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Question on hiring a cinematographer


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#1 Alex Ellerman

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Posted 07 January 2006 - 10:38 AM

as a non-cinematographer trying to put a feature together, i would like to know how most productions (over $1 million) go about hiring a D.O.P.

aside from contacting people whose work they know or admire.... they put out ads, perhaps? they contact firms who rep the DP's? do they more often contact DP's directly or their handlers?

and then, what is an accepted selection process? is it a phone interview? sitdown? at what point will the DP read the script and give his/her take on it? discuss fav films? i would appreciate knowing anything about the interview process that anyone can share.

also, how far in advance would a good indie DP want to be contacted (post funding, of course!) for scheduling purposes?
Thank you
ae
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 January 2006 - 02:07 PM

Pretty much, yes, all of the above.

You may announce the film being in prep in the trades like Variety and Hollywood Reporter and get unsolicited resumes, etc. You can also contact the below-the-line agencies, or they may contact you, and get reels and resumes from their clients. You may already have a DP in mind and contact them directly, or go through their agent.

You send them the script first, then schedule an interview between him and the director, in person if possible, over the phone if not. If the director wants that DP, the DP may also have to interview with the producer as well. Or the director and producer may want to be together when they interview the DP -- just depends on how they like to work together.

Then the producer would make an offer to the DP or their agent.

In terms of how early, well, a lot of it depends on if your shooting dates are locked, which depend on money & casting. You want to be reasonably sure about when the start date is, partially because some DP's contracts will have a guarantee -- i.e. once they are hired, they get paid for "x" time no matter what. It may be a 3-week guarantee, for example. Or less if you are a smaller movie.

Often a DP needs to spend about a month in prep for a month or so amount of shooting, even though they will probably only work sporadically in the first few weeks of prep, going on scouts, meeting with the director, etc. Of course, you may not be able to afford to pay a DP for a month of prep. You may have only budgeted two weeks of prep for a four week shoot, let's say, so it will be the DP's prerogative how much time they want to put in before the two-week paid period begins. They will probably say that they will make themselves available when needed but also be free to work on small shoots, etc. before that date.

So in other words, you probably want to start looking about two months maybe before the start date of shooting a feature and have someone in place a month before the start date.
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 January 2006 - 03:36 PM

Hi,

One of the things BECTU does is send out the "Early Bird" newsletter, outlining upcoming features and TV shows. I'm never quite sure what the point is of this kind of thing - obviously, they're not going to hire DPs like this, and DPs will hire their favourite crews.

Has anyone ever got anything off newsletters like this?

Phil
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#4 Alex Ellerman

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 05:32 PM

Thanks for the reply David, you are always one to be counted on...
if anyone else has any input, specifically on how their interviews were conducted, i would appreciate it...
Best,
ae
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 01:20 AM

Thanks for the reply David, you are always one to be counted on...
if anyone else has any input, specifically on how their interviews were conducted, i would appreciate it...
Best,
ae


There's no standard or rules here. The DP is asked if they liked the script, what they thought about it, if they have any ideas, then there is much chit-chat as the DP gets to know the director, know more about the production, the logistics, etc. (the DP is interviewing the production as much as they are interviewing the DP.) DP does his best to sound excited about what is often a problematic script, but no one really wants to hear a DP's criticisms of the script EVEN IF THEY ARE ASKED FOR AN OPINION. If you want the job, don't be critical. Anyone about to drop a lot of money into a feature project is extremely nervous and desparately wants to believe that the script is hot, so what they are looking for in a DP is enthusiasm, enough to match theirs. They won't hire someone who sounds ambivalent about the script -- nor should they really, if there is another equally-skilled DP out there who is truly passionate about the material.
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#6 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 03:31 AM

DP does his best to sound excited about what is often a problematic script, but no one really wants to hear a DP's criticisms of the script EVEN IF THEY ARE ASKED FOR AN OPINION.


haha, that's funny.
i once read an interview with a kinda bigtime concept artist who works on big budget effects films and he said that one of the things he learned early on was that whenever someone asks you what you think of a project's script, the only acceptable response is "I loved it!".
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#7 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 11:01 AM

I recently came across a book titled "How To Turn An Interview Into a Job," which basically tells you to lick the boots (and whatever else) of your potential employer. If asked if you have ever been criticized, your answer should be "Sometimes, people tell me I care too much about doing a good job." It's somewhat over the top, but the author suggests 4 qualities one should convey in an interview: Energy, enthusiasm, confidence, and dependability. So far, I'm one for one ...
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#8 Alex Ellerman

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 11:33 AM

J-Ro-

I had a college teacher say the same thing, if someone asks you if you have a flaw, say "i'm a bit of a perfectionist sometimes..."

Then I watched Trainspotting, and in the interview scene, I think it was Spud who basically says the very phrase... and i decided that the word was out on that little clever tip...

Best,
ae
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#9 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 11:43 AM

The funny thing is, as a DP, you do have to know when to stop being a perfectionist. Another question was "What do you like to do in your spare time?", and the answer is "I like to research my job, because I like it even if I'm not getting paid." Funny enough, I'm always thinking about lighting, and I do often shoot for little or no money!
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