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Directors relationship with the DP


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#1 Robert Sawin

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 10:51 PM

Hi all, Ok I have a question about the Directors relationship with the DP. I noticed that there are two types of Directors the ones that are technically inclined and the ones who are not so technically affluent. Directors like Martin Scorsese I believe is a technical director but Julie Taymor isn't so much. as for me I am very much a director that loves the technical side of things but I am unsure of how the relationship exist between the two. More specifically when it comes to shot selection, composition and lighting for mood. is there any line or is it more something that varies from DP to DP and Director to Director.

any thoughts?

Thanks
Robert Sawin
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 12:23 AM

For myself, mood, composition, lighting and the like comes out of conversations I have with the director on those things. I think most directors are collaborative, and want the input from others. At the end of the day, I will shoot what he thinks is best of course, but most directors I've worked with have also bee grateful for any input I could give. Take that for what it's worth, of course.
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#3 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 03:48 AM

hi
as a cinematographer you technicaly achieve what ,you understood, is in the dirctor's head.
it means you can also help the director to understand himself what's in his mind by asking precize questions and then give ideas to push in his way.
if i don't understand a director or i don't agree with his ideas or he constantly say no to my propositions, i prefer to turn down the film. filming will be a nightmare for me and him and the movie will be bad or not as gould as i could be
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#4 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 10:31 AM

The DP/Director relationship is a very important collaborative effort to understand each others ideas. Typically, once this is established and the trust is set forth, there is no hard line, if you (DP) have a creative idea on how the shot may drive the story, by all means standup and say something. The director should appreciate your suggestions about this.

The same is to be said for the operator. I have been left along with the director to make the shot happen, while the DP dealt with lighting the set, but there are hard and clear lines for an operator to work within. Anything outside of moving the camera should go thru the DP to the director.
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#5 Jim Keller

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 02:25 PM

Ultimately, what gets shot is the director's call, and it's the job of the DP to realize what the director is going for. Where the line between "It's a two-shot, make it look good" and "This is the way I want you to shoot it" will vary from director to director. As will the amount of input the director wants from the DP.

Really, the trick is to sit down and have a long conversation with the director before you take the job. If the director is going for a specific look and feel that you're not comfortable with, or the director's style of communication doesn't sit well with you, or if you vastly disagree about the interpretation of the script, then it's not going to be a good experience for either of you, and you should not take the job thinking otherwise. However, if you sit down and you're instantly feeding off each others' vision, then it doesn't matter how hands-on or hands-off the director is, you're going to feel invigorated by the creative synthesis you have together.
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#6 Adam Orton

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 03:27 PM

This is just an example of me....I've never directed a large production before....Even though I consider myself a very technically oriented filmmaker, having a DP in charge of the camera, lights, and shots was absolutely priceless and allowed me to concentrate on the actors. And this is even with a small-scale 16mm production. That's just me. Some other director might like to take more control of everything...I worked on a feature last summer where the director was the camera operator, DP, and sometimes gaffer. Yeah, it was low-budget ($15,000) and everyone was doing multiple things, but I still think the director-operator-DP-gaffer hyphenate was ridiculous. Fortunately for him, he had an amazing cast and a lot of time for retakes. If they [the cast] weren't on their game, his movie would probably be terrible. (Then again, I haven't seen it yet)

To add, I've noticed a lot of DP's on here have expressed frustration with directors who think they are colorists. (Maybe not necessarily even technically inclined directors). Technology and desktop power seems to be pushing this more and more.... (think Coen Bros.) Do you think it's inappropriate for directors to do this if they have a very clear idea of what they want to do with the color in post? Does this cross the line? I personally like playing with color and did it for a short film I just directed, but for a longer film that I'm planning, I'm gladly letting my DP take care of it. Even though I will be the director, and it's weird to say this, I think my DP will actually care more about the image in the end.

Edited by Adam Orton, 25 November 2008 - 03:28 PM.

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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 03:44 PM

Well the DP is paid to primarily be concerned with the image, whereas the director is paid to be concerned with the film as a whole. Just my take Adam.
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#8 Adam Orton

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Posted 25 November 2008 - 04:00 PM

Mmmm, money.
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#9 Chris Keth

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Posted 26 November 2008 - 05:44 PM

Besides a DP being hired by production to see the images through all stages to be the best it can be, there is also a physical reason I think the DP should be involved with color timing. They, after all, are trained to create the finest images. They may see things that the direct doesn't, or can't. I do believe that our visual acuity is in great part trained.

For example, I can see color with much finer accuracy than I could several years ago. I can see the green in fluorescents where I never noticed it before. 2 points of a color in photoshop means something to my eyes where it never did before. I am young, older more experiences DPs are likely to have an even greater ability.

DPs involve themselves in this training every day at work. Some directors may have similar visual training, some may not. If you're a director, you should think of this as a service, not a hindrance.
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 26 November 2008 - 09:58 PM

Also many DPs will have a working relationship with colorists which can be helpful. I try to use the same one always, same facility etc, which creates short hand which means less time in the suite, and perchance less money spent.
For myself, Chris, I know what you mean about the Floro green/yellowish sometimes. Subway rides are fun due to that. . .
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#11 Adam Orton

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Posted 26 November 2008 - 10:24 PM

Besides a DP being hired by production to see the images through all stages to be the best it can be, there is also a physical reason I think the DP should be involved with color timing. They, after all, are trained to create the finest images. They may see things that the direct doesn't, or can't. I do believe that our visual acuity is in great part trained.

For example, I can see color with much finer accuracy than I could several years ago. I can see the green in fluorescents where I never noticed it before. 2 points of a color in photoshop means something to my eyes where it never did before. I am young, older more experiences DPs are likely to have an even greater ability.

DPs involve themselves in this training every day at work. Some directors may have similar visual training, some may not. If you're a director, you should think of this as a service, not a hindrance.


Awesome advice. Thanks!
So far I haven't been at the point where I need someone to actually time my film...everything I've done has finished on digital so I've never looked at it as something that's that hard to do to get a decent image. (What with the ease of color wheels in any standard NLE these days) However, I never thought of it as how you described the skill. (Which is why I'm glad I'm learning this here before getting kicked in the face later, haha)

But yeah, like the longer movie I'm working on that's still in post, I'm really glad my DP is doing all the color stuff :rolleyes: I'll quit hijacking this thread now.

Edited by Adam Orton, 26 November 2008 - 10:25 PM.

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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 26 November 2008 - 11:58 PM

Adrian raises another good point. A DP is definitely going to be able to speak specifically and directly to a colorist, in terms he or she can directly relate to adjustments to the image. A director may get to the same place, they may not. It depends on the person. If you're a director, you need to decide if you have that skill. Again, it is a service that your DP will probably be happy to provide and you probably should take advantage of having that person there in the suite.
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#13 Adam Orton

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Posted 27 November 2008 - 12:31 AM

Definitely. Thanks Adrian! And also, I think I'll leave the color up to the DP :-)
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#14 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 29 November 2008 - 08:53 PM

This may be slightly OT, but I think a lot of times directors (especially in the low-budg world) can be intimidated by the DP's, who are often the most technically-adept on set. Its best to get past these feelings and let the DP do his job -- from Pre- to Post-, because after all, the DP is in service to the greater project and will often fade into the background as the picture gains prominence (or failure -- gulp!). Nobody wants to be the guy who shot Don Coscarelli's Survival Quest (ooh, sorry Mr. Okada!)*, so please, please, from an AC's standpoint: let the DP have his due!


*Confession: I LOVE Don Coscarelli, especially Survival Quest and Phantasm IV: OblIVion?
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#15 john Spear

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 07:42 AM

Some directors started out as editors and in my experience these are the most inclined to technique. Others were actors and ended up directing and these are more inclined towards the artistic side of things, although this is not a rule of thumb. Directors who studied to be directors seem the most versitile when dealing with the story as far as the DP is concerned, but also the most complicated, since they want to cover so much and usually have very pssessive personalities. Then there are those that came to directing from the capacities of a writer. These many times are very good at communicating their ideas to the DP, and I feel are really good Directors. Even first time Directors. I guess it varies...
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