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Script Supervisor Vs. DP


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#1 Joe Cooper

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 08:13 AM

Here's a good one for other pros:

I'm on a feature and the script supervisor keeps making comments (directly and indirectly) about framing, lighting, camera moves, etc. that definitely DO NOT relate to continuity. Script, acting coach, and director are away from camera at the monitor and after each take I hear whispering between the three of them, then the director comes out and says to do this and that and whatever.

Of course after a while I start thinking that script is telling the inexperienced director to suggest things about framing, lens choice, etc. and I start getting defensive. Script even attempted to suggest a different approach to a dolly shot I had set up and EVEN made a suggestion about lighting to me.

At one point, director tells me he's going to have script storyboard the sex scene and I tell him that script is trying to influence the cinematography and it has to stop.

Of course this garbage never really stopped and we finished principal with me in a very bad mood.

I'm wondering what reactions might be from other DP's in a situation like this.

Edited by Joe Cooper, 19 September 2006 - 08:15 AM.

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#2 Adam White

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 10:18 AM

Had the director worked with these people before? Is this part of his clique that he decided to get into those roles for support? It certainly seems a pretty "Green" move to make as you are wasting one or the most skilled roles on set. . . they may have just hired an Op (no offence to you)

With a first-time director. I would speak to him regarding his style and find out if he always works in this way. I would then ask him what he believes the role of a DoP to be. From that I would set out a working plan for the rest of the shoot. Its likely that he may well love the safety of a "video-village" discussion but informing him how the directors would view this should shake him up a bit.

Can anyone else offer a more experienced response? This is a more common situation than we realise and handling set politics can leave a lot at stake. . .
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#3 Stepan Sivko

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 11:05 AM

Hi Joe, I as well try to sit as much with the director before the show and even discuss every aspect of "how he likes to work" that I tell him my perspective of the role of a DOP and than we either continue (99% cases) or we say goodbye.

I think the most important day is always the first day on set, people need to feel from you that you know what you are doing and those who dont think so (like script supervisors) should be ignored, or let them be aware of what they r doing.....
Stepan

p.s. my 2nd AC was brilliant when it came to cooling down some hotshot....I remember that similar thing happend on one show with Production designers assitant beeing "too active" he ended up with a horse poop stuck in his sleeping bag. Not my idea, but I totaly felt like he deserved it.
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#4 Jiekai Liao

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 11:10 AM

Of course there is always this thin line between the definitive roles of individuals on a film set, I believe that certain balance must be establish. If everyone is to be dead set to his/her own roles, there is no room for improvisation or suggestion, filmmaking is teamwork afterall; at the sametime, suggestions must also be make in consideration of the professional position of the recipient, in your case, as a DP. It is the director's call to define the limitations of these roles, and to establish a level of mutual understanding between the crew.

jiekai
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#5 Bob Hayes

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 04:56 PM

On a show where the DP operates he looses that connection with the director. One of the major advantages of having an operator. I?d ask myself several questions before I made any action. Are the ideas constructive and do they make sense? Does the director need someone to hold his hand? Is the script supervisor undermining your judgment? Is the input slowing down production and making it harder for you to do you job? Are you setting up a shot with the director only to have it second guessed by the script supervisor later? Is the director comfortable with this relationship or is the director being manipulated? Are you working for two directors on the project? Is the extra input hurting the quality of the picture or just your ego? I would then have a talk with the director about this Ménage à trois. I would request that you be included in these conversations. With regards to the script supervisor telling you how to do your job it is very difficult to be a servant of two masters. If the director feels he needs the co-director then deal with her head on as a co-director. If you explain to the director that is what the script super is he may be less inclined to give her such sway.
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#6 Hal Smith

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 05:30 PM

Doesn't it come down to the Script Supervisor's background and relationship with the Director? I've known one SS in the past who had serious credentials in the business. If I were on a set in any capacity with a newbie Director and she was present, I'd be very willing to keep an ear out for what she thought - she had the kind of broad knowledge that could save an otherwise doomed project. Let's face it, SS is one of the jobs that doesn't get a lot of respect in some circles, but a bad SS can cost a production a fortune and a good one can save everyone grief.

PS: I don't name names, especially when the SS involved is an ex-wife!
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#7 timHealy

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 05:55 PM

Personally I think the script supervisor should leave all things relating to the camera and lighting to the person hired for the job. If the script supervisor wants to be the director, then they should go make their own movie. But that is just my 2 cents.

Best

Tim
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#8 Joe Cooper

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 06:09 PM

[quote name='Adam White' date='Sep 19 2006, 07:18 AM' post='128328']
Had the director worked with these people before?

___No. I put the crew together. I am a co-producer also.

It certainly seems a pretty "Green" move to make as you are wasting one or the most skilled roles on set. . . they may have just hired an Op (no offence to you)

___I am the DP and I operate. End of story.

With a first-time director. I would speak to him regarding his style and find out if he always works in this way.

___There has not been any discussion about style unfortunately, therefore, I intend to give it the style I think it requires. The director seems happy with what I'm giving him.

From that I would set out a working plan for the rest of the shoot. Its likely that he may well love the safety of a "video-village" discussion but informing him how the directors would view this should shake him up a bit.

___I have informed the director that things will need to change for the remainder of photography.



[quote name='Stepan Sivko' date='Sep 19 2006, 08:05 AM' post='128341']
Hi Joe, I as well try to sit as much with the director before the show and even discuss every aspect of "how he likes to work" that I tell him my perspective of the role of a DOP and than we either continue (99% cases) or we say goodbye.

___Yeah, everything was cool until this particular script sup came onto the scene.

I think the most important day is always the first day on set, people need to feel from you that you know what you are doing and those who dont think so (like script supervisors) should be ignored, or let them be aware of what they r doing.....

___The crew works with me a lot, so they have NO issues. I shut down the script sup a few times, but that did not stop her from influencing the inexperienced director.

[quote name='iakeij' post='128342' date='Sep 19 2006, 08:10 AM']
Of course there is always this thin line between the definitive roles of individuals on a film set, I believe that certain balance must be establish. If everyone is to be dead set to his/her own roles, there is no room for improvisation or suggestion, filmmaking is teamwork afterall; at the sametime, suggestions must also be make in consideration of the professional position of the recipient, in your case, as a DP. It is the director's call to define the limitations of these roles, and to establish a level of mutual understanding between the crew.

jiekai
[/quote]


When it comes to the cinematography, I will only listen to or confer with the director.

This is not a student film. I am a professional. The script sup crossed the line. If I hadn't known this person, I might have had this person fired.
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#9 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 06:20 PM

The script sup crossed the line. If I hadn't known this person, I might have had this person fired.


So you know the script supervisor personally?

If so that makes things more conflicted.
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#10 Joe Cooper

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 06:29 PM

[quote name='Bob Hayes' date='Sep 19 2006, 01:56 PM' post='128436']
Are the ideas constructive and do they make sense?

___When they regard continuity/screen direction, I have no issues. But when the comments regard lighting, framing, or camera moves, I sure do have issues. I've been doing this job for a while, and I'm pretty confident.

Does the director need someone to hold his hand?

___Apparently, yes.

Is the script supervisor undermining your judgment?

___Yes and this will not happen again.

Is the input slowing down production and making it harder for you to do you job?

___Harder, yes. I will not allow this to happen again. I'd rather shoot industrial videos than be 2nd guessed by a script sup on a feature.

Are you setting up a shot with the director only to have it second guessed by the script supervisor later?

___Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Is the director comfortable with this relationship or is the director being manipulated?

___I'd say manipulated since the director is inexperienced and the director trusts the script sup.

Are you working for two directors on the project?

___That's what it turned into.

Is the extra input hurting the quality of the picture or just your ego?

___I need to be in control. I admit I'm not always completely right, but since my name goes on the film as DP, I have to be in control. If the director needs something to be shot in a way that is in accordance with the director's vision, I'll do everything in my power to make that happen. In this case, the script sup has a very "documentarian" ethos that I do not agree with for this film.

I would then have a talk with the director about this Ménage à trois. I would request that you be included in these conversations.

___It's NOT going to happen again on this project. One director. One DP, thank you.



[quote name='Hal Smith' post='128441' date='Sep 19 2006, 02:30 PM']
Doesn't it come down to the Script Supervisor's background and relationship with the Director? I've known one SS in the past who had serious credentials in the business. If I were on a set in any capacity with a newbie Director and she was present, I'd be very willing to keep an ear out for what she thought - she had the kind of broad knowledge that could save an otherwise doomed project. Let's face it, SS is one of the jobs that doesn't get a lot of respect in some circles, but a bad SS can cost a production a fortune and a good one can save everyone grief.

PS: I don't name names, especially when the SS involved is an ex-wife!
[/quote]



There was no relationship between the two prior to this project.

If I was a beginner DP, I'd be open to suggestions from a script sup with much experience, but that is not the case here.



[quote name='timHealy' post='128444' date='Sep 19 2006, 02:55 PM']
Personally I think the script supervisor should leave all things relating to the camera and lighting to the person hired for the job. If the script supervisor wants to be the director, then they should go make their own movie. But that is just my 2 cents.

Best

Tim
[/quote]


Absolutely.

Another thing that happened on the set is one crew member was making recommendations to the sound mixer about mic placement. Now, this crew member wasn't working in sound on this film, but IS a sound mixer, but still, the guy should keep his mouth shut.

[quote name='Andy_Alderslade' post='128451' date='Sep 19 2006, 03:20 PM']
So you know the script supervisor personally?

If so that makes things more conflicted.
[/quote]



Well, yeah I have worked with this person before. However, this will not affect my requirement that this script sup be eliminated for the rest of photography.
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#11 Stuart McCammon

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 06:55 PM

Having worked with some very experienced script supervisors whom I respect deeply, I cannot think of a single one that I would want second-guessing the DP.
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#12 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 19 September 2006 - 07:21 PM

Ugg. I hate it when that happens. That happened to me on a feature I did this year. The producer brought a director friend of his on set to hang out for a week and he kept telling the director things wouldn't cut if the angles weren't matching and blah blah blah. After a few days I finally lost it and told the guy (and unfortunately everyone on set) I didn't care about matching angles and lenses and ec. The next day buddy was sent home. I felt bad about it after but I was reflecting about it with the director not to long ago and he had felt the same way I did... He felt my outburst free him from the guy and that his influence was hurting his film, but didn't have the nerve to say it because the other guy was more experienced them him. I say when it comes to these things just keep it real. If you think its getting so bad that its hurting the film and your work... put a end to it as soon as possible.
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#13 Joe Cooper

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 03:11 PM

Ugg. I hate it when that happens. That happened to me on a feature I did this year. The producer brought a director friend of his on set to hang out for a week and he kept telling the director things wouldn't cut if the angles weren't matching and blah blah blah. After a few days I finally lost it and told the guy (and unfortunately everyone on set) I didn't care about matching angles and lenses and ec. The next day buddy was sent home. I felt bad about it after but I was reflecting about it with the director not to long ago and he had felt the same way I did... He felt my outburst free him from the guy and that his influence was hurting his film, but didn't have the nerve to say it because the other guy was more experienced them him. I say when it comes to these things just keep it real. If you think its getting so bad that its hurting the film and your work... put a end to it as soon as possible.



I definitely felt creatively distracted so I informed the director that I will not be working on the remainder of this film if that script sup is on it. It's hard enough shooting in locations that I've never seen before with less than enough time.
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#14 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 10:55 PM

Script, acting coach, and director are away from camera at the monitor


On a different note, do any of these directors even bother to look through the viewfinder before rolling anymore?
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#15 Stephen Press

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 01:33 PM

Everyone who watches TV or films think that they are a bloody expert. They are not.
I had a doco shoot where the producer wanted to have a famous stills photographer do the final framing to give the shoot a look. We talked about it a lot beforehand and against my better judgment I said ok? it was a slow month. It absolutely did my head in. I?d set everything up and he would lean in and offset the framing, doing ugly things to head and looking room. I had though I might learn some new stuff or see the birth of a new look but it just plain sucked. Finally one shot was just so ugly I said so. He told me it would be ok they would just crop it latter?
My mistake assuming this guy knew more about filming than he did. We had a long talk after that and from now on I take care of the look, no exceptions.
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#16 Joe Cooper

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 03:53 PM

On a different note, do any of these directors even bother to look through the viewfinder before rolling anymore?



Why would you want that?!?!



Everyone who watches TV or films think that they are a bloody expert. They are not.
I had a doco shoot where the producer wanted to have a famous stills photographer do the final framing to give the shoot a look. We talked about it a lot beforehand and against my better judgment I said ok? it was a slow month. It absolutely did my head in. I?d set everything up and he would lean in and offset the framing, doing ugly things to head and looking room. I had though I might learn some new stuff or see the birth of a new look but it just plain sucked. Finally one shot was just so ugly I said so. He told me it would be ok they would just crop it latter?
My mistake assuming this guy knew more about filming than he did. We had a long talk after that and from now on I take care of the look, no exceptions.



You're right about people thinking they are experts. I don't give a rat's ass if it's a member of the crew or just a friend of the directors, I don't want anyone questioning my meter readings, framing, or whatever.

In this case, we had a script sup who had mucho experience in many things, and hence could not help interjecting about framing, lighting, camera moves, etc.

Currently, the director is considering losing me in order to keep the script sup...

Edited by Joe Cooper, 27 September 2006 - 03:54 PM.

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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 01:37 AM

Why would you want that?!?!


Err... to have a better visual collaboration between a director and DP? I show a director a potential shot with a lens finder and then let them look through the camera on the set-up too if I think they need to see something not obvious on the video tap. We supposed to be working together afterall. I don't "hide" what I'm up to from the director, I get them involved.

Perhaps we see the root of your current problem -- the director wants a partner and perhaps the script supervisor is more willing to be one than you are.

On the other hand, I could write a book on all the problems I've had with script supervisors over the years... but generally the directors side with me, not them, when there is a difference of opinion.
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#18 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 04:30 AM

i agree that here the director is in need of someone that is clearly an ally. If there is a "versus" implied in the working relationship of key people on a film then there is a problem.
The DP's relationship with the director should be that of very close collaboration.
Sensitivity and communication are important. if there is a problem the DP should feel comfortable enough to discuss it with the director and vice versa.
It can get really scary when the producer starts bullying people because the producer is the checkbook.
Often this comes down to having to translate or decode what they are saying to understand what they are really saying.
Most often it's that these people need to be reassured.
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#19 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 12:32 PM

Err... to have a better visual collaboration between a director and DP? I show a director a potential shot with a lens finder and then let them look through the camera on the set-up too if I think they need to see something not obvious on the video tap. We supposed to be working together afterall. I don't "hide" what I'm up to from the director, I get them involved.


Thank you, David.

I haven't been involved in indie productions for a few years, but has the basic, unspoken teamwork that is supposed to be there simply gone out the window? I've seen a lot of similar threads since I came back to this board, so it seems like it's happening quite often. Needless to say, that doesn't the help the production. If the teamwork is not there and everyone is focused in a different direction, the film will not have any kind of rhythm.

I do not disagree with you that the script supervisor overstepped her bounds. The sound recordist and I clashed on one production. She wanted me to change the frame so that she would be able to the mike the shot the way she wanted. I said "I'm not changing my frame." We both went to the director and, sure enough, he had me change the frame. I disagreed with him, but I wasn't funding the production. HE was. If he wanted to sacrifice image for sound, so be it. That was his decision. He did not know much about filmmaking and he stayed at the video monitor almost all day. But many times, I'd ask him if he wanted look through the viewfinder to see EXACTLY what he was going to be getting. He is the director. He SHOULD be looking through the viewfinder if he truly cares about the image that is going to be recorded.

I personally feel that there needs to be a LOT of communication between the DP and the director. And having them look through the viewfinder is a given in my book. If the director conveys an idea to me, it is my job to execute it. If he does not like my execution, you don't go and have a "Well, I'm the DP and that's too bad" attitude. You have to work WITH people. Talk it over and come up with something that works. That's how I look at it.

I honestly don't know what kind of relationship you have with your director, Joe. Hopefully it has been a good one up to this point. I'm just laying out how I think people should be willing to work together. In the end, it's the best thing for everyone.

Good luck with everything.

Edited by Bill DiPietra, 28 September 2006 - 12:35 PM.

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#20 Joe Cooper

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 07:05 PM

Err... to have a better visual collaboration between a director and DP? I show a director a potential shot with a lens finder and then let them look through the camera on the set-up too if I think they need to see something not obvious on the video tap. We supposed to be working together afterall. I don't "hide" what I'm up to from the director, I get them involved.



Yeah, I understand that and certainly do that. But if I'm not working with a director who KNOWS what they are looking at (often), what's the point? I'm not there to give the director an education in filmmaking. It's amazing how many "directors" I get involved with that don't even watch movies. If they're first timers or inexperienced (often), I would rather just take the ball and run with it.

When I do get the chance to work with an experienced director who KNOWS what they want, I LOVE collaborating with them. Otherwise, I'd rather just keep them at the monitor.

Perhaps we see the root of your current problem -- the director wants a partner and perhaps the script supervisor is more willing to be one than you are.


Well... the script sup is a woman, and I can be a little intimidating, expecially since I KNOW what I'm doing. I'm always open to discussion with the director, but he's gotta come to me, not the script sup. That just pisses me off.

On the other hand, I could write a book on all the problems I've had with script supervisors over the years... but generally the directors side with me, not them, when there is a difference of opinion.


Things are different now, since the director has seen 12 days of my footage, and since I told him he has to let me do my job.
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