[ continued from page 2 - Eduardo Serra ]
Russell Carpenter, ASC
Photo by Merie W. Wallace
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox
For the romantic epic Titanic, Russell Carpenter achieved a fine balance between two very different photographic styles: sumptuous period opulence and heart-pounding suspense. He says that he was grateful to have the opportunity to "show some work that is more delicate than the action-oriented films I've done in the past."
Russell Carpenter swept the ASC and Academy Awards for Best Cinematography with his stunning work on Titanic, directed by James Cameron (see extensive coverage in AC Dec. 1997). The duo had previously collaborated on True Lies (AC Sept. '94) and the 70mm 3-D production Terminator 2 3-D (AC Aug. '96). The cinematographer's other credits include The Lawnmower Man (AC April '92), Hard Target (AC Sept. '93), The Indian in the Cupboard (AC Aug. '95), and the comedy Money Talks (on which he shared credit with Robert Primes, ASC). He recently finished shooting The Negotiator, which stars Kevin Spacey.
After Caleb Deschanel, ASC completed photography on the modern-day segments of Titanic in Nova Scotia, Carpenter joined the production at the Fox Studios Baja complex in Rosarito, Mexico, where all of the period and ship sequences would be shot. Despite having less than three weeks to prepare for this exceptionally complex production, the cameraman decided that his previous experiences with Cameron, as well as the strong professional bonds he'd developed with his camera team, would help him fill the gaps. "If a crew works with a director of photography for any length of time, they're going to know what his favorite solutions are for any given problem," Carpenter reasons. "Also, most importantly, most of the people I brought to the shoot had worked with Jim before, so they knew the kinds of physical and spiritual demands that would be made on them. I wasn't going to bring any untested people into that situation."
Aided by camera operator Jimmy Muro, Cameron applied his trademark kinetic, decidedly modern visual style to Titanic's predominately Edwardian-era milieu. "I think Jim got around that really well," Carpenter offers. "There are actually two very different photographic styles within the period section. In the first part, the camerawork is rather polite, graceful and even eloquent. I was trying to reinforce the opulence and beauty of the time with the lighting." Later in the film, as the ship begins to sink, the filmmakers pull out all the stops to generate maximum tension and suspense.
Carpenter cites Howard's End, Heaven's Gate and The Natural as influences on his lighting approach on Titanic. He adds, "Early on, there were decisions about what would be 'allowed' in regard to the period palette, but there really aren't any set rules about what kind of lighting is or is not appropriate for a period film. Titanic bears the stamp of Jim Cameron's very blue night lighting, but there's also a lot of amber in this picture, which is quite a departure. With the warmer tones, we sometimes added a bit of a sepia feeling to some of the light, without resorting to using antique suede, coral or tobacco gels. Of course, you see more color in the scenes in the first-class section of the ship, if only in the costumes. That's a natural effect which is dictated by the story."
Carpenter concludes, "As enormous and logistically challenging as this film was, I feel happiest with the more intimate scenes. This was a great opportunity to show some work that is more delicate than the action-oriented films I've done in the past. I'll remember Titanic as a challenge and a testament to Jim's visionary gifts and drive, but perhaps more importantly, I'll recall that I was supported through it all by a group of talented and committed crew members. That's the bottom line for me."
[ continued on page 4 Janusz Kaminski ]