Jump to content


Photo

First meeting with the director


  • Please log in to reply
6 replies to this topic

#1 Gabriel Cortez

Gabriel Cortez
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 30 posts
  • Student

Posted 04 January 2007 - 03:45 PM

Hello everyone,

Many articles about a specific cinematographer and his movie mention, in the beginning, something about the first meeting between him and the director, the genesis of their collaboration on that project. You see it in AC all the time, like when they report about Brokeback Mountain, in the jan '06 issue (i was going back through that today) and say, quote : "We met and talked about Brokeback Mountain, and I felt the talent there, and the energy" (Ang Lee speaking of his initial meeting with Rodrigo Prieto). This kind of brief remembrance of that "first talk" between the cinematographer and director is often insterted in the articles, but never explained, expanded. So okay Mr. Prieto, what did you actually talked about?

What is that first talk, first meeting really about? How does it go? What are the topics? (Especially when you're dealing with a director new to you).
I get that at that point the cinematographer had already read the script, so do they talk about the story part, i mean the characters, the emotional arc etc? Or about visual references? And if it's about the visuals, how deep they go? Into lighting, types of camera moves, colors etc?
Does the cinematographer come at that meeting with his own concept of all these and sort of displays his vision, like "here is how i see this"? Or he's there to ask questions? Or to respond to questions?

I really have no idea about this, and until now I haven't heard of any account of such a first meeting, I'm really curious what's it about, because it's so important.
Of course, I realize that it's no rule, no pattern for such a talk, but I'm asking you, the more experienced cinematographers around here, who have worked on features, to share your views on this subject, please. And it would be of utmost help if you were as specific as possible.

Many thanks to you all!
  • 0

#2 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19765 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 04 January 2007 - 06:38 PM

These meetings are pretty informal affairs. You "chat" about the project basically, trying to gauge each other.

I try to not blurt out specific ideas early on, not until I've given the director a chance to talk about the project and their ideas for it, lest my ideas are too far off-base from what the director was thinking (unless I preface it then with "well... a completely opposite approach would be to...")

You try to get a sense of the director's priorities and his tastes, and whether you can work with that person (you are interviewing the director as much as the other way around.)

Oh, and you always casually slip in something like "I like to work fast" into the conversation... and you're always "really excited about the script" even when you're not so excited.

At some point in the conversation, it may be appropriate to bring out some artwork or other reference material that you think the director would be interested in seeing. Sometimes you decide it's not worth showing it. I usually bring along a notebook of pre-production art that I've collected (film frames, etc.) to show the director how I like to prepare for a movie.

Sometimes an interview goes badly enough that you can't wait for it to be over so you can call your agent and tell them to turn down an offer.

My less-then-happy interview experiences are generally when a director references some horrible-looking and boringly-bland movie as their model for their project, and then procede to disparage all the art movies and cinematographers you've ever loved. Followed by constantly asking you how many set-ups a day do you like to shoot, all the while taking phone calls during the interview. And this on top of being a half-hour late to the meeting. I remember one movie where the producer insisted on interviewing me separately from the director, and then cancelled & rescheduled the meetings three times in a row, twice while I was sitting in the waiting room.
  • 0

#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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

Posted 04 January 2007 - 07:00 PM

Oh, and you always casually slip in something like "I like to work fast" into the conversation... and you're always "really excited about the script" even when you're not so excited.


This might be the best bit of advice you've ever given in these forums, David...mostly because it's true and funny, ha ha
  • 0

#4 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19765 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 04 January 2007 - 07:41 PM

My problem is that I'm a low-key, quiet guy. Some people mistake that for being slow-moving... and my lack of emotion is confused with a lack of interest. So my only recourse is to impress people with how smart & creative I am, because I'm not going to impress them with my personal energy level.

So if their idea of a DP is someone hyper and macho, plus as enthusiastic as a cheerleader or sports fanatic, they probably won't hire me. So be it.

When people ask me "are you fast?" all I can tell them is that many of my movies were shot on short schedules and were done on-time and look good, so if that doesn't imply that I'm fast enough for the project, I don't know what does. I'm not interested in being fast for the sake of being fast, but for the sake of being more efficient with the time on the set.

It's easy to be fast if you just don't care.
  • 0

#5 Jayson Crothers

Jayson Crothers
  • Sustaining Members
  • 351 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 04 January 2007 - 10:21 PM

I've shot 7 features now and in all cases the interviews were never remotely the same.

David hit it right on the head; you're both interviewing each other (though you never want it to appear that you're also interviewing them).

I think it's best to be cautious about answering "How would you shoot this?" type questions without getting a lot of information first - you could be rambling on about how you think it would be great to shoot it all handheld with multiple cameras and a heavily desaturated look.......only to then have the director tell you he/she likes elegant dolly's with one camera and lots of vibrant colors; you just shot yourself in the foot.

Listen - that sounds like obvious advice, but really listen to everything the director is saying. From there, ask questions - what kinds of films have they made in the past, what was their experience like making those, what types of films do they like/inspire them in general, what are they looking for in a Cinematographer (that's a good one to ask because then you know if you can fill that role or not).

When asked about specifics, I get vague but optimisitc - ..."the speed of a shoot is determined by so many things that it's too early to say for sure, but I can say that I pride myself on running an efficient set and am always pushing to get more coverage and more shots...". Or something to that effect. You're telling them things they want to hear, but not committing to anything specific ("In our interview you said you could do 40 set-ups a day! Why can't you shoot faster?")

Whenever possible, you want to read the script at least twice before the interview - knowing character names and asking story specific questions ("I thought that such-and-such relationship was interesting; how do you see their dynamics as a couple?") are big winners - it shows that you're already invested.

Some interviews have been only about my work; my last feature interview (one that I just wrapped 2 weeks ago) was an hour of talking about different films that were on my reel - the director barely said anything about his film until about the last 5 minutes. I was pretty certain the interview went poorly for me because he didn't seem like talking about his film, just asking me a lot of questions - the producer called me an hour later to offer me the job. Go figure.

Other interviews have practially nothing to do with the movie; I shot a feature last June and the interview was a three hour conversation about music, relationships, foreign politics, and comparing all the coffee we were drinking. We never once talked about the movie until the second interview - that was very much about the look of the movie and he offered me the job after about 45 minutes.

One final note - don't turn down a job because the director seems like a bad person or the script sucks. What I mean is, don't TELL them that's why you're doing it; they may not always be doing this level of work and you don't want to burn bridges that you don't have to.

"I don't like the script."
"I don't think we'd work well together."
"I don't think you want to shoot it the right way"
"I'd love to shoot it, but my schedule has a conflict. Damn. But hopefully we'll have an opportunity to work together on your next production?"

Which one of those sounds better to you?
  • 0

#6 Chris Keth

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

Posted 05 January 2007 - 12:08 AM

My problem is that I'm a low-key, quiet guy. Some people mistake that for being slow-moving... and my lack of emotion is confused with a lack of interest. So my only recourse is to impress people with how smart & creative I am, because I'm not going to impress them with my personal energy level.


I think you may have just become my hero. The thought crosses my mind every so often that I'm the wrong personality type for this kind of work. It's good to hear that other people think the same way.
  • 0

#7 Ram Shani

Ram Shani
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 735 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • isreal

Posted 05 January 2007 - 04:45 AM

i think the hard part is to market your self to the project and one thing that is very hard for me is to talk about myself

one thing i think is you have to say to your self do i want to hang with this guy so many days at list 12h a day

will we work good together will he give me a room to work is he open mind or think he know everything

why i am taking the project be honest with your self

for me every meeting is like blind date:)
  • 0


Glidecam

Wooden Camera

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Ritter Battery

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Visual Products

Technodolly

FJS International, LLC

rebotnix Technologies

Opal

Tai Audio

Metropolis Post

The Slider

Abel Cine

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineLab

CineTape

Opal

The Slider

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Abel Cine

Glidecam

Technodolly

Tai Audio

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

rebotnix Technologies

FJS International, LLC

CineTape

CineLab

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets

Wooden Camera

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Metropolis Post

Ritter Battery

Visual Products

Broadcast Solutions Inc