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VERY IMORTANT, BASIC INFORMATION FOR FIRST TIME DIRECTORS TO KNOW


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#1 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 02:23 AM

Hi,
This is partly very good (and very basic) info. for directors, but also partly me getting some annoyances off my chest...here goes:

-DO NOT view dailies (or any footage for that matter) on your TV set and ask me why it looks different from
the HD monitor in the Telecine house; all TV's are set up differently (Tint, contrast, brightness etc...) and for that matter your laptop is probably not accurately calibrated either, so dont go home and freak out about how it looks different and call me on a saturday night expecting me to explain why.

-DO NOT agree to shoot a certain aspect ratio (and have the DP subsequently frame for it) and then decide when you see the footage you would like to "see the whole frame". If the shot was framed for one aspect ratio the other will look BAD, it will have dead space, booms in shot, and possibly lights in frame too!

-DO NOT watch footage that has NOT been masked/cropped to the right aspect ratio yet and ask me why there are booms and lights in the frame, and again my saturday nights are not for explaining AGAIN that we left the dailies unmasked so you could reframe in edititng instead of in Telecine.

-DO NOT get annoyed when someone gives you a contract to sign which ensures they get paid and treated properly on your shoot. I dont care if "everyone else trusts" you, thats their perogative, I dont work a minute without a signed contract!

-DO NOT embark on your first Directing gig without having read at least one book which explains the basics of directing, it may seem petty but if you keep saying pan when you mean tilt or saying "lets pull up here" when you mean tilt up, your DP and his crew wont understand what you mean, and if you subsequently get annoyed with them when they dont understand your incorrect vocabulary you may expect walkouts.

-DO NOT EXPECT anyone to work for free on your film, just because you are super-stoked on your project doesn't mean I dont still need to eat this month, I cant use your enthusiasm as sustenance....sorry.
And also just because your mates are working for free, that doesnt mean I will, we aren't mates so why would I do that. And just because "This is gonna be a great calling card for you" or "I have definate ins at major festivals" or "I am gonna get this to all the right people" I still need to pay my rent so no money no shoot. And "Deffered Pay" on a short film means No-pay, we both know it so cut the Bollocks.

-AND LASTLY and perhaps most importantly DO NOT ask for one thing and then complain when you get it.
If you say "I want him/her barley lit, standing almost in complete shadows" and then I light that person very dark on the fill side (but with the key side well exposed) DO NOT ask me why you can "only see one side of his/her face". You are lucky to see either side after telling me you wanted them barely lit, standing in the shadows, If I had lit them evenly on both sides how would that look like them being in the shadows???

I know this sounds very jaded, but I am not jaded!! I work very well (and often) with first time directors, and am very understanding/accomodating...but I want any first time directors to know these basics BEFORE they go to their DP with any of the above issues and loose that DP's Respect in any way. Also this Post is not based on or in response to my experiences with any one director, I have heard some of the above questions numerous times and so have my mates who are DPs so I thought I would compile a little guide for first time directors out there.
Cheers.
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#2 kelly tippett

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 02:29 AM

Thanks for the post.
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#3 Keneu Luca

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 03:22 AM

This is basically a venting post. How many first time directors here, who would not have known otherwise, do you expect to actually read this and put it into practice?

There could easily be a thread written by a director bitching about first time DP's who similarly have their heads up their asses.

Out of curiosity...how are these first timers you work with landing the gig as director without experience? Are they truly "first time directors" without having even directed student shorts? Are they fronting the production costs themselves?

Just curious.

What you say is very true though. This part made me laugh. So true:

"-DO NOT EXPECT anyone to work for free on your film, just because you are super-stoked on your project doesn't mean I dont still need to eat this month, I cant use your enthusiasm as sustenance....sorry.
And also just because your mates are working for free, that doesnt mean I will, we aren't mates so why would I do that. And just because "This is gonna be a great calling card for you" or "I have definate ins at major festivals" or "I am gonna get this to all the right people" I still need to pay my rent so no money no shoot. And "Deffered Pay" on a short film means No-pay, we both know it so cut the Bollocks."

Edited by Keneu, 28 October 2006 - 03:25 AM.

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#4 David Sweetman

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 03:28 AM

There could easily be a thread written by a director bitching about first time DP's who similarly have their heads up their asses.

No doubt far, far less common.
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#5 Gavin Greenwalt

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 05:18 AM

I have very important basic advice for first time directors:

- Ask yourself why you are directing. Is it because you honestly believe you have a talent for telling stories, or is it because you want everything your way? Directing is a craft just like acting, lighting or operating. If you're just directing because you want to be the big cheese, there's a good chance people won't enjoy working with you, you won't direct well and nobody will be able to produce what you want. When that happens you won't be happy with the result and you'll probably blaim everybody around you.

If first time directors can pass *that* test I don't think you'll see too many problems.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 01:16 PM

I constantly find myself working with inexperienced directors -- it's part of the job really. As long as they have a good attitude, it doesn't really matter to me if I have to teach them a little about how it all works. Arrogance and ignorance are the worst combination to deal with.

It may be more helpful to discuss what ideal qualities a director would have. Besides working from a good script to start with, helpful advice:

1. Cast well. Hire well too... put together a talented cast and a good production crew and your work will be a lot easier. But really, if you cast the parts badly, you're in big trouble. Good script + good cast is probably the two primary goals of a director to put togther during prep, all else secondary (except maybe finding the money to get those two things...)

2. Be prepared. Do your homework. Know what you want conceptually and some idea of how you want to shoot it mechanically (moving camera, etc.) and have some alternative ideas.

3. Conversely, be flexible to what happens on the shooting day, to how the actors act in rehearsal, etc.

4. Learn to communicate with everyone, especially the relevant department heads. Good directors find the time to meet with all creative department heads individually to discuss what they want. Learning to communicate also includes knowing basic common shooting terminology -- the cutsey nicknames are less important.

5. Listen, listen, listen.

6. Don't add to the normal level of choas on a set. Be curteous. The tone of a shoot comes from the top down (the Holy Trinity on a shooting day is the Director, DP, and AD in terms of setting the work out to be done and how it gets accomplished, and if they are fighting, bickering, not talking to each other, it is disasterous for the crew.)

7. Understand editing, how the scene needs to be cut together, with some flexibility in your editing plan should you end up dropping shots during the day.

8. Learn to talk to actors. If a director can't deal with performances, then they are next to useless because other departments can help them out in technical areas, but only the other actors can help out in terms of managing performance.

9. Watch out for pacing issues in terms of performance, camera movement, editing, etc. Second-time directors invariably cite pacing as the one area they have the most regrets regarding their first feature.
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#7 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 01:34 PM

This is basically a venting post. How many first time directors here, who would not have known otherwise, do you expect to actually read this and put it into practice?

There could easily be a thread written by a director bitching about first time DP's who similarly have their heads up their asses.

Out of curiosity...how are these first timers you work with landing the gig as director without experience? Are they truly "first time directors" without having even directed student shorts? Are they fronting the production costs themselves?

Just curious.

What you say is very true though. This part made me laugh. So true:

"-DO NOT EXPECT anyone to work for free on your film, just because you are super-stoked on your project doesn't mean I dont still need to eat this month, I cant use your enthusiasm as sustenance....sorry.
And also just because your mates are working for free, that doesnt mean I will, we aren't mates so why would I do that. And just because "This is gonna be a great calling card for you" or "I have definate ins at major festivals" or "I am gonna get this to all the right people" I still need to pay my rent so no money no shoot. And "Deffered Pay" on a short film means No-pay, we both know it so cut the Bollocks."



Haha I knew someone would take offense to this, yes I am venting somewhat, but honestly I wasn't saying ALL firt time directors make these mistakes, I was just saying these particular mistakes have been made with me (and other DP's I know) very frequently, so I thought I would share them with Directors so they can avoid the same mistakes. Who do I expect to read them and put them into practice? I dont know....whoever wants to avoid making some basic mistakes in dealing with their DP on their first shoot(s)???
Also I dont have any hard feelings against the First time/inexperienced/amateur directors I have worked with, many of my favourite projects have been working for them, however there are limitations and often I find these limitataions are due to lack of preperation (I.e not reading a single book about directing/producing and therefor basic things like scheduling are done badly and the shoot suffers). As Mr. Mullen said teaching them on-the-job is part of your job as a DP, I enjoy teaching other people things I know (as I enjoy learning things I dont) but some things cannot be tought on set with extreme time constraints and therefor must be figured out before hand, hence the director needing to do their own research.

Yes you could do a post about first time DP's, but mostly you dont get some guy who works in a bar who never touched a camera before trying to suddenly be a DP, whereas I know many guys who never even directed ANYTHING just decide they can direct shorts or even features, and they dont take any classes or read any books to learn how to do it.
And yes a lot of them do fund the projects themselves, but some have "friends" with money who are willing to fund their forreys into the directing world.
Cheers.
Cheers.

Edited by Tomas Koolhaas, 28 October 2006 - 01:36 PM.

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#8 Arni Heimir

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 02:13 PM

I constantly find myself working with inexperienced directors -- it's part of the job really. As long as they have a good attitude, it doesn't really matter to me if I have to teach them a little about how it all works. Arrogance and ignorance are the worst combination to deal with.

It may be more helpful to discuss what ideal qualities a director would have. Besides working from a good script to start with, helpful advice:

1. Cast well. Hire well too... put together a talented cast and a good production crew and your work will be a lot easier. But really, if you cast the parts badly, you're in big trouble. Good script + good cast is probably the two primary goals of a director to put togther during prep, all else secondary (except maybe finding the money to get those two things...)

2. Be prepared. Do your homework. Know what you want conceptually and some idea of how you want to shoot it mechanically (moving camera, etc.) and have some alternative ideas.

3. Conversely, be flexible to what happens on the shooting day, to how the actors act in rehearsal, etc.

4. Learn to communicate with everyone, especially the relevant department heads. Good directors find the time to meet with all creative department heads individually to discuss what they want. Learning to communicate also includes knowing basic common shooting terminology -- the cutsey nicknames are less important.

5. Listen, listen, listen.

6. Don't add to the normal level of choas on a set. Be curteous. The tone of a shoot comes from the top down (the Holy Trinity on a shooting day is the Director, DP, and AD in terms of setting the work out to be done and how it gets accomplished, and if they are fighting, bickering, not talking to each other, it is disasterous for the crew.)

7. Understand editing, how the scene needs to be cut together, with some flexibility in your editing plan should you end up dropping shots during the day.

8. Learn to talk to actors. If a director can't deal with performances, then they are next to useless because other departments can help them out in technical areas, but only the other actors can help out in terms of managing performance.

9. Watch out for pacing issues in terms of performance, camera movement, editing, etc. Second-time directors invariably cite pacing as the one area they have the most regrets regarding their first feature.

I think that inexperiance is a part of the first time director. But would you ever hear a director complain about an inexperianced DP?
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#9 David Sweetman

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 03:50 PM

I think that inexperiance is a part of the first time director. But would you ever hear a director complain about an inexperianced DP?

If it did happen, the director would also have to be inexperienced, or else an inexperienced DP would not have been able to fool him into thinking he was experienced. I think since the DP is a more specialized and technically oriented task, the aspiring but inexperienced DP would probably make out alright, unless he has no real intentions of continuing down the path of DP and doesn't care about what the image looks like. (that is, anything he didn't know concerning the production and post workflow, he would make sure he found out before the shoot.)

I think the reason it's more common in the office of Director is directing holds more allure to the average joe, because directors are very visible and are often times given the credit for the success or failure of a picture. Also, you don't really need to know anything if you're a good leader and communicator and you care about the project. That's the reason I didn't want to direct for a long time, because everybody and his brother wants to direct for those reasons, and I didn't want to come off in the same fickle way.
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 04:07 PM

It's unlikely that an experienced director would even hire an inexperienced DP, since as the word implies, the director is experienced and knows better...

Also, the simple fact is that DP's work more often the directors, especially in the feature world. For example, I've shot all four features of the Polish Brothers, but I have shot thirty features altogether. So it is inevitable that the DP will probably have more shooting experience than the director unless they start out together, like from the same film school, on their first project. But even after that, it is likely that the DP will be shooting more often than the director, if only because you can't make a living as a DP unless you shoot fairly regularly, whereas directors can work under development deals, etc.

In the professional world, to some extent, there is a higher threshold for a DP to reach than the director in terms of knowledge in order to get hired, since it is considered to some degree, a complex technical craft as much as an art.
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#11 Matt Pacini

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 07:11 PM

That begs the question of how these first time directors are getting gigs to productions that would hire someone like David Mullen.

David, would you say the common scenario for that (in your experience) is that they wrote a script that someone wants, and basically hold it hostage in order for them to direct it?

MP
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#12 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 09:16 PM

But would you ever hear a director complain about an inexperianced DP?


100% yes. But in my experiences its more likely to be the studio, or the EPs. But its not necessairly the inexperience that is the problem. If the suits don't like the way it looks all hell can break loose, and then someone like me is asked to fix it in post. Also if the director is a bad comunicator and the DP does not know enough to ask more questions, then the DP is going to get in trouble.

That begs the question of how these first time directors are getting gigs to productions that would hire someone like David Mullen.

David, would you say the common scenario for that (in your experience) is that they wrote a script that someone wants, and basically hold it hostage in order for them to direct it?


I'm not David, but can I throw in my 2 cents?
The world of hiring directors can get odd at times, there are times when having the right friend or being percieved as "up and coming" matter as much or more than anything else. Directors can get picked up for a fairly big gig without a lot of experience, because they have an interesting short, or music video, a good agent, an interesting indi feature under their belt. Some of these guys are 100% legit and know what is going on (I know a few of these and its great to see them getting work). Others are frauds who got very lucky (I know few of these as well.) Sometimes the difference between the two is not known until its too late. I saw this happen on a pilot for a major network and man was it ugly: a few million wasted, lots of screaming EPs, a toxic atmosphere, way over budget trying to "fix" stuff that couldn't be fixed.

Someone who attempts to hold a script hostage has to have a big ace up their sleeve such as they are putting up a lot of money themselves, or they have a deal with key talent, an EP who is 100% behind them. Its hard to imagine a no-name actually being able to hold out like that unless the people putting up the money are equally inexperienced.
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#13 Stephen Press

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 09:32 PM

My top tip for inexperienced directors is: if you do manage to get an experienced DOP listen to them when they say something won?t work. Instead of arguing endlessly trust them. Usually if they see something isn?t going to work they?ll have an alternative that will. Please they know what their doing that?s why you hired them.
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#14 Gavin Greenwalt

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 10:17 PM

One of the hard things with directors is the "testability" factor.

You can have a great director produce a terrible product.
and
You can have a terrible director somehow produce a great product.

Film is such a collaborative process that finding blaim or credit is a tricky proposition. It's not necessarily the same with a DP. It's pretty hard to find a DP who accidentally produced a great reel. With DPs there's a much lower chance of that sinking feeling on the first day of shooting when you realize the guy doesn't actually know anything and somehow bullshited his way to where he is.
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#15 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 10:44 PM

One of the hard things with directors is the "testability" factor.

You can have a great director produce a terrible product.
and
You can have a terrible director somehow produce a great product.

Film is such a collaborative process that finding blaim or credit is a tricky proposition. It's not necessarily the same with a DP. It's pretty hard to find a DP who accidentally produced a great reel. With DPs there's a much lower chance of that sinking feeling on the first day of shooting when you realize the guy doesn't actually know anything and somehow bullshited his way to where he is.



Hmmm ,you would hope so, but I know a DP with a decent reel, but then spoke to people who worked on shoots with him and they said that certain scenes were not usable due to underexposure and soft focus (entire scenes!!) but with the few usable good shots the guy got from every shoot he made a nice reel. He gets quite a lot of (very low budget) work even though he ruins entire scenes on what seems like a regular basis (and doesnt use camera reports at all apparently, which lead to a bunch of lost footage on one shoot I heard about?!?!?!). DP's can bullshit their way through some situations and into certain jobs, but a savy/experienced Director or EP will usually suss out a joker like that.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 01:21 AM

It all comes down to money -- if you have it or can convince someone to give it to you, you can be a director. Nothing to do with being qualified to direct in particular, at least for many first-timers. They had a project usually that someone saw some commercial potential and gave them money to make it.

Of course, it's different for TV, or commercials, or much studio work where some track record and experience is often desired by the producers.
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#17 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 02:10 AM

hi
it's normal that dp's get experienced faster than directors, it takes 2 weeks to 2 months to prepare a film for a dp as it takes 2 years at least for a director so it's mathematics.
a dp can easely film 3 or 5 films in a year as a director will film one in 2 years.

it doesn't matter to me that a director uses wrong technical words, it's my job as a dp to understand what image is in his mind, and if i feel something is wrong we can talk about it.
If thing are clear to him he will say i'm wrong or he is wrong.

to me a dp should stick to a director "world", he should be a cameleon like "thierry arbogast" for exemple.
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#18 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 03:32 AM

hi
it's normal that dp's get experienced faster than directors, it takes 2 weeks to 2 months to prepare a film for a dp as it takes 2 years at least for a director so it's mathematics.
a dp can easely film 3 or 5 films in a year as a director will film one in 2 years.

it doesn't matter to me that a director uses wrong technical words, it's my job as a dp to understand what image is in his mind, and if i feel something is wrong we can talk about it.
If thing are clear to him he will say i'm wrong or he is wrong.

to me a dp should stick to a director "world", he should be a cameleon like "thierry arbogast" for exemple.


HI,
That sounds good in theory and I agree, it is not the director's job to appease the DP by using all the right terminology, but in reality it is just the fact that if people use the totally wrong terms it becomes confusing at least, and some times you just have so little time that you can't be constantly explaining/translating incorrect terminologies!...If you had infinite time it wouldn't be a problem.
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#19 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 03:42 AM

let's say if the director is a good one, time isn't any more a problem he'll find solutions.
if the guy don't know what he wants now you have a problem, you'r loosing your time even if he use right terminology.
i agree that if says : " i want a close up from boots to hat with a fix traveling move...." yoou might double ask what he means more precisely :)
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