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Director/Cinematographer issues


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#1 Adam Gaiser

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 01:24 PM

Hello everyone,
I am a student filmmaker and I had a question for the more seasoned filmmakers out there. I am working on shooting my third project here at school and a reoccurring issue that seems to pop up is that during the editing stage, the look and feel that the director and I agreed upon is lost. (Color correction changes up things, use of wide masters instead the tight shots, etc.) My question would be as a cinematographer, especially a non-seasoned one, how do you deal with these issues and help the movie have one single style. Is there anything I can do in pre-pro to help save the movie?
As a cinematographer are you always scared that what you shot will be mangled in the editing stage? How do you compensate so that you still have a solid demo reel?
Thank you very much :)
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#2 Robert Hughes

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 01:37 PM

If you don't like color correction don't let the editor use it. If you don't like establishing shot footage don't shoot it. If you storyboard effectively and have director, DP and editor meet during preproduction to discuss the project in detail, shot by shot, you should be able to save time during shooting and post, and avoid a lot of the confusion and wrong turns your projects have taken to date. By the way, since you're a student and therefore part owner of the process you can cut your demo reel footage any way you want - it doesn't have to match the class project. But depending on your post production method you may need to get a copy of the footage before it gets cut up on the conforming table.

Edited by Robert Hughes, 15 August 2007 - 01:41 PM.

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#3 Adam Gaiser

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Posted 15 August 2007 - 07:49 PM

Awesome :)
Thanks for the reply Robert. I hope I can get everyone on the same page this time around.
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 12:05 AM

Remember that it's the director's film, not yours. Once it goes to editing it's pretty much up to him/her and the editor as to which angles to use. Even if you and the director agreed on the coverage during prep and shoot, he may change his mind in the edit. It's his film; it's his prerogative to edit it whatever way works best.

When it comes to color correction though, it should be your right and responsibility to oversee the image all the way through to release. But in these days of desktop color correction, everyone thinks they're a colorist and wants to play with the image because they can. At that point all you can really do is consult with the director and remind him of the original look and direction you two agreed on during prep. Ask for a chance to do a color correction pass once the edit is locked.
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#5 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 03:28 AM

I think as far as using wide shots and closeups, what I find is a very common issue is continuity. It takes some practice and working with the talent, but sometimes what makes closeups and wide shots impossible to intercut is the continuity and actions in the scene.

But what really helps, is if you're able to work with a director who has a specific vision for how he/she wants to tell the story. Someone can be like the Coen Bros or Hitchcock, using storyboards and sticking strictly to them. That way everything that's shot, is used in the final edit. But then, there are some IƱarritu style directors who shoot shoot and shoot then find their film in the edit. It's just a matter of how that director works.

Hopefully you'll be able to explore both sides of the spectrum, but what you're describing is typical film school stuff. People are exploring and finding their style, so you have to do a certain level of forgiving sometimes.
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#6 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 16 August 2007 - 08:41 AM

Michael is quite right, it is the director's film. You can request a copy of the rushes and do an edit that suits you- just make it clear when you show it that it's not the director's film but your re-edit of the directors film.
The desktop "revolution" has definitely encouraged editors to fancy themselves as colorists and sound designers/engineers. Another potential "jack of all trades, master of none" situation.
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#7 Adam Adorno

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 02:36 AM

I'm really glad I stumbled upon this thread. I am going through this exact thing. Basically the crew is filled with first-timers, and I want my reel to be an example of my abilities, not the other editors. Thanks for everyone that answered his questions. It definitely helped me out as well.
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 October 2008 - 02:47 AM

If the shot you want is just for your reel, why not just try to get a copy of the source footage? If you shot on film, see if you can get them to scan up such and such shot (marked off of your offline) for you. If it's Video, ask for the tape and capture it yourself. If it's Tapeless, bring a hard-drive.
You may wind up re-coloring a shot yourself, if you get your hands on a master, or a dub from a master, but if it's for your 4 min reel or what have you, spend the bit of time doing it yourself or take it to a post house really quickly if possible (try to sneak in at night :ph34r: ) and always be kind to your colorist(s). You can often be nicely rewarded for offering to get them coffee while you're in the suite.

just my advice.
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#9 Adam Orton

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 09:46 PM

This is a great question. I've had a little bit of experience in this area being that I'm more of a director with an interest in cinematography...One of the main reasons I've stuck to directing is that I love planning shots and working with actors. I think because I originally entered film with the hopes of DP'ing, I can empathize with Cinematographers and try to make their job more fun by giving them opportunities to show off. (Who knows, I could still end up being a DP and I wouldn't mind at all!)

Unfortunately I sometimes stick my nose in the DP's job and micro-manage. I'm working on that.

What personally offends me is when a DP (I've had this happen on a short film shoot at school) tries to talk to me about what emotional effect my camera move is evoking; or how I should do it differently. I'm open to suggestions, but this particular cinematographer believed it was his job to evoke the mood and feeling through the camera moves. He practically wanted me to let him line the script... granted, this was a school project and an extreme example, but it shows how misunderstandings can get in the way.

I understand your problems with having the director control your work and all I can say is that it works in reverse too, unfortunately. For instance, a particular director can have some of the most amazing and elaborate shots ever known to cinema in his/her movie, but the average layman is going to see the credit, "Cinematography by John Smith" and assume he/she was responsible for it.

I think DP's and Directors should enter into a project knowing where the others' boundaries are. There's nothing wrong with suggestions, but at some point you have to let the other person do their job and trust them to do it their best with your work. If you talk with someone before shooting, you'll be less likely to step on their toes.
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#10 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 01:34 AM

Obviously not knowing what style you're going or or what were your intentions - bare in mind that this is viewed on a small monitor in an editing suite where a close-up tends to look more powerful and effective. On a big screen a string of talking heads in close-ups can become quite jarring and tedious.
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#11 Andrew Koch

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 07:45 AM

What personally offends me is when a DP (I've had this happen on a short film shoot at school) tries to talk to me about what emotional effect my camera move is evoking; or how I should do it differently. I'm open to suggestions, but this particular cinematographer believed it was his job to evoke the mood and feeling through the camera moves. He practically wanted me to let him line the script... granted, this was a school project and an extreme example, but it shows how misunderstandings can get in the way.

I understand your problems with having the director control your work and all I can say is that it works in reverse too, unfortunately. For instance, a particular director can have some of the most amazing and elaborate shots ever known to cinema in his/her movie, but the average layman is going to see the credit, "Cinematography by John Smith" and assume he/she was responsible for it.


I personally have to disagree with you to some extent. I don't see how it is inappropriate for a Cinematographer to discuss camera moves on an emotional level. The Cinematographer has the shared responsibility with the director of telling a story visually. It IS his job to evoke a certain feeling through a camera move. A director might be the final person signing off on the camera move, but this does not relieve the Cinematographer of his/her duty to the camera department. At least in Los Angeles, the Cinematographer is pretty much the head of the camera department.

I also want to comment on your paragraph about who gets the credit for elaborate shots. In reality, the average audience member usually gives the credit for crazy shots to the director, not the cinematographer. But I digress, my point is that impressive camera moves are not the work of one individual. Those shots are achieved by the ingenuity of dolly grips, cinematographers, directors, etc... Filmmaking is a collaborative process. The director might have the final say (which they usually don't, especially in television where the producers run the show) but it is my opinion that it is not accurate to call a movie the director's film unless that individual made every single creative decision on that film. Even Cinematographers will give credit where credit is due. I saw a panel discussion with Wally Pfister ASC about the Dark Knight. He had members of his crew on the panel to discuss the film's cinematography as well as himself. He repeatedly mentioned how working with a great director and a great crew allowed him to work at his best. I really respect for that. He never once referred to the crazy 360 shot on the roof as his shot or Nolan's shot. It was a shot that the director wanted and Pfister and his Gaffer figured out a way to light it and his key grip figured out an ingenious way to rig the lighting to make the impossible become possible.
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#12 Adam Orton

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 01:38 PM

I personally have to disagree with you to some extent. I don't see how it is inappropriate for a Cinematographer to discuss camera moves on an emotional level. The Cinematographer has the shared responsibility with the director of telling a story visually. It IS his job to evoke a certain feeling through a camera move. A director might be the final person signing off on the camera move, but this does not relieve the Cinematographer of his/her duty to the camera department. At least in Los Angeles, the Cinematographer is pretty much the head of the camera department.

I also want to comment on your paragraph about who gets the credit for elaborate shots. In reality, the average audience member usually gives the credit for crazy shots to the director, not the cinematographer. But I digress, my point is that impressive camera moves are not the work of one individual. Those shots are achieved by the ingenuity of dolly grips, cinematographers, directors, etc... Filmmaking is a collaborative process. The director might have the final say (which they usually don't, especially in television where the producers run the show) but it is my opinion that it is not accurate to call a movie the director's film unless that individual made every single creative decision on that film. Even Cinematographers will give credit where credit is due. I saw a panel discussion with Wally Pfister ASC about the Dark Knight. He had members of his crew on the panel to discuss the film's cinematography as well as himself. He repeatedly mentioned how working with a great director and a great crew allowed him to work at his best. I really respect for that. He never once referred to the crazy 360 shot on the roof as his shot or Nolan's shot. It was a shot that the director wanted and Pfister and his Gaffer figured out a way to light it and his key grip figured out an ingenious way to rig the lighting to make the impossible become possible.



I'll admit that sounded a bit harsh, and I'm not the type of person who shuns others for their input. I guess it all depends on the experience of the person giving input. If Wally Pfister ASC was telling me what kind of shot to do, I'd listen. If Mr. Film School DP tells me there should be a canted push-pull on a CU of a boy meeting his long-lost mother, I'm going to ignore it. I don't care what anyone believes is the responsibility of the DP.

In reality, the average audience member usually gives the credit for crazy shots to the director, not the cinematographer.


If anything that is a really subjective opinion. I've talked to plenty of people who had no idea that the director typically plans the shots. (In film school no less.) Sure, everyone knows Hitchcock's shots were his doing...but that was Hitch--who is a legend. Also, I wasn't using this example to say that directors don't get enough respect--they probably get too much--or to imply that cinematographers do not give credit where it is due...I'm just providing a similar situation, for empathy's sake. (I'm currently working on a film where a terrific DP suggested using timelapses as a transitional element; and it looks amazing. That was all him and I will gladly tell people that.)

No single person is really the reason why things happen on set. And if a good DP's work is botched by a director, that's a real tragedy. HOWEVER, it can be flipped around to another situation...if that work is "botched with" properly ("properly botched" heh), the DP will be the one who was responsible for it. Basically, the director is just trying to make a good movie. If his instinct is correct, everyone's jobs will appear better and the movie will be successful and more people will see it. He's not purposefully just trying to trump you nor is he some idiot the producer put in place to control everyone. And if you don't agree with him, as I said before, it's probably too late by this point to do anything about it. If you're getting paid, then you really can't complain, unless union rules are being broken and the director is a real jerk.

Someone on here mentioned that it's the Director's Movie. Maybe so, but there are other ways to look at it. I like to see it as the entire cast and crew's movie, with a director everyone has faith in to not waste their time making a stupid movie. In fact, I would feel bad making a movie that the DP hated. That will always encourage me to make something good; and to seek guidance.

But I digress, my point is that impressive camera moves are not the work of one individual.


But they can be planned by one individual. I worked at a TV station where I edited footage for the producer. One day that show won an Emmy, but I didn't write the script, shoot the B-roll, or get the interviews. I did work my butt off to get it on the air, but it would be ridiculous to claim that I had any doing in the brain work behind it. It was the producers and reporter who wrote the story and covered it. And I can admit that.

And funny you mention The Dark Knight. I heard that Nolan knows exactly what shots he wants to use regardless of the input he receives from anyone else. (I don't know if this is true; but there are plenty of other directors that are like that.) I'm not claiming that he steals credit for a shot and that an elaborate move he plans isn't accomplished by a superb crew with an amazing DP. But, even in your example, the director saw an emotional need for the shot and called for it, and the DP and gaffer made it happen.

But what do I know? ;) I'm just some dude on the internet who's not from LA.
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