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Giving a director non-lighting related suggestions


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#1 Fernando Nicolas

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 03:07 AM

How in your experience has this been? For example, it's a dinner scene with two actors - one of them isn't really eating off his plate and you feel that he should. Do you speak to the director?

I'd just love to hear how this dynamic usually works.

Thanks.
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#2 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 03:44 AM

If that were the case and I was by the monitors. After a rehearsal when he calls cut, I would sigh really loudly and go "humm?". When he asks "whats wrong?" I would say "From the camera it doesn't look like hes eating. I think it may distract viewers.". If I were operating I would just let the actor know hes not selling his action to camera. I feel its part of the operators job to help with staging. Otherwise they are just meat puppets.
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 03:49 AM

If I were operating I would just let the actor know hes not selling his action to camera.


Doesn't seem that would be your place as an operator to speak directly with the actor concerning their performance. Going through the director would be the proper way I suppose.

In regards to hinting things such as this to a director, it depends on how open he is to suggestions from the crew. If he's cool, he'll at least listen to your suggestion and either use it or casually dispose of it to hold onto his own vision.
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#4 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 04:02 AM

Some times the DP needs to suggest things that aren't camera or lighting related... there is a fine line tho. But there will be a time when you have worked on so much crap that you know when it is time to put your foot down and that your there to make a good movie. I feel most director appreciate that passion. TV DP's that mentored me are masters of communicating with directors, due to the fact they have to work with a new one almost weekly. I tend to speak from the camera or a viewers point of view and suggest ideas from there. However I wouldn't suggest how an actor should play a scene... If I found the direction and acting questionable I would simply suggest something in a visual aspect to help advance the story or acting. Could be something as little as a camera move.
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#5 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 04:17 AM

Doesn't seem that would be your place as an operator to speak directly with the actor concerning their performance. Going through the director would be the proper way I suppose.

In regards to hinting things such as this to a director, it depends on how open he is to suggestions from the crew. If he's cool, he'll at least listen to your suggestion and either use it or casually dispose of it to hold onto his own vision.



The good operators I've worked with and have seen threw out the big and small shows i've teched on have discussions with the actors all the time about staging, which i feel is different then performance. I mean an camera op has to be in the actors characters head to anticipate their moves. However if you always wanna communicate changes you've suggested to the DP and Director. When the schedule is tight and your behind, a lot of the time I find myself thinking about the next lighting set up rather then the action on the monitor and I love operators that catch the things the director and I miss.
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#6 Chris Keth

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 08:36 AM

To more directly answer the OP's question, as a PA, I would never do it. It's the fast track to either embarrassing the director in front of his crew if you're right or getting a good talking to if you're wrong. Both may get you fired.

If you have a real concern and you don't see anyone else picking up on it, mention it to the AD quietly ;)
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#7 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 10:22 PM

I'd do it in a heartbeat. Directors want input, just like DP's do. And the ones who don't, you don't want to work with anyway.

Yes, it can be a fine line, but all "technical direction" is up for discussion, in my view.
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#8 Keneu Luca

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 12:09 AM

What if you incoroporate it into a cinematography issue.

"I set up the shot with the motions and actions of him eating in mind. He doesnt seem to be eating. Should I adjust the lighting and set-up.?"

Maybe if you asked it like that, address the issue, but disguising it as a cinematography issue.

A heads-up director will probably see through this tactic, but they might appreciate the approach. I don't know, maybe...maybe not.

Edited by Keneu, 11 January 2007 - 12:10 AM.

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#9 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 12:55 AM

I make suggestions to directors all the time.
Firstly, the DP - Director relationship must be one of trust and openness or else why are you working together?
Egos have to go down the drain.
After all aren't we there to make as good a film as possible with the resources at hand?
Discretion is very important though.
Blurting things out for the whole set to hear is not going to help anything.
It's just common sense.
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#10 James West

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 01:20 AM

My belief as some have stated, like Dan, if you're the DP you can say anything you want to the director. If it's in front of everybody on the set, then be discreet and always make the director and actors look good, keep the confidence up. If it's about performance, and the director didn't notice, pull him/her aside and tell them in confidence, usually phrased as a suggestion. Actually most of your pitches to the director should be phrased as suggestions ;) You're the one on set holding that big gun (the camera) and when you pull that trigger (start or record button) it's forever (it could wind up in the final cut)

Out of habit, my directions to the actors always go through the director first. Respect the chain of command.
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#11 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 01:51 AM

How in your experience has this been? For example, it's a dinner scene with two actors - one of them isn't really eating off his plate and you feel that he should. Do you speak to the director?

I'd just love to hear how this dynamic usually works.

Thanks.


Your a P.A. which means you don't say poop! your job is to get coffee and do what ever the f#ck they tell you to do, nothing more. You're also there to learn and get a good rep as a person who works hard and keeps his mouth shut so you can get better jobs on future productions and you don't do that by telling the director or actors their job. Another thing, what make you think you have the expirence to know how this guy's performance will come across on film? Maybe there's a reason he doesn't want to eat, maybe there is a modivation for his charture to avoid eating at that moment that you're totally unaware of. There are rare sets where the director will listen to suggestions from everyone including a P.A. but these are, as I said, rare and you'll know when you're on one. You start critiquing the director, you'll be out on your ass so fast you'll think you broke the sound barrier. This dynamic usually works this way: you say something to the director and a few minutes later a guy comes up to you and tells you you can go home and you won't be needed anymore on this project. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 11 January 2007 - 01:52 AM.

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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 02:06 AM

There is a hierarchy to a set, although some sets are more rigid about that than others. But certainly for a technical thing like whether an actor clearly looks like they are faking the eating, there are many people who might point it out (politely) to the director: the DP, the script supervisor, the AD, the other actors, the camera operator...

But I have to say that it would be unusual for a PA to pipe up, especially since it would be odd for all those other people mentioned not to have noticed it first anyway.

While input is good, there is a point where you don't want the set to become a free-for-all of opinions being expressed, because it could end up being a distraction for the actors on the set if they overheard PA's, grips, electrics, etc. all freely making comments about the scene.

But with the key people working on a set (DP, AD, Script Supervisor, Operator, Production Mixer, etc. plus Editor -- if visiting -- not to mention Screenwriter or Producer) it's part of their job to talk to the director.
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#13 Christian Janss

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 09:53 PM

I got fired for something like that once. So it may be best to keep your opinion to yourself...
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