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#1 J. Michael Whalen

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 10:17 PM

One thing that I have noticed as I continue to work as a DP is the amount of resentment towards me for never being a gaffer. I know many cinematographers have spent years working as PA's and Gaffers, and I think that's great. I never did. I was always into photography and then went into cinematography in college. Afterwards I continued to shoot and put together a demo reel, and was very luck to get hired as a DP. I recently had a Camera PA who claimed he was a great DP, and kept asking me my opinion about many different cameras. I told him that I have only used a handful of cameras and I like to stick to what I know. I then asked one of our gaffers if he could 'cut off the light' that was hitting the table. I didn't say, 'flag.' Apparently this was a huge issue for him, and he felt the need to make a big deal out of it. My feelings are that as long as I get an image that the director and I like, who cares if I don't use the right term.

Have any of you had this happen?

J.Whalen
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#2 Jon-Hebert Barto

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 11:25 PM

I am no pro! Let me state this clearly...

However I'm sure the right vernacular goes a long way, you're probably just paying your "dues".

However, some people are jealous wankers. And some are just plain a**holes!!! Sounds like this guy was the latter if he took up a significant time debating it with you...You might just have to put up with it until you learn a little more.

Don't let the sh*tters of the world get you down J. Be better than them...turn the cheeck with a smile and keep producing beautiful images, it will come back to you in the form of a good working reputation, which is like gold in the industry.

Again, I may be very stupid and ignorant to the politics of it all. Thats my 2 cents worth...
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#3 J. Michael Whalen

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 11:40 PM

Thank you so much, and you are right. Taking shots is part of the game... no pun intended! haha. I'll keep my chin up.
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#4 Justin Hayward

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 11:53 PM

It all depends on how you present yourself. Light is light and light falls how it falls, no matter what you use to light or cut it. If you approach the situation with some confidence and tell people what you want with authority (but absolutely no disrespect, and especially without being cocky), people will respond appropriately.

I shot a commercial on Friday with a crew that was twice my age, but I knew what I wanted (for the most part) and was pretty confident on how it would turn out, and I got nothing but respect and help.
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#5 David Sweetman

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 01:33 AM

Well it seems there's tons of different paths to any job in the industry, and I've heard it's tough to switch occupations, though the leap from gaffer to DP probably isn't as big as, say, writer to hair stylist. I think it's more common to come up through 2nd AC to 1st AC to operator to DP anyway. It's also not uncommon for someone to always DP from the start, starting with shooting shorts for free and working onto larger-budget productions. So it seems anyone giving you attitude is doing so from blatant jealousy. That jealousy has understandable roots, so I don't think I would return it with spite, I think I'd try to stay as professional as possible and get the job done the best way I could. Like Mr. Hayward said, it's important to speak with authority. A little rhetoric goes a long way.
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#6 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 01:45 AM

Hi,
It depends on the situation, sometimes language can be very important, for example I had a Director once who used very strange terminology ("lets do a smash over here"??) and it was genuinely confusing for me and my camera operator! But in your case you were not really way off, you are cutting light, you are just using a flag do it! so I'm sure he knew what you ment but was being a jelous insecure prick about it. This is VERY common on set, especially among lighting/grip people. They have created a whole venacular that is often longer than the official name for the equipment and if you dont know it they use it to mock you because they are jelous that they are not in your shoes (and in most cases dont know a light meter from a speed crank). Like once I had to ream out a grip because he tried to make fun of me on set because I called for a 4ft double kino instead of a "skinny man".
He never made that mistake again!! I also queitly reminded him that I would rather have a good looking DP demo. reel of 16,35 and HD and call a Kino by it's official name, than know every nick-name for every piece of equipment and be a bitter jaded Grip who couldn't shoot his way out of wet paper bag with scissors in his hands.
You just have to REALLY put your foot down when the jelousy comes your way (and IT WILL).
But conversly you also do need to know the right names for things otherwise the crew will get confused and frustrated (it takes ages to light a set if you keep asking "get me that big thing and lets hang it from one of those long clampy things"-I'm not saying you would say that, just an example).
You are right though, the most important thing is that you get good images, and on time, but usually you need to communicate well with the crew to do that so vocab. is important, but just try to avoid working with gaffers/grips who want to be DP's themselves, many of them will try to sabotage you out of jelousy.
Don't let the jelous people get you down, they are everywhere on film crews!!!
Cheers.
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#7 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 03:07 AM

People like that can be annoying. Always hire the keys and you're usually OK because birds of a feather flock together. Personally I don't have a problem working with a gaffer that wants to be a DP just so they don't want to DP the film they are gaffing (ie. the film I am DPing).
I've never met a professional grip that wanted to DP.
Work professionally with professionals.
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#8 Rik Andino

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 03:54 AM

I then asked one of our gaffers if he could 'cut off the light' that was hitting the table.
I didn't say, 'flag'.
Apparently this was a huge issue for him


Flagging off light and cutting off light can be to different things.
So sometimes you've got to be specific for the best result.
Whether you just want to scrim it...
Or you actually want the light cut off at a certain degree or angle...
You have to explain it well enough for your crew to understand.

However by no means does this justifies the Gaffer's response
You're a Commanding Officer in the crew and should be respected as such.
If you order something it should be done with no arguments (within reason)
If you made a mistake you'll notice it and correct it eventually.
That is proper set etiquette (or protocol as I perfer to call it :) ).

but just try to avoid working with gaffers/grips who want to be DP's themselves,
Many of them will try to sabotage you out of jelousy.

Don't let the jelous people get you down, they are everywhere on film crews!!!


You make it seem like most gaffers, keys, electric, grips, and swings are heartless ladderclimbers
Who'll try to bring down a cinematographer just so they can get ahead.

Most techs like their jobs and don't see themselves doing much but that for the time-being
However everyone wants to move up eventually,
So I don't see the harm when a tech also does other things like writes or directs, produces or DPs.
Most people didn't go to college to be grips or set electricians for the rest of their lives.

I do understand however the frustration when techs who've been working for years
Have to follow orders from some guy who doesn't know his left from his right.

However most techs I've worked with are the upmost pros and know how to handle most situations
They're usually the most team-oriented people on a set and can collobrate with green DPs
And they rarely ever try to direct or DP. "It's not their job" as most will tell you. :)

So don't think so harshly of the techs they do a tough job.

Edited by Rik Andino, 07 September 2006 - 03:55 AM.

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#9 Shane Bartlett

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 06:46 AM

Well, I can certainly see both sides to this, having been on either side of the argument. However, I know that some equipment (particularly thinking of HMIs, or at least the ones we use in school) will not immediately come back on once switched off. If I ever asked someone to "cut off that light", they would turn it off, and then we would have to wait. . . .

I have found that redundancy is often the best course of action. "Let's use a flag to cut some of the light off that table, please."

No problems, your request is understood, everyones does their job well, and you get the shot off. Hope it looks good. Either way, it beats waiting for equipment to power up again.

It could be argued that this fellow knew exactly what you meant, but wanted to be a prick. You'll probably never REALLY know. If you suspect you're working with such people, again, redundancy. It will nearly always cover your tail.
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#10 Alexandre Lucena

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 09:27 AM

The so called weakness of the soul. My aproach to an unfriendly crew is simple: I ask them what I will
need for the shot then I will fine tune it all by myself. It is a polite way to tell the crew that I am
humble enough to move lights around, That they are useless load carriers.


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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 02:08 PM

Hi,

I find grips and electrics can be very standoffish, taciturn to the point of rudeness.

Me: "Hi, I've been asked to put a monitor over there, could you please run me some power [as the HoD has indicated you are available to do]? Happy to do it myself if you're too busy."

Electric: [Putting aside coffee and donut] "Grumble, mutter, very busy"

Or:

Me: "Hi, I need to take a video feed once you've finished setting up this tracking mo..."

Grip 1: "In a minute, in a minute, we're very busy, very very busy."

Director: "Can I have a picture please?"

Grip 1: "Well, get on with it then, what on earth are you hanging about over there for? Put the cable over there."

Grip 2: "Why on earth did you put this cable here, you bloody idiot?"

Or:

Me: "I'm sorry to be a pain, but people are getting shocks off monitor casings and the BNCs are drawing inch-long arcs - could you possibly at least try putting an earth in....?"

Electric: "No. I have done a five-year apprenticeship in pursuit of job protectionism... eh, I mean, so I know how to match colours while connecting camlocks and divide things by 240. Since the fact is that I can't be bothered to put the earth stake in, I will use this assumed position of authority to overlook your concerns and deny your request, rather than offering any kind of explanation. Furthermore, I will launch into a ten-minute tirade concerning the underrated nature of the set electrician and the paucity of his compensation."

Or anyone else, really:

Me: [While solving a complex engineering issue involving LUTs, monitor gamuts, DSP settings, firmware, software, and filters, involving three-quarters of the camera department who are already treating me as a leper because they'd rather be shooting 35mm] "Can we please make a single-switch change to the camera which will, at a stroke, allow me to ascertain the precise cause and nature of the problem?"

DoP: "No. I would far rather spend half an hour finding the solution, or, better, rely on the unqualified assumption that we can fix the issue in post, demonstrating the depth of my commitment to a problem-free transition to digital production technology."

You see, the point is, everyone's an arsehole except me.

Phil
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#12 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 02:34 PM

However most techs I've worked with are the upmost pros and know how to handle most situations
They're usually the most team-oriented people on a set and can collobrate with green DPs
And they rarely ever try to direct or DP. "It's not their job" as most will tell you. :)

So don't think so harshly of the techs they do a tough job.
[/quote]

Hi,
Rik, I wasn't trying to insinuate that ALL or even MOST gaffers/grips are like this at all, most of them are super cool and great to work with, I was just saying that when a problem like this arises on set it ususally arises from those departments. And of course (as I stated in my original reply) if the DP doesn't know jack-poop he is at fault. I too have been on both sides of this, I gaffed a bunch of small projects and often the DP was a clown and communication was a big issue, so I do understand both sides of the coin. But it has been my experience not only from DPing, that there are many people in those departments that will use the "Vernacular" as a way to sabotage a DP out of their ambition and/or jelousy for his position- or just plain old bitterness. And I am surprised you say you never worked with a Grip who wanted to DP, most Keys I have worked with wanted to DP at some point in their career. Although I do work on Non-union low-budget films which of course is less enticing for someone who wants to grip as a career, as opposed to an aspiring DP wanting to make a few bucks gripping between DP jobs.
Cheers.
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#13 Thomas Bays

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 04:11 PM

At an a good time tell them to put some drag on the lizzie as you are rushing off to do something else...fun can often begin.
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#14 J. Michael Whalen

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 12:41 AM

All,

I just want to thank everyone who took the time to write in. I greatly appreciate the advice and will certainly adopt a good bit of it in the projects to come. Thanks again!
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#15 Tim Partridge

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 05:29 PM

Hi,

I find grips and electrics can be very standoffish, taciturn to the point of rudeness.

Me: "Hi, I've been asked to put a monitor over there, could you please run me some power [as the HoD has indicated you are available to do]? Happy to do it myself if you're too busy."

Electric: [Putting aside coffee and donut] "Grumble, mutter, very busy"

Or:

Me: "Hi, I need to take a video feed once you've finished setting up this tracking mo..."

Grip 1: "In a minute, in a minute, we're very busy, very very busy."

Director: "Can I have a picture please?"

Grip 1: "Well, get on with it then, what on earth are you hanging about over there for? Put the cable over there."

Grip 2: "Why on earth did you put this cable here, you bloody idiot?"

Or:

Me: "I'm sorry to be a pain, but people are getting shocks off monitor casings and the BNCs are drawing inch-long arcs - could you possibly at least try putting an earth in....?"

Electric: "No. I have done a five-year apprenticeship in pursuit of job protectionism... eh, I mean, so I know how to match colours while connecting camlocks and divide things by 240. Since the fact is that I can't be bothered to put the earth stake in, I will use this assumed position of authority to overlook your concerns and deny your request, rather than offering any kind of explanation. Furthermore, I will launch into a ten-minute tirade concerning the underrated nature of the set electrician and the paucity of his compensation."

Or anyone else, really:

Me: [While solving a complex engineering issue involving LUTs, monitor gamuts, DSP settings, firmware, software, and filters, involving three-quarters of the camera department who are already treating me as a leper because they'd rather be shooting 35mm] "Can we please make a single-switch change to the camera which will, at a stroke, allow me to ascertain the precise cause and nature of the problem?"

DoP: "No. I would far rather spend half an hour finding the solution, or, better, rely on the unqualified assumption that we can fix the issue in post, demonstrating the depth of my commitment to a problem-free transition to digital production technology."

You see, the point is, everyone's an arsehole except me.

Phil


If it's any comfort, Phil, we've all had the baptism of fire. :)

You're neither the first nor the last. Take it on the chin.
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#16 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 08:55 PM

If it's any comfort, Phil, we've all had the baptism of fire. :)

You're neither the first nor the last. Take it on the chin.


Hi,
I dont htink Phil was talking about baptisms (early shoots were you actually were "Green") I think he was reffering to shoots were he knew exactly what he was talking about but still copped a bunch of bad attitude from grips/electrics. BTW so was I, everyone had rough days when they first started out, thats to be expected, what sucks is when you know your stuff back to front and someone decides to make your job even more difficult by venting their bitterness/jelousy/insecurity on set.
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#17 Matt Workman

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 09:06 PM

Unless you are working on really short project in a different town, I don't understand how the gaffer could possibly try to pull something like that. Doesn't he want to keep working?

You guys have to work together for a weeks at a time, why did you hire this guy anyway? Maybe he had a bad day (not an excuse, but we have all had them) and he was venting.

If he had asked nicely and concisely for you to clarify what you ment, then he was being a good gaffer and not guessing and wasting time. The lecture is usually saved for when you aren't on the clock and definitely not in front of others.

Matt :ph34r:
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#18 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 09 September 2006 - 07:08 PM

I then asked one of our gaffers if he could 'cut off the light' that was hitting the table. I didn't say, 'flag.' Apparently this was a huge issue for him, and he felt the need to make a big deal out of it.

J.Whalen

Well, first off, you were asking the gaffer to do a grip's job. Flagging light is the job of the grips, so maybe his reaction had something to do with that. Also, you say you asked "one of our gaffers"....why did you have more than one gaffer? I think your terminoligy was fine. Cutting light and flagging light is the same thing, so I don't know what his problem was with that. Dropping a scrim or using a net is something entirely different.
There are people that harbor resentment in every profession, so I would say it's not too strange to have this occur from time to time. There is nothing you can do about it except not hire that person on your next job.
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 September 2006 - 01:01 AM

If you are the DP, the Gaffer is supposed to be helpful and supportive of your lighting decisions, not get into silly arguments over terminology, arguments designed to diminish your authority.

It's common to use "cut" and "flag" interchangeably on a set.

I haven't really run into this myself, even on my earliest films. Crews generally can sense that I know what I'm doing and know what I want, and that I will exercise good taste and judgement, and they act like professionals and support my efforts, not undermine me.

My conflicts with a few Gaffers over the years have mainly been creative -- i.e. we don't think about light the same way -- not political.

Perhaps I've had the advantage of being pretty knowledgeable about lighting even before I got into the film industry. When I've observed problems of key crew members not acting respectful to a young DP, it's often because the DP really is somewhat lost in terms of lighting, but not lost enough to engage the Gaffer and Key Grip as allies. But I also acknowledge that some people you hire simply turn out to be a---holes.
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