Meet the New Wave /Oona Menges
Meet the New Wave /Oona Menges
Filmography (so far):
Social Suicide (2015), plus shorts Rubicon (2016), Looking For Albert (2014), MOTH (Man Of The House) (2014)
When did you discover you wanted to be a cinematographer?
I was bitten by the film bug at the age of 18, working on my first-ever feature as clapper/loader with DP Sandi Sissel in LA. But it wasn’t until I was a little older, and had lived more chapters in my life, that I felt I had something to contribute artistically.
Where did you train?
On-set and with stills. My Dad trained me how to set the stop and focus by eye, hold the camera down by my hip and then whip it up when the moment was right – learning ‘the decisive moment’.
What are your favourite films, and why?
It changes as I change and grow, but off the top of my head I’d say:
Once Were Warriors (1994, dir. Lee Tamahori, DP Stuart Dryburgh) – because of the story.
Local Hero (1983, dir. Bill Forsyth, DP Chris Menges) – because of the story.
Blade Runner (1982, dir. Ridley Scott, DP Jordan Cronanweth ASC) – the story and chance to play with light
Chungking Express (1994, dir. Wong Kar Wai, DPs Christopher Doyle & Wai-Keung Lau) – it’s how I see.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
I have a few, but every wrist-slap or kick-in-the-ass whilst an assistant – all of it is invaluable training.
“Truth not reality” – Chris Menges; “Remember the white spot” – Oliver Stapleton BSC; “Just get on with it” – Rodrigo Guttierez ACO and Ivan Strasburg BSC.
Who are your DP/industry heroes?
Robby Müller – his passion comes through the lens and is true to the story. He’s a true cameraman – no fancy stuff.
Vittorio Storarro AIC ASC – for his understanding of simplicity and attention to detail, and his delicate but deliberate touch.
Christopher Doyle – for his sure, free and spontaneous connection from his inner-vision to celluloid.
Chris Menges: he’s God.
What’s you proudest moment?
When three ARRI trucks steamed around the corner and parked up at the location of my very first shoot – all for me!
What’s the worst knock-back/rejection you ever had?
Two films I was due to shoot last summer were postponed with funding issues and another big, second unit opportunity passed on me. Three-in-one… I was bitterly disappointed until new opportunities arose.
"My Dad trained me how to set the stop and focus by eye, hold the camera down by my hip and then whip it up when the moment was right."
- Oona Menges
What have been your best/worst moments on set?
Best: arriving on-set and realising Mother Nature had lit the scene exactly as I had planned to light it myself, complete with the right colours and shadows. It was a surreal experience.
Worst: Witnessing a young man die after being crushed by a Tulip crane on a film in Argentina at the end of a gruelling night shoot.
Tell us your most hilarious faux pas?
I asked ARRI management about their F65 when, of course, I meant the Alexa 65. At an ARRI dinner recently I told the entire table of top DPs, and ARRI management, that ‘size matters.’ I once asked Peter Gabriel his name after chatting with him at his own concert.
Away from work, what are your greatest passions?
My family, friends, painting, reading, art exhibitions, films, travel, fires on the beach, canoing, water, running with my hell-hound, nature, animals, cooking, gardening, chopping wood, building, my chain-saw, anything hands-on. Laughing, laughing and laughing.
What one piece of kit could you not live without?
A piece of 216… and a camera.
Which films are you most proud of to date?
Looking For Albert.
What’s weirdest place you’ve ever shot in?
A sewer. And also a harem.
What’s the hardest shot/thing you’ve had to light/frame?
A suicide scene in a magnolia-painted concrete room, with no windows and negligible set dressing.
Tell us your hidden talent/party trick?
Making people laugh at my faux pas!
In the entire history of filmmaking, which film would you love to have shot?
What are your current top albums?
Rudimental, Ottmar Liebert, Jimmy Cliff, Wilco, Manu Dibango.
Can you tell us your greatest extravagance?
An Alpaca stud – they are more expensive than you might think.
What’s the best thing about being a DP?
The chance to study humanity through visual storytelling, and to work with teams of wonderful and interesting people along the way. The opportunity to achieve excellence through self-expression and the journey there.
What’s the worst thing about being a DP?
Being told ‘No’ and to have restrictions applied when great things are within your grasp.
Give us three adjectives that best describe you and your approach to cinematography?
Vivid. Passionate. Humanitarian.
If you weren’t a DP, what job would you be doing now?
I’d be AWOL somewhere round the world. Sailing or living in a jungle. Somewhere wild.
What are your aspirations for the future?
To work with a strong visual director on an amazing story, and to realise my internal vision.