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Cinematographers Emotions


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#1 Jase Ryan

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 01:01 PM

I was having a discussion with an actor last night and we got into a bit of a debate. I'd like to hear what other cinematographers and film professionals feel about this.

She was saying, that if an actor comes to work and has had a horrible day, their work will be hugely affected. And I completely agree with this.

But she further went on to say that cinematographers are so different, in that whatever mood they're in, they leave it at the door and their work will be the same. And I disagree with that.

I feel, that a cinematographers life and day experiences will affect their work and not just in a complete approach but even on a day basis. I'll explain:

Say a cinematographer wakes up on the good side of the bed. His coffee is perfect and ready, he hits every green light on the way to work, get a phone call about another good job and arrives to set 20 minutes early and has a nice breakfast before he walks in to start the day to shoot scenes 35,68 and 92.

Now lets say the same cinematographer wakes up on the same day on the wrong side of the bed, has burnt coffee that scars his tongue, hits every red light on the way to work, gets a call complaining about a previous shoot and he's not invited back for the sequel, arrives to work with 2 minutes to spare, runs to set on an empty stomach and is feeling rushed right off the bat for the same scenes: 35, 68 and 92.

Now, I believe, that his work will be up to par in both circumstances. It will still hold to the story and genre and will be good storytelling, however, I think there will be differences in the feel of his final product. The composition, the light ratios, the camera angles and the movement will vary between the "good side of the bed" and the "bad side of the bed" cinematographer.

The actress I was talking with disagreed. She felt if that happened, he would get fired or would just be a bad DP. I tried to explain how I felt but she wouldn't hear it.

So, I want to know what everyone else thinks. Do you feel that a cinematographers emotions get caught up in his or her work on a day basis like this?

Thanks,

Jase
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#2 Boyd McCollum

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 02:23 PM

She was saying, that if an actor comes to work and has had a horrible day, their work will be hugely affected. And I completely agree with this.



I don't know why you'd completely agree with her initial premise. Shitty days can lead to some of your best work. Beautiful, stress free days can lead to bad work.

Everyone - actors, DPs, directors, school bus drivers, mechanics, etc. - can be affected positively or negatively by the day they are having in just about any combination imaginable.

I know some outstanding and professional actors who leave all that baggage at the door and focus entirely on their character and the scene. You wouldn't know what kind of day they were having. I mean their dog could have died that morning and you wouldn't know it. Or the scene they play is about their dog dying and you want to comfort them after the scene and they are happy as a lark.

I think consciously or subconsciously, your friend is really arguing a different point entirely, that is that actors are more "special" and need special care and handling. You could argue until you're blue in the face and never get anywhere because for her, her premise is not challengeable. And it's a built in excuse for giving a poor performance or for just being a mediocre/average actor (I'm not specifically referring to your friend here, as I don't know her or her abilities).

Edited by Boyd McCollum, 14 March 2008 - 02:25 PM.

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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 02:32 PM

No one is shielded from their emotions, really, as far as i'm concerned. it's effects us, just a question of degree. It is our ability to push through that which allows us to function in a society. So, while an actor is effected by the stresses of the world, so is a DP, because, unless you're working on a sci-fi film then the actor is human and therefore subject to all the same human afflictions as any of us.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 02:56 PM

Anyone who is an expert in their field is going to be more critical of their own work and identify bad days from good days and how it affected their work.

I don't think this actress realizes that it is possible for a cinematographer to do "bad" work in their own eyes, feel less than inspired, etc. -- and still not get fired because few people are aware. Just as with actors -- I'm sure some of them don't feel so great about some of the work they've done at the end of the day, yet other people don't notice.

Either way, actors or cinematographers, we all have to "deliver" at the end of the day and move on, regardless of whether the work was the best we were capable of.

I'd argue that the mental process for art-making for different disciplines is more similar than different among the professions.

Now I suppose the actor can say that their work is more immediately front and center than some of the other people working on a production, some of whose mistakes won't be discovered until later...
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#5 Bob Hayes

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 04:38 PM

For the most part a try to leave it at the door that is the fun of film making. One of the addictive parts of movie making especially as a DP is that it requires 100% of your attention. There is no room to worry about external stuff. So for 12 hours a day you are free from the stings and arrows of life. Then when the job is over your realize there is a lot of poop you aren?t dealing with.

I tend drop into a Zen state and it is all about the work at hand. It is rare that my personal emotions affect my work. I read the inner game of tennis and it really influenced my attitude to doing my job. I have good days and I have bad days and it often falls to the luck of the draw. I can have days where I make all the wrong decisions and know it and for some reason I luck out and do brilliant work. On the other hand there are days where I do everything right and have problems at every turn.
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#6 Serge Teulon

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 05:28 PM

Personally, I'm a bit like Bob in this.
I've been in situations where I've had to work on a day here or there when the sun isn't shining in my life and fortunately I seem to have the ability to leave my personal events outside when at work.
But at the end of the day we are human and the odds of having a bad day are just as probable as having a good one.
For me it's not about how the good or bad the day has been/is but how I deal with it!

Cheers
S
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#7 Keneu Luca

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 06:13 PM

Now lets say the same cinematographer wakes up on the same day on the wrong side of the bed, has burnt coffee that scars his tongue, hits every red light on the way to work, gets a call complaining about a previous shoot and he's not invited back for the sequel, arrives to work with 2 minutes to spare, runs to set on an empty stomach and is feeling rushed right off the bat for the same scenes: 35, 68 and 92.


I don't think any of these examples are any acceptable reason to allow your emotions to interfere with your work. Burnt coffee? Well thats your fault. Hit every red light? You gotta plan ahead for that and make sure you leave early enough. A complaint about a previous shoot? Well what kind of complaint? That is vague. Maybe youre at fault for the complaint, maybe not. Arrives to work with 2 minutes to spare? Again, leave earlier. Empty stomach, again, who's fault is that. Seriously - what kind of "problems" are these? I wish that I had these kinds of "problems."

If these things are an acceptable reason to take something away from your job performance, I wouldnt invite you back for the sequel either.

But as far as emotions and a state of mind go, well, these are the exact tools of the actor. And those are his only tools. His emotions. And his state of mind.

Both the Actor and Dp prepare for the shoot. But the actor has to deliver, very literally, with his emotions and state of mind on clear display.

Edited by Keneu Luca, 14 March 2008 - 06:16 PM.

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#8 Walter Graff

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 06:46 PM

Wow Keneu, you looked eerily like a Hawaiian guy who is running for president based on your avatar. :)
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#9 Keneu Luca

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 07:25 PM

Wow Keneu, you looked eerily like a Hawaiian guy who is running for president based on your avatar. :)


Yeah I get that alot. :P
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#10 Jase Ryan

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 02:07 AM

I don't think any of these examples are any acceptable reason to allow your emotions to interfere with your work. Burnt coffee? Well thats your fault. Hit every red light? You gotta plan ahead for that and make sure you leave early enough. A complaint about a previous shoot? Well what kind of complaint? That is vague. Maybe youre at fault for the complaint, maybe not. Arrives to work with 2 minutes to spare? Again, leave earlier. Empty stomach, again, who's fault is that. Seriously - what kind of "problems" are these? I wish that I had these kinds of "problems."

If these things are an acceptable reason to take something away from your job performance, I wouldnt invite you back for the sequel either.

But as far as emotions and a state of mind go, well, these are the exact tools of the actor. And those are his only tools. His emotions. And his state of mind.

Both the Actor and Dp prepare for the shoot. But the actor has to deliver, very literally, with his emotions and state of mind on clear display.



Yes I agree. But what I'm trying to say is that the little things will change your work slightly everyday. I feel our emotions are reflected in our work. I never once said it will make you do bad work. You completely missed my point. If someone came to work for me and burnt his coffee and did a horrible job I'd think that was a lame excuse as well.
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#11 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 02:32 AM

The important thing to remember is that most actresses are crazy ...
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#12 Walter Graff

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 06:14 AM

I don't know about anyone else, but when I work, there are no emotions, no problems of life, just focus of what I am doing. As an artist, once I pick up that 'brush' the only emotion is the 'canvas' I am 'painting'. In fact the great thing about work for me is that it is another world where the rest of my problems disappear. It's no wonder why so many relationships are destroyed by this business. I love what I do and can loose myself to everything else and all other responsibilities. I've had to work at times when my personal life were a wreck and I forget everything else when I am working. It's almost not work as much as it is fun for me. I know when I give seminars as I am doing again this month, I go on and on sometimes to the point of getting thrown out of the place we rent for going so long. But as a group we get so into what we are doing that we forget about any other responsibilities. I have to try to stay on target time wise this upcoming month with my green screen seminars which get me real passionate and really have a way of making me forget anything but what I am doing. And that is what this business is for me, love, so regardless of my other life's situations, good or bad, they take a back seat when I start doing the art I love. Thankfully I am married to my best friend who shares my energy and love of life so even if I go into the middle of the night for a month strait, she is there.
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#13 Andrew Koch

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 01:31 PM

Having a bad day could possibly affect the way the Cinematographer treats the crew. Fortunately I have been lucky, most of the Cinematographers I have worked for have never taken out their emotional frustrations on me or the rest of the crew. They are able to make their personal problems their own and focus on the work. But hey, everyone is human, so I suppose it could happen.
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#14 Scott Henriksen

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Posted 17 March 2008 - 10:50 PM

Why were you talking to an actor?
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#15 Chris Keth

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 01:14 AM

Why were you talking to an actor?


Because I learned recently that actors are people too. The more you know, eh?
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#16 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 01:26 AM

The important thing to remember is that most actresses are crazy ...

\ :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: You may have a point. I can only speak for myself as an actor and a director. you have a LOT of people depending on you so whatever happens, you have to come through. I once got into a motorcycle wreak 20 minutes before a show. I had to go to the hospital have my arm sown up and put into a soft cast, my ankle sown up and bandaged I refused to be hospitalized and rushed back to finish the show, unfortunately by the time I got back the show was over and I didn't have the chance to go on that night BUT I was ready to the pain...which hurt like a a motherf*cker...be damned and I was there the next night with out pain pills so I could concentrate on my performance and still in the soft cast worked on a film a few days later. I was trained that the show must go on so unless you're dead and have a written excuse from 3 doctors, you go on REGARDLESS of how you feel, what your problems are and whether or not you feel like it. NOW having said that, some shows are better than others but you always give your audience EVERYTHING you have to give on any given day because ultimately they're the ONLY ones that count! B)
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#17 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 01:38 AM

I don't think any of these examples are any acceptable reason to allow your emotions to interfere with your work. Burnt coffee? Well thats your fault. Hit every red light? You gotta plan ahead for that and make sure you leave early enough. A complaint about a previous shoot? Well what kind of complaint? That is vague. Maybe youre at fault for the complaint, maybe not. Arrives to work with 2 minutes to spare? Again, leave earlier. Empty stomach, again, who's fault is that. Seriously - what kind of "problems" are these? I wish that I had these kinds of "problems."

If these things are an acceptable reason to take something away from your job performance, I wouldnt invite you back for the sequel either.

But as far as emotions and a state of mind go, well, these are the exact tools of the actor. And those are his only tools. His emotions. And his state of mind.

Both the Actor and Dp prepare for the shoot. But the actor has to deliver, very literally, with his emotions and state of mind on clear display.



I've been acting for years and have taught acting classes to more than fifteen hundred students. I work with a technique called The Practical Aesthetic, developed by The Atlantic Theater Company under the auspices of David Mamet, because I disagree with your contention

"But as far as emotions and a state of mind go, well, these are the exact tools of the actor. And those are his only tools. His emotions. And his state of mind."

Many actors might function more effectively and more consistently with a technique based on behavioral choices rather than on emotionally based techniques. Also, for many actors, it might affect positively their day after the shoot, because they'll be far less likely to bring the so called character home with them if they haven't spent all all day attempting to conjure up dark emotions in order to play a dark part.
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#18 Keneu Luca

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 02:22 AM

I've been acting for years and have taught acting classes to more than fifteen hundred students. I work with a technique called The Practical Aesthetic, developed by The Atlantic Theater Company under the auspices of David Mamet, because I disagree with your contention

"But as far as emotions and a state of mind go, well, these are the exact tools of the actor. And those are his only tools. His emotions. And his state of mind."

Many actors might function more effectively and more consistently with a technique based on behavioral choices rather than on emotionally based techniques. Also, for many actors, it might affect positively their day after the shoot, because they'll be far less likely to bring the so called character home with them if they haven't spent all all day attempting to conjure up dark emotions in order to play a dark part.


I actually have studied the practical aesthetic as well. I read the The Practical Handbook for the Actor. I've also read True and False. And his book On Directing Film. I studied at their school in Manhattan. You may have misunderstood what I meant by my post.

Im not at all talking about sense memory or any of those other romanticized methods. Yes, while applying the practical aesthetics, we are reacting to the emotions of the other actor, not what they are saying, but how they say it and how they behave. And our emotional response is how we get what we want from them...not what we are saying, but the emotions and actions behind it. A clear state of mind, reacting truthfully to the actor, our environment, and the given circumstances of the script.

Many actors might function more effectively and more consistently with a technique based on behavioral choices rather than on emotionally based techniques.


I understand the distinction. And I agree with you. But the behavior that the actor displays is always based, somehow, on an emotion. It doesnt mean that the actor is actually feeling that emotion. But they need to know how to behave in a way to suggest that they are.

Again, and I may have even said it elsewhere in this forum, I do believe the practical aesthetic to be the best approach to acting.
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#19 Collin Davis

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 12:15 PM

For the most part a try to leave it at the door that is the fun of film making. One of the addictive parts of movie making especially as a DP is that it requires 100% of your attention. There is no room to worry about external stuff. So for 12 hours a day you are free from the stings and arrows of life. Then when the job is over your realize there is a lot of poop you aren?t dealing with.

I tend drop into a Zen state and it is all about the work at hand. It is rare that my personal emotions affect my work. I read the inner game of tennis and it really influenced my attitude to doing my job. I have good days and I have bad days and it often falls to the luck of the draw. I can have days where I make all the wrong decisions and know it and for some reason I luck out and do brilliant work. On the other hand there are days where I do everything right and have problems at every turn.


True.
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Technodolly

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