Jump to content


Photo

Whether or not a college student should shoot a feature?


  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 Peter Borrud

Peter Borrud

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 5 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 27 December 2006 - 12:29 AM

I'm a Junior in the film program at Biola University. You may not have heard the school, but its a good, up-and-coming school in the area of filmmaking. I'm definately a very driven, motivated, productive, and creative person and I've loved shooting shooting several short films so far. Most projects I've done have been SD and HD, with only some 16mm and 35mm.

I'm currently signed up as the DP to shoot a feature this summer with a director from Pepperdine. Its a 5 week shoot, 90 page script, $70,000-100,000 budget, taking place in Honduras and Chicago, with very good actors involved and likely a distribution deal if its good enough. I'm not getting paid, but everything else is covered. I'll also be prepping for it all next semester along with shooting a couple other shorts.

So... my question is: is it a good idea for me to go into this? So far I haven't shot anything over 23 minutes, excluding a documentary. I've also made some mistakes on a couple of projects which scares me that I might be the one to "screw up" this project. So I guess I'm concerned that I'm not ready enough for it. I would hate to come out of it with something that's going to scar my career. Besides, I'm still a student and I have plenty of opportunities to keep making good shorts for my reel and I'm not sure I feel like taking on this stress load without getting paid and still being a student. Does anyone have any advice on when is a good time to shoot your first feature?? Thanks

Peter
  • 0

#2 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 December 2006 - 12:52 AM

It's good to be a little nervous if it makes you work harder, but if you've shot several shorts, you can shoot a feature, which is basically a short with a longer schedule... If they aren't paying anything for the DP, your level of experience is about what the producers could hope for anyway, someone just ready to move up.

Plan your shoot thoroughly and you should be fine.

As far as mistakes go, it's the only way to learn. Nobody expects you to be perfect, just to keep your mistakes minimal, to something that either can be cut around or reshot without too much trouble. We all make mistakes now and then.
  • 0

#3 Joe Lotuaco

Joe Lotuaco
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 71 posts
  • Grip

Posted 27 December 2006 - 01:20 AM

I completely agree with David. As a fellow film student, I can understand your hesitations, but I'd also jump at any solid chance of getting as much experience as possible. You never know when another opportunity like this might come up, especially at this stage when you can almost fall back on the "well I am a student" excuse when something doesn't go as expected, you can't really say that when you're getting paid. There are a million ways to look at it, but in the end, wouldn't you want to go into your first paid feature as DP knowing that you've had the experience of shooting a feature already? If anything, use the stress and pressure to push yourself, find your limits, and I can almost guarantee you that you'll find something within yourself that will undoubtedly benefit you in the future. The experiences of shooting your first feature is beyond any dollar amount. If the director definitely wants you for the project, just go with it, have fun, and learn by doing. Best of luck.
  • 0

#4 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 27 December 2006 - 02:24 AM

At this stage in your career, it's a little like the line in "The Right Stuff" when Gus Grissom, considering joining the Mercury program, tells Gordo Cooper "You remember the old saying... 'Never turn down a combat assignment?' "
  • 0

#5 Jonathan Bowerbank

Jonathan Bowerbank
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2815 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 27 December 2006 - 02:36 AM

The producers and directors undoubtedly trust you and your eye, from probably seeing your past work. And if shooting a low budget indie feature is the next step in front of you, I say take it and put all your heart into it.

As David said, again, careful planning with the director is crucial. And choose your crew wisely. A good crew will take A LOT of weight off your shoulders, and you won't have as much to worry about.

I sincerely wish you luck on this project, and it's great to see someone that's only an undergrad given the opportunity for such a big picture.
  • 0

#6 freddie bonfanti

freddie bonfanti
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 315 posts
  • Gaffer
  • LONDON

Posted 27 December 2006 - 04:42 AM

well

i am glad he asked this question, because i am i the exact same boat. sometimes i feel awkward, knowing that there are many other more talented and experienced cinematographers out there and i feel like just too young for the job.
i heard how Gordon Willis, Laszlo Kovacs and Zsigmond worked all the ranks to become what they are now and i say to myself "i should do that too", because starting from the bottom allows you to watch other people at work and learn all the skills of the trade.
but i wont turn the offer down, however ill try to work as an assistant for a talented cinematographer in the future and learn as much as i can
  • 0

#7 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 07 January 2007 - 02:49 PM

The best time to shoot your first feature is the first time someone offers you the job to shoot one ;)

Nerves are good. They mean you're not getting complacent.
  • 0

#8 Wilkin Chau

Wilkin Chau
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 43 posts
  • Grip

Posted 11 January 2007 - 01:53 AM

Another suggestion is since you're the DOP, try and hire the most experienced/best gaffer and key grip you can find. Are those positions being paid?

It's easier knowing a gaffer/key grip who can help you along to light. One note though is try and get someone who isn't overbearing and controlling, otherwise you won't really learn much.
  • 0

#9 Matt Workman

Matt Workman
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 421 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • NYC

Posted 14 January 2007 - 12:07 AM

Congrats, that is quite an opportunity!

Lighting, exposure, framing, aside the hardest part for me, on my first feature was the schedule. If you haven't worked many 6 day weeks, then you might be up for a surprise. I would expect the DP is really putting in 7 days a week, especially with a first time director.

My advice is to be prepared in the common sense department also, which can be overlooked when you are working too hard on shooting. Drink a lot of coffee, eat well, sleep as much as the schedule will allow, bring the right clothes (it is really horrible being stuck outside without gloves), have dayquil/nightquil, chapstick, altoids, learn everyones names and a little about them, buy a around at the bar, let the crew know when they have done well, let them know in private if they haven't, have fun, stay cool, and be a confident leader.

After my second week I was a little cranky because I wasn't used to the schedule. Never had doing laundry, showering, talking to loved ones, or buying gloves been so difficult to fit in.

Most likely if you have been hired already you know all of that. :rolleyes:

Cheers,

Matt
  • 0

#10 Michael Palm

Michael Palm
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 61 posts
  • Student
  • Kansas City, MO USA

Posted 16 February 2007 - 04:08 PM

go for it. work hard and stay sharp!
  • 0

#11 John Thomas

John Thomas
  • Sustaining Members
  • 116 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Akron, Ohio USA

Posted 18 February 2007 - 10:54 AM

After my second week I was a little cranky because I wasn't used to the schedule. Never had doing laundry, showering, talking to loved ones, or buying gloves been so difficult to fit in.


If you havn't worked on a similar sized project, try to crew on one before you start shooting this summer. I had worked as an electrician on several low budget movies before shooting my first feature so at least I knew what to expect on the set. Do your homework! You owe it to the people trusting you with the look of their film. Be prepared and the inevitable curveballs will be easier to deal with.
  • 0


Wooden Camera

Paralinx LLC

The Slider

CineLab

Abel Cine

Metropolis Post

Opal

Glidecam

Tai Audio

Ritter Battery

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Technodolly

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Willys Widgets

Aerial Filmworks

rebotnix Technologies

Broadcast Solutions Inc

FJS International, LLC

CineTape

Visual Products

Rig Wheels Passport

rebotnix Technologies

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Technodolly

Paralinx LLC

Glidecam

Abel Cine

Aerial Filmworks

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

Willys Widgets

CineLab

Opal

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

The Slider

CineTape

Visual Products

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

Wooden Camera