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DP TAKEOVER!!


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#1 Mitchell Yount

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Posted 06 October 2008 - 01:10 PM

Has your director of photography ever thought he/ she WAS THE DIRECTOR? Maybe its the name that gets them all excited? idk

MitchWhy
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#2 Ben Monday

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 12:06 AM

Yes Mitchell ... I've been there. Looking back at the whole thing maybe I gave him too much rope to be "creative" but that doesn't excuse that type of behavior. As you know in the middle of production there is only one captain and that needs to be made very clear. I was hesitant to "release" my DP as we were very far into production and didn't feel like starting back at square one .... my bad. In the end he was caught very off guard when I told him his services were no longer needed. I got the Ego of it being "his" project and "he wouldn't allow it", that one was good.
I really appreciate the job of the DP as I have tried it and it is no easy task. But we all need to know our position in the pecking order and keeping that mindset gets us the product in the end that the story was meant to be.
I have many personal and technical issues on the topic, but suffice to say lay the law down on day one and put it all in writing, that way no one is disillusioned.
DP's need to understand they are a very important part of the project but there are also important parts they have no control over that are also critical to telling the story. Editors and Music Directors play a significant role that can change the entire "feel" of the picture and are often the unsung hero's.
Let's look at the big picture, no pun intended.

Edited by Ben Monday, 08 October 2008 - 12:09 AM.

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#3 Allen Achterberg

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 02:12 AM

I'm sure this happens a lot. I'm not accusing you guys of this, but sometimes Director's Fail to lead. Some are so passive that nothing would get done if it weren't for SOMEONE to step in and make the day happen. If the DP does this out of Ego, then they will learn eventually that it's wrong. Director's often look to their DP's to Solutions and DP's are welcomed into "Making it Happen" and sometimes they need to step in there and do so. I strongly disagree with a DP stepping on the Toes of their Director, But I welcome a Director who trusts their DP to make some Directorial Choices.

Just talk about it. If your DP is causing problems, Pull them aside away from people and talk to them. Privately! Discuss it. Try to make things work for the both of you.
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#4 Paul Bruening

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Posted 08 October 2008 - 01:42 PM

Hey Mitch,

This thing about people fitting in and working smooth is really one of the central issues in a production. This is why productions are such a "hire people you've worked with before" kind of industry. While machines are a big part of the industry, it's really more of a people-factory. People working together efficiently to produce a very people oriented product. (Soylent green is people, too. It's peoplllllllle) When you're working on the bottom end of the industry... the free end, that is, you can't afford people who are already proven to be able to work in a group. You just don't know what kind of person you'll end up with. But it's good training for when you rise up. If you can work with and get some use out of the nut-bags you end up with on the bottom of the industry barrel, then you'll be a genius, later, with the real pros.

Another thing is: Directing a movie is a weird experience. It's not like leading a road construction crew, or a factory line, or even like theater direction. Almost every other group activity already knows what they are going to do. With movies you show up and just pull stuff out of your ass. Hollywood spends millions trying to reduce the near terror of spontaneous production by pre-visualizing, pre-producing, and plain old having people stand around waiting to respond to the director, actors and ranking crew. So, keep that in mind when your director is falling apart. Keep that in mind when your DP is stepping in too much. Constantly ask yourself, "How do I keep this production staff working together? How do I keep them thinking and acting as a unit? What kind of characteristics do I need to demonstrate to make this thing hold together?" That's your job first, before creating your vision. Keep them together and working.
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#5 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 12:37 AM

Lack of solid leadership and confidence is often what causes it to happen. Another is when you simply have a powerful ego working next to you.

You have to sort of work out guidelines, what is and what isn't acceptable to you. When you feel the line is being crossed too much, you have to let them know. The worst thing you can do is stomach it and let it happen, the more that happens the bigger the problem gets.

Confront properly, but actively. Be sure to mix in some praise for the guy or gal's vision and enthusiasm for the project. And if they walk, good for that too. You may have a scheduling issue now, but better deal with that than an ego collision. Those things can torpedo badly.

I realize I have a strong personality, which is why I decided that I can't be a cinematographer unless it's for my own project. I'm just being honest to my personality there. Other people want to be DP's but have a frustrated director inside of them. They either have to "explore these feelings" and get them out of their system, or understand there is one group of rules when you're doing one job, another when you're doing another.

Business is business. If someone signs up to be a DP, they realize that there is a chain of command. If they can't follow that, then there's always another hungry person with a good reel ready to take their place.
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#6 Adam Orton

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 03:47 PM

I realize I have a strong personality, which is why I decided that I can't be a cinematographer unless it's for my own project. I'm just being honest to my personality there. Other people want to be DP's but have a frustrated director inside of them. They either have to "explore these feelings" and get them out of their system, or understand there is one group of rules when you're doing one job, another when you're doing another.


Couldn't agree with you more. When I first got into film (not to imply that I'm really "in" film, just studying and making my own stuff) I wanted to be a DP because I loved how certain camera shots could create such amazing emotions. Then I realized if I was going to do this, I'd have to learn a bunch of technical stuff only to have my ideas be subjected to the director's storyboard at the end of the day. I also soon fell in love with screenwriting and acting, something I think I'm better at. So eventually the decision was made to pursue directing.

I think there are a lot of amazing DP's who would make excellent directors, but if they've been hired to be a DP, they need to be a DP for that project.
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#7 Chad MacKenzie

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 04:32 AM

First of all, the shoot I was on had no budget, and it only had enough money to buy the crew some food.

Second, the Director had no leadership, after each shot was done the Director would walk off and sit around. DP decided to take over and ordered everyone around.

I was the camera operator and ended up duct taping all the light cords for two hours, then the DP ordered a grip to be the camera op (that got me angry).

Lastly, I understand that the DP is the boss, but on a no budget film where there's about a 10 man crew the DP has to work along with the crew, like pick up sand bags, carry c-stands, etc. The DP would set up the lights, and set up the camera the way he wanted, and would sit down and eat chips and drink while we were supposed to be working.

And the DP spent almost two hours setting up four lights.


That shoot was a buzz kill.

Word of advice to others. If your Director doesn't know what he/she is doing...RUN
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#8 john Spear

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 11:40 AM

Lack of solid leadership and confidence is often what causes it to happen. Another is when you simply have a powerful ego working next to you.

You have to sort of work out guidelines, what is and what isn't acceptable to you. When you feel the line is being crossed too much, you have to let them know. The worst thing you can do is stomach it and let it happen, the more that happens the bigger the problem gets.

Confront properly, but actively. Be sure to mix in some praise for the guy or gal's vision and enthusiasm for the project. And if they walk, good for that too. You may have a scheduling issue now, but better deal with that than an ego collision. Those things can torpedo badly.

I realize I have a strong personality, which is why I decided that I can't be a cinematographer unless it's for my own project. I'm just being honest to my personality there. Other people want to be DP's but have a frustrated director inside of them. They either have to "explore these feelings" and get them out of their system, or understand there is one group of rules when you're doing one job, another when you're doing another.

Business is business. If someone signs up to be a DP, they realize that there is a chain of command. If they can't follow that, then there's always another hungry person with a good reel ready to take their place.


I would say, and there is room for error, that you are a Director at heart, which is great, and in your own projects, if you want to concentrate on the actors, say it is a piece with lots of drama and you are required to "father" the players into projecting real emotion and this requires time, patience, and you hire a DP to take over PART of the job which you are so familiar with, it can work yo your advantage, because you know his craft as well or better than him, and his ego is kept therefore on a leash so to speak, if he were to play "mutiny on the bounty", in that case his instinct will tell him that you are very capable of taking over his position and his loyalty will be kept in check. Sorry, but such is human nature. This does not mean that everyone or every DP behaves like this or like that, but it is often the case. And they are very reluctant to work side by side with other techs. Check this : DP FOR FEATURE (not cameraman) It seems to me like some kind of power struggle. There are certain "tricks of the trade" which are aimed precisely at evading or correcting such inappropiate methods of conduct by a DP towards a Director, and I could share them at some point.
The industry has had to deal with this for a long time, and although new to some, it is an old story. The Director is the boss and the buck stops there.
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#9 john Spear

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 12:09 PM

Has your director of photography ever thought he/ she WAS THE DIRECTOR? Maybe its the name that gets them all excited? idk

MitchWhy


I was directing a Thriller and had hired a young DP, he was hungry and pretty good but He started arriving late on the set and having everyone waiting as if he was the star of the show. An unbelievable ego possessed this person, although he had nothing to show for it. This trait can be dangerous, and it usually occurs to those who are starting out or have not climbed high enough to be humble towards the Director. I have operated Cameras all my life and grew up around sets and veteran professionals (my mother was literally rushed to the hospital from the set when I was born). The second time he arrived late we were in a studio, which we had rented to shoot some scenes, everyone was waiting. I picked up the phone and called the DP. He very calmly said, "I'll be there soon". My response was " If you are not here in 15 minutes or less I'm taking over the DP department. "How?" he asked, "you have a camera?" "I do and its loaded with my FUJI stock and ready to shoot". His tone changed suddenly: "No, no, I'll be there right away..." And he was. I actually had a better Cam. than his and I had brought it with me in case this happened, which I had suspected it would. When he arrived I had set up the scene and we were working the actors in rehearsal. Even though he did not like this happening in front of the crew, he behaved pretty professionally after that. You always must be prepared. Preparation is a must for every art and more so for the art of Motion Pictures. Check this: Some DP's prefer not to work than working in conjunction with others. It's a free and brave new world... Live and learn and keep on trucking...
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 08:07 PM

The Director is the boss and the buck stops there.


That is true but there's the possibility for the director to be incompetent like any other crewmember. That is what this thread is about, I believe.

As for one person running the camera, grip, and electric departments, haven't you ever wondered why that's the usual system? I respect your want to do things the best way but if it's been that way for nearly a hundred years, perhaps it's been that way because it is the best way.
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#11 David Rakoczy

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 10:26 PM

Amen Stephen.
Two points:


Actually the buck stops with the Investors.

Producers are genuinly appreciative when a DP heroes in a shoot in time and on budget... Despite the Director.

Edited by David Rakoczy, 18 November 2008 - 10:29 PM.

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#12 Glen Alexander

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 10:28 PM

oops wrong forum

Edited by Glen Alexander, 18 November 2008 - 10:29 PM.

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#13 john Spear

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 11:14 PM

I thought this thread was about a DP taking over the production, and acting as if he was the Director. Yes, perhaps he notices a weakness in the Director and he decides to "take over" the aspects of production. I very much doubt that the investors secured funding behind somebody that they thought would not be able to come in within budget and within schedule. An educated investor that is, because there is all types of "investors" but in a serious production (no matter how small) I think the individual who raised the funding, executive producer is not playing around with their money, so I don't think they would be happy to have a DP take over just to come in and deliver product in time. Film is an art. Oftentimes we forget... (the seventh an last one we have come across) a young one at that, and perhaps that is why it is so American, so to speak because this is a young country and it has "adopted" it with passion. Did I say Passion?

However even if the Director is incompetent your loyalty should be to him and not make him feel less that. In that there is a chance to show that the DP has some class and ethics. After all the vision is the director's, the colors you are painting should reflect that vision, however lacking he may be in other aspects, technical, timing etc. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes the DP, being the most capable to bring about a materialization of that vision becomes most egoistic and in my opinion "looses it". There is a parameter for everything in life, if you cross it it the balance is lost. Isn't it about balance? I think it is...

Edited by john Spear, 18 November 2008 - 11:18 PM.

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#14 Chris Keth

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 11:59 PM

I have never been in the DP nor the director's shoes in this kind of situation. I have, however, been on a nationally broadcast TV show on which the director was replaced because he clearly didn't care about the show in any way. He would go talk on his phone rather than participate.

Do you think our loyalty in that situation should be with the director?

In our situation, the DP and the supervising producer did both direct as much as they had to to keep making good scenes until the director was replaced.

Personally, I haven't read all of this thread but I have been taking most it to be situations where the shortcomings of the director have to be taken up by the DP. I don't see that as a bad thing. I see that as being professional and caring for the final product, as long as it's done in a courteous and professional manner. Not once did I think of a situation where the DP just storms in and takes over in every way. That would be ridiculous, not to mention being too much on a professional production for one person to take on and still keep pace.

Edited by Chris Keth, 19 November 2008 - 12:00 AM.

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#15 Andrew Koch

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 12:21 AM

There are plenty of incompetent directors on big budget films. You can have a first time director that the producers hired, who can be a risk to the investors. They may have been hired because of nepotism, they just got lucky, or any other reason. This is not true of the DP. It's pretty rare to have a first time DP shooting a huge budget hollywood picture. A seasoned DP could be shooting 4 pictures a year, whereas a director could be working on one film for several years, so in some cases, the DP could be much more experienced working on set than the director. I'm not saying this is an excuse for the DP to take over, but if the director is fumbling and running the film into the ground, the DP might need to help the director out. The DP is responsible for the photography of the film no matter what the situation.

What drives me crazy is the notion that people don't need to earn respect. A director who is on point and prepared and treats people kindly is someone who deserves respect. A director could be totally unprepared and tyrannical. If the DP makes a suggestion, this person might pull rank and say "you can't tell me what to do, I am the Director with a capital D. It's my film, even though someone else is paying for it" Of course I would never suggest that it is okay to disrespect your boss even if he is incompetent.

I have only been at this business for about 5 years, but here is my observation. I would love to hear from the more experienced on this one because I'm pretty sure you would know this better but anyway, here I go: I have seen a couple times where the DP took over. Two of the times it was because the Director was unprepared and at one point even fell asleep during a take. There was one shoot I was on where the DP was self serving and made the director do things so he could have pretty stuff on his reel. (unacceptable in my opinion)These were unusual situations. These were not the majority. Most problem shoots I have been on were when the Director would try to take over the DPs job.

Most directors I shoot for are fantastic to work with and I find it very enjoyable, including first time directors. However, some first time directors I have worked with thought they knew everything and would try and take over. Here are some of the things these directors would do without discussing with me at all: Grabbing the camera in the middle of a take so they could operate and get the boom in the shot, going directly to the gaffer and telling them how to light the scene, choosing the filmstock, telling the AC when and where to rack focus, color correcting the footage. These were rare cases, but they are an example of DIRECTOR TAKEOVER. This can also be the DP's fault if they do not establish boundaries and also prove their competency.
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#16 Mark Inducil

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 07:50 PM

I've had some bad experiences working with first time directors and usually the problem is that they don't know what they want or they can't communicate what they want for the shot. I ask them what the shot is about and they tell me 'oh, I want a close-up' but what I wanted to know about is what the shot's emotional context so I can give advice on whether we should shoot it in a low angle, a high angle, tracking etc. Once I know the director doesn't really know what he's doing I try to give suggestions and maybe that's why some of them think I'm trying to take over.

Some directors know the context of the entire script and these are ones I can work well with (and trust) because instead of us trying to guess what each one is trying to achieve we're passing ideas back and forth trying to get what the goal of the shot is.

Ridley Scott said (this may not be his actual words) 'when you're a director, you direct, you don't muck around'

Anyways, these are all just my opinions and observations from my experiences. Obviously it's hard to trust a director who doesn't know what he's doing.

Edited by Mark Inducil, 18 June 2009 - 07:52 PM.

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#17 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 11:59 PM

Well, there certainly are a lot of reasons why a DP might "take over" or least be perceived to be taking over.

Directors need to understand something about DPs and the entire crew: most Directors will maybe direct somewhere between five to ten projects (films) in their life... if they're lucky. Most people on a crew will work on three to four (and more) sets per YEAR working with many different Directors with vastly different levels of experience. So, while a "new" Director may think he/she is reinventing the wheel, a DP may have seen it before and may A) know that it won't really work for one reason or another or B) knows that it can work, but only if they shoot it a certain way. Ideally, the technical/creative team is hired to COMPLEMENT the project...they are not the Director's hired hands. EVERYONE, including the Director, are just cogs in the wheel that are all working to make the project successful... they are not all there just to make the Director feel creatively fulfilled. SO, if the DP, who likely has far more production experience than the Director, recognizes that there may be a better way to accomplish something, the Director should be open to suggestions from the experienced crew who are all there, along with him, to bring the project to its full potential.

Of course, that is the idealistic view of the world, and the reality is often very different in that Directors often feel that whatever they say must go no matter what. In that case, a DP should recognize that situation and either choose to leave the project and go work with someone else who isn't on that kind of power trip, or stay and let the Director succeed or fail on his/her own. It can quickly become a situation where the DP (or anyone else on set, really) silently says, "I'll be over here when you're ready for me" instead of a project where the expertise and experience of the technical and creative crew is utilized to its fullest potential.

A DP who "takes over" isn't always really taking over in a malicious manner. It can easily be a situation where the Director clearly doesn't know what he/she is doing and a Producer may quietly ask (or not so quietly start pointing fingers at) the DP and/or the AD to get things moving "or else." The Director may actually be the weak link but isn't catching the pressure for it so those with the skill are asked to pick up the slack lest their own jobs be jeopardized.


Anyway, that's just another pov on this issue for what it's worth.
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#18 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 12:06 AM

All that said, I once saw an OPERATOR take over a film. This guy would actually go around the Director and "discuss" with the Producers at Video Village shot choices AND things like character motivations. It was pretty incredible and everyone else on set agreed they had never seen anything quite like it, but he got away with it for about three months. More than once, I witnessed this Operator openly dismissing the Director's request for a shot (angle, lens) in order to do it his way. :blink:

So who's fault was that? And was it anyone's "fault" when all of those above him let it happen?
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#19 Peter Moretti

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 02:54 AM

Well, there certainly are a lot of reasons why a DP might "take over" or least be perceived to be taking over.

Directors need to understand something about DPs and the entire crew: most Directors will maybe direct somewhere between five to ten projects (films) in their life... if they're lucky. Most people on a crew will work on three to four (and more) sets per YEAR working with many different Directors with vastly different levels of experience. So, while a "new" Director may think he/she is reinventing the wheel, a DP may have seen it before and may A) know that it won't really work for one reason or another or B) knows that it can work, but only if they shoot it a certain way. Ideally, the technical/creative team is hired to COMPLEMENT the project...they are not the Director's hired hands. EVERYONE, including the Director, are just cogs in the wheel that are all working to make the project successful... they are not all there just to make the Director feel creatively fulfilled. SO, if the DP, who likely has far more production experience than the Director, recognizes that there may be a better way to accomplish something, the Director should be open to suggestions from the experienced crew who are all there, along with him, to bring the project to its full potential.

...

A DP who "takes over" isn't always really taking over in a malicious manner. It can easily be a situation where the Director clearly doesn't know what he/she is doing and a Producer may quietly ask (or not so quietly start pointing fingers at) the DP and/or the AD to get things moving "or else." The Director may actually be the weak link but isn't catching the pressure for it so those with the skill are asked to pick up the slack lest their own jobs be jeopardized.


Anyway, that's just another pov on this issue for what it's worth.


I remember reading where Stephen Spielberg wanted to shoot Jaws with cameras locked down on tripods attached to the deck. And he was told no, that's not the way to film on a boat rolling about the water. Maybe it's apocryphal, IDK.

I did recently listen to a director talk about a shoot he was on where the "sound girl" kept on asking for extra time, silence on the set to record lots or room tone, and even some retakes. I asked how the sound went in post, b/c it sounded very good during the showing. He said, "Oh it went very smoothly. One of the only times... hum maybe the only time... I didn't need to bring anyone back." He had this look on his face of first time recognition that maybe the sound girl actually did her job properly.

This is different from someone taking over however.
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#20 Chris Keth

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 08:33 AM

All that said, I once saw an OPERATOR take over a film. This guy would actually go around the Director and "discuss" with the Producers at Video Village shot choices AND things like character motivations. It was pretty incredible and everyone else on set agreed they had never seen anything quite like it, but he got away with it for about three months. More than once, I witnessed this Operator openly dismissing the Director's request for a shot (angle, lens) in order to do it his way. :blink:

So who's fault was that? And was it anyone's "fault" when all of those above him let it happen?


Wow, I wonder if that guy does it habitually. It doesn't seem like that behavior could last all that long.
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