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Chris Menges

North Country

Key credits: “Dirty Pretty Things,” “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”

Awards: Oscar, BAFTA, BSC, BSFC, LAFCA, NYFCC laurels for “The Killing Fields”; NSFC award for “Comfort and Joy”; Oscar, LAFCA wins for “The Mission”; LAFCA kudos for “Michael Collins”

Connection: “(Director Niki Caro) was looking around for someone to work with, and my name just came up.”

Equipment: “We used two Panavision XL cameras. After extensive testing, we chose the Fuji 8572 as our stock. Niki liked Fuji for its subtle yellows and gold overcast. It also brought the vibrant but quiet pastel colors we wanted.”

Challenge: “‘North Country’ was a performance-orientated work, and Niki wanted the film to have a transparent quality. She was keen that we catch the actors’ performances as they happened. As such, she liked working with a handheld camera, which brought roughness to the frame. Also, Niki was very interested in sensitivity and the color of light, particularly pastel colors. We shot the film in Minnesota and New Mexico, the latter because of the tax advantages there. This posed some problems because in New Mexico we were at a higher altitude — 6,000 feet — and there was a different array of trees. Also, being so far south, there was a higher intensity of light. Minnesota, on the other hand, has a wonderful, translucent quality.”

Setback and solution: “I had to keep the floor free of lights and far away from the actors to create a soft, naturalistic setting. I could light from above, but that produces a flat image. In Josey’s kitchen, we hid the floor lights and created a big light over the site to give the scene some energy.”

Mantra: “Cameramen can only be as good as their director’s dream. You shouldn’t be serving your own dreams. You learn from the different people you work with.”

Upcoming: “A really exciting film that Scott Rudin is planning to produce. I shouldn’t say more than that.”

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