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The worst assumptions from a director/producer


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#1 Zak Hall

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 01:27 PM

Hello Everyone,

I am curious what are some of the worst assumptions you've seen from a first time director and producer on the set? I am gearing up to produce my first feature come August, and I'd like to hear some good war stories to learn from. I want to go into this thing with the least amount of pigheaded assumptions as possible. I've been various positions on various guerilla style small/student productions, and here is my general list:

- We'll fix it in post
- The actors can improvise
- We can shoot it in 2 hours
- The camera operator can walk backwards for five minutes.
- Everyone will be on the set on time. They have to, or else we can't shoot.
- I can storyboard while on the set.
- The edit will be done in 2 weeks
- The script will only take a month to write (feature)
- Festivals will love this.
- We don't need a budget for distribution; an AE will pick it up at a festival.
- The director and DP have different physical vision, and the diopter stays the same, while both adjust the focus.
- Who needs a light meter? I can eyeball it, I'm a professional.
- If we throw a party, we can shoot our party scene there.
- Let's cut film and video together! It will look like Natural Born Killers!
- The DP can figure out the shot, I don't care what it looks like.
- We don't need a script. It's a documentary/experimental/improv/silent/music video/animation.
- We can do ADR for that part he's playing guitar.
- Let's cut 800T into 200T. We can fix it in post.
- My friend is a funny guy, he'll make a great actor.
- "I know it was a comedy before, but looking at the footage, I've decided to turn it into a drama"
- I'll shoot that part later, when I have more time.
- Let's start shooting at 5pm.
- We can shoot while the business is still running.
- Crew talking while shooting.
- We can get the prop once everything is ready.
- We can get finishing funds once everything is filmed.
- I'm going to hand process all the footage.
- I'm going to conform the negative.
- I'm going to use an oxberry to make the release print. I'll time everything myself.
- I'm shooting super 16mm, and we can blow it up to 35mm when a distributor buys it.
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 01:45 PM

- We can get Phil to do steadicam for three days for the same amount of money we paid him for one day last time on the express understanding that it was an introductory offer which would definitely, definitely lead to fully-paid work.
- Then we can give him the cold shoulder on the basis that he wouldn't do it.

Gits gits gits gits gits gits gits....

Phil
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#3 David Sweetman

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 01:56 PM

The worst directors I've seen are not those who just make bad assumptions or bad decisions - though hopefully the director will be able to make good decisions - but those with the inability to make any decision at all. The entire job of the director is making decisions. So even if he's making bad decisions, he's still doing his job, insofar as it is a job.
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#4 ryan_bennett

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 09:27 PM

We don't need a script. It's a documentary/experimental/improv/silent/music video/animation


One of my friends recently asked me to help him on something he was working, and he said this and I had to decline, I just couldn't take it but I still regret it, I wished I could've helped but the aggravation is not worth it. The other famous last words:

- It doesn't really matter/I don't really care, we don't need any planning whatsoever.

Then you're stuck for 2-3 hours debating over camera angles, blocking, etc. And the greatest:

- I don't need any (storyboard/script/plan in any form), I got the vision in my head.

Which is great but soon as you bring in other people who you're relying to shoot for you who see nothing like you see, well things turn into a problem. I know there's people who can pull it off but they are still capable of communicating in some form what they want to people and usually have more experience.
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 03 May 2007 - 11:10 PM

Regarding the Steadicam I was operating at the time: "Doesn't that thing make the camera weightless?"
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#6 Michael Collier

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 03:34 AM

The only thing that disheartens me on set is to hear 'I don't care' or 'I don't know' Its a discussion ender. Nobody knows the right way to do something all at once, but you should start talking theory and wittle it down to practicle. To say off the bat 'I don't care' one puts the other guy in a position to need to care for two people, and also it does nothing to encourage everyone to step up their game.

Even if you don't honestly care, give some guidance, even if its abstract and open-ended. It at least shows those you work with that you do care, even if you trust them implicitly to cary out the task. plus creativley it gives some measure to gauge your work against thier vision and taste. An I don't know statement leaves me second guessing myself. If he doesn't know how the hell should I know what he wants! Some take it as a blank check, I look at it as a thinly veiled noose.
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#7 Nate Downes

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 08:47 AM

Failing to check to see if the street we had permits for shooting at would be under construction at the time...

Failing to bring a key piece of equipment.... like the camera

Telling the DP to shoot it from the same angle straight through.

Falls asleep in the middle of the shot. (doubly funny with this one is that he was *in* the shot at the time)

Asks what a white balance is.

Neglects to mention script changes done the night before.

Neglects to mention that the actor called in sick, and we were shooting something different that day.

Wonders why I can't just handhold as steady as I could do with a steadycam the prior day, having returned the steadycam "to keep the budget down."

Wonders why the Canon XL1S PAL couldn't synch right with the NTSC monitors he brought.

Wonders where the tape goes in a Bolex.

Neglects to hire a sound engineer, wondering why I can't do it instead.

Puts me onto a new camera whose viewfinder does not match up with the recorded image, not even centered. "We dropped it once, so it's a bit off-center. Don't worry, you'll get it"

Hiring a kid fresh out of college to shoot your all-important-cannot-be-wrong work and throwing him at said camera the day after you meet him.
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#8 Jarin Blaschke

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 09:25 AM

Shooting in a townhouse (albeit beautiful) within a New York City hot zone, where no lighting or staging can be done out the front windows. I get to do this in 3 weeks!
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#9 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 09:50 AM

Asking about the workprint of a music video.
Asking the 1st AC about exact rental prices.
Failing to ensure adequate transport for talent to location.
I don't need a shot list or storyboard.
We can do a circular dolly handheld.
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#10 Jeff Clegg

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 11:43 AM

- Ill put another vote in for no shot list or storyboards, or such a half-assed attempt that no one can understand them

- Not rehearsing or working with actors during lighting setup, then making the crew sit around for an hour while the actors try to figure out what they are supposed to be doing and saying

- Rolling on the rehearsal, especially with any tricky camera moves or actions in the scene. This usually leads to a bad first take and some frazzled nerves.

- "We have an hour at this location to shoot these 7 pages of dialogue... and that includes set up and breakdown."

- "The live band playing 50 feet away from us won't be a problem for sound right?"

- Not "technically" having permission to shoot at a private location, but telling everyone that you do. At least Security and the Police were fairly pleasant....

- Telling the crew that shooting will begin on X date so everyone clears their schedule and turns down other offers, then a day before date X shooting gets put off 2 weeks, then a month, then another month....

- a $20 TV from Wal Mart is just as good as a properly calibrated field monitor for video work...

- If time or day light is running short then you should just rush through the overly ambitious shot list... A lot of mediocre footage is better than getting the essentials really well.

- "We only have the main actor who is in almost every shot for half the day"

- This one didn't happen to me but its instructional none the less: Losing the actor release for a main actor who decided to back out after 6 months of weekend shooting and demands her footage not be used. Pretty much had to reshoot the entire film...

All I can think of for now. I think i need to go post in the "Mistakes you learned the most from" thread to remind myself of some of the stupid things I have done....
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#11 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 05:31 PM

It's basically when they expect and throw money at a DP hoping he'll fix something that should have been there in the script or design. This is terribly common - I bet half the jobs Harris Savides (or any other "hotshot" DP) shoots in commercials fall into this category.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 05:48 PM

I heard this story about a young director who kept shooting his own "B-roll" shots on his Canon XL2, including wide establishing shots, and telling the DP that it would intercut fine with the 24P HDCAM F900 footage that the main unit was shooting, despite the DP shooting tests to prove that the DV shots wouldn't match the HD shots on the big screen, tests that the director refused to watch --

-- and then when the final movie was transferred to 35mm and screened, this director yelling at the DP because his Canon XL2 footage didn't match the quality of the HD material on the big screen, as the DP told him all along would happen.
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#13 Matthew Buick

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 07:17 PM

"Will Super 8mm go on computer?"

"Film is for old farts. From now on we do it my way, here's my mobile."
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