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Pre-Production questions


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#1 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 12:45 AM

I'm wondering what any of the cinematographers here might ask when they start a new project. How do those questions differ from Narrative to Music video to corporate?

Any way to weed out the bad from the good productions?

Any weird or good questions that they have been asked of by a director/producer....etc?

Thanks,
Jamie
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#2 Paul Nordin

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 01:05 AM

I'm wondering what any of the cinematographers here might ask when they start a new project. How do those questions differ from Narrative to Music video to corporate?


That's a big question. I work on low-budget features, so others may have a different approach. But I've got no agent, and am usually one of the first hires. During pre-production I ask as many questions as possible, from as many different perspectives as possible. I need to get into the director's head to a place where I feel we are at least on some level sharing a vision. From that tweaks to all pre-production deliverables happen, and a trust gets built between myself and the director before we start rolling...very important. Style, budget, organization, look, crew, wardrobe, set design, shot list & storyboards, working style, work flows, equipment lists, logistics, distribution targets, hours per day, hours for turnarounds, hours between meals, types of meals, etc. It all has to be covered because once shooting starts the DP will be heads down executing the plan. There is almost always a lot of improvisation so how that is handled also needs to be discussed.

Your question is so broad it's hard to answer. But basically every aspect of what you plan to or hope to do during production needs to be planned during prepro. Otherwise, you will be screwed unless your really good at dancing fast.
In my budget level, with no unions or major studios, and mixed experienced production team, your crew also is at the mercy of how well you communicate limits and needs beforehand.

Edited by Paul Nordin, 16 September 2007 - 01:08 AM.

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 01:32 PM

If you read the script and then ask what the budget it and how many days they scheduled for it, etc. you can start to get a sense of the experience and competency of the producers by their answers and then decide if you want to sign on - beyond the normal creative reasons why you choose one project over the other.
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#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 01:06 AM

Just to add to Paul and David's responses. How much prep you'll be given is a biggy with me. Starting out as you and I are, it's rare that we get a long prep period. It's usually "Sign up then run & gun" filmmaking...for me at least, currently.

But a production that gives everything it's own alloted time period, that's carefully planned out and structured, is always a good sign.

The most recent project I worked on had a great producer and an experienced AD who really kept things going smoothly and made sure I had the time I needed between and during setups to set my lights. This structured environment also gave the actors the type of environment where they could focus on their performances instead of being distracted by the clunking sounds of lights being set up.

The director mainly had a theatre background, so weird questions abounded. It was just a matter of trying to dig into statements of what she wanted and what she was saying when she would say something like "I want more." Well...more what?
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#5 Jase Ryan

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Posted 21 September 2007 - 02:21 AM

I always like to talk in terms of visuals. I like talking with the director about different types of art that he feels has some influence on the picture at hand. It can be photography, paintings, drawings, sculptures and other films. Then, I start bringing the same thing back to him, showing other pieces of art that I feel can influence the picture, scene or shot. Whether it's the colours, the light and shadows, the framing, the mood it sets, etc

Something I did on the last picture I shot that I feel worked out really well, was build a scrapbook with all these images. I also put in notes I made to produce direct, visual reference from the images and references. I had this on set with me everyday. This way, I could open the book to keep reminding myself of exactly what I was working towards that day. Plus, it was great reference between myself and the director, and myself and the rest of the crew.
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