For English cinematographer Henry Braham, the secret to successful filmmaking is collaborative chemistry. “You must have the same sympathy, vision and ambition as the director and producers,” he says.
Braham’s latest project is New Line’s “The Golden Compass.” The film, an epic fantasy tale starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, is written and directed by Chris Weitz, best known for his work on the “American Pie” movies. Braham knew no one associated with the project before signing on.
“They sent me the script,” he says, “and I thought, this is fantastic. This is the kind of movie I’d like to see. I thought it would be exciting to make. And when we met, we all got on.”
He suspects that his Emmy-winning lensing on A&E’s “Shackleton” (2002), which chronicles an ill-fated 1914 South Pole expedition, as well as his work on “Nanny McPhee” (2005), something of a dark “Mary Poppins,” made him an obvious choice for “Compass,” which involves both children and a snowscape.
Yet he insists that he’d never have taken the job had he felt he was just repeating himself. “You respond to what you think you can contribute to,” he says.
For Braham, the pic’s major challenges sprung from its heavy reliance on visual effects. “Certain movies you can work on in near isolation,” he says, “but this type of moviemaking has to be collaborative. And because it’s a completely imaginary world, everything needs to be thought through and make sense, so that the audience isn’t distracted by the way it looks, but rather excited by it.”
In other words, Braham had to fight getting carried away with CGI. “It expands the possibilities,” he says, “but you have to be careful not to let your imagination run wild and create something that’s impossible to film just because it is possible.”
Fave tool: Pentax light meter
Preferred film stock or digital camera: Film stock is Fuji 500; digital camera is Panavision Genesis
Inspiration: Everyday life
Up next: Deciding what’s next
Reps: Claire Best at Marsh, Best & Associates in Los Angeles, and Sara Pritchard at Casarotto Marsh in London