone, Matt (2014). James Garner's Motoring Life: Grand Prix the movie, Baja, The Rockford Files, and More. North Branch, MN: CarTech, Inc. p. 37. ISBN 978-1613251362. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  2. Twohy, Jennifer (7 February 2014). "Marilyn and Me, John Stephens on filming Bus Stop in Sun Valley". CanalBlog. (original). Retrieved 26 June 2015. John Stephens has gone where the action is," said the Society of Operating Cameramen in 1994 when it gave him the Technical Achievement Award for developing the first remotely controlled pan and tilt head camera on the Oscar-winning Grand Prix. "A top second unit cameraman and director he has photographed some of the most exciting images ever recorded on film. From breaking new ground on Grand Prix to the exciting bicycle chase in Steven Spielberg's ET, John has photographed the action from virtually every kind of vehicle, from lear jets to helicopters. (He has survived three helicopter crashes).
  3. p. 334 Lentz III, Harris M. Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2015 McFarland, 3 May 2016
  4. "John Morley Stephens - Obituary". 23 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015.
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