I have only been a DP for a few years, but I wanted your advice on this:
I just recently completed a Music Video for a production company and the process was hell. Up to now, on all of my jobs, the camera package lighting package and camera crew was the responsibility of the Gaffer and myself. We would get everything together, as well as crew and submit it to the producer based on the needs of the shoot for budget approval.
In this case however, the producer & director felt that THEY should oversee the equipment as well as our crew. This was an extremely stressful situation. They called the rental houses, and had the equipment picked up with no one from our crew present.. They also handled all communication and hiring of the crew.. This was also stressful because they tried to beat everyone down on rate and I keep my crew at one rate or don't ask them on the set. They are all reasonable and there's no reason to pay them less.
I have always been taught that I oversee the tools and crew I am responsible for on set. They believe that that they do.. Speaking with the exec yesterday I told him I have a different definitaion of my job than he does and he came back with "Well this is how it's done in LA"... I do not agree but I want to make sure I am not off base here. Any feedback from the seasoned pros would be helpful.
To make matters worse, the director is my best friend, and this issue has seriously damaged our working relationship.. I hope I am not off base here.
Jay A. Kelley
I could really feel for you. From my experience, Music Video world is very director's realm. I worked on hundreds of them as a gaffer/camera assistant and eventually DP. I even produced my early music videos and I've directed music videos by default. The director gets what he/she wants. It didn't matter whether it was a low budget or a big budget it usually felt the same of too many shots and not enough time. But as the DP you still have to deliver.
As for the producer if he's inhouse and not an owner of the company then he/she answers to the exec producer. Micromanagers are like bullies; that stems from insecurity not strength. Yes margins can be tight on music videos but you eventually work with the same people over and over again because of mutual trust and respect. If the music video is a broadcast deal or if it's label a producer knows that margin. So what's the problem you get deals on the film, the lab, the gear, location and even actors. But having problems with the budget; slash the crews rate. Then make them wait for the cheque for over 30 days coz they're floating the next job. Why not just take a couple more grand and pay your crew. Those people end up on my blacklist. It's a huge business but a small circle no matter what city or country everyone hears and knows of everyone. Do you really want to be attached to that.
The director hopefully storyboards, shot list and preps. Instead of shooting with an insane ratio and shooting with every lens you've got.
You're the DP. Why are they micromanaging you? Where's the respect.
An actor friend once said that "No" is a very sexy word because you might not get the job today but when they call you again they know what you're worth and and what it'll take for you to get the job done.
As for your director friend you might not be working together in ten years. You might not even be friends anymore then. That's just the way it is. But you'll vibe with other people. I'm all about that combination of chemistry between the person and the artist and how they click with you.
If this producer is low balling you now do you think this will ever change with this guy.
What happens when they start doing bigger budget shoots are they going to gun for you because you're their DP or are they going to hire someone more seasoned than you.
Get your reel, bio, resume and press kit out there and start shopping around. It might take a while but your crew will love you for it if you get gigs with people who are respectful of what you're doing.
If people respect you they'll at least at the minimum make an effort to help you do the best job you can.
There's nothing more wonderful than to be paid well for doing something you love. Especially if you had a great sense of accomplishment from the experience. And have fun. Get the job done efficiently, quickly and safely but have fun.
You're the DP the author of the psyche of the film.
Best of luck out there