Jump to content


Photo

The Crime of Impersonating a Cinematographer


  • Please log in to reply
28 replies to this topic

#1 Chris Durham

Chris Durham
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 290 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • New York, NY

Posted 09 February 2009 - 04:03 PM

Whenever I read things like the latest AC article about Jack Green describing years and years of work as operator and AC before being ready to take on the mantle of cinematographer, I am not only humbled, but kind of embarrassed. I mean, I've been making movies for 3 years now, and I sometimes refer to myself as Director of Photography or Cinematographer. I do this because I'm playing that role on an independent production - running lights and camera, and in many cases actually directing grips ACs and second operators in doing so. But every time I have to call myself a DP I cringe a little.

DP is a little bit better because it at least, in practical terms, describes the job function I'm performing. But the term Cinematographer is so revered really, at least in my mind, and refers to a pursuit of such dedication that I feel sort of pretentious calling myself one. That being said, I'm getting work as a DP and there's not much escaping the title. It's time to get some business cards printed and the thought of putting the word "cinematographer" on them kinda scares me. I mean, I've got this nightmare fantasy that I hand a card to a bona fide DP and he just thinks "yeah, right." and I look like a dick.

So I don't really know the point of this post. Like I said, I just feel self-conscious about it. I think part of me wants someone to give me permission and another knows that it doesn't matter and the proof is in the images. Just frustrated.. Argh.

...Alright, off to make cards.
  • 0

#2 Saul Rodgar

Saul Rodgar
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1682 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 09 February 2009 - 04:11 PM

What is in a name?

It is all relative, of course. I prefer using the term cinematographer myself. But I have been quietly taking pictures and making motion pictures since high school, at least 17 years, and drawing and painting since I was a kid. However, no one infers that I am at the level of Conrad Hall, say. And starting as an AC and operator does not a cinematographer automatically make.
  • 0

#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

Jonathan Bowerbank
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2815 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 09 February 2009 - 04:23 PM

Despite Storaro's views on the term DP, I like to think that "Cinematographer" encompasses all the lighting & image acquisition roles, ie. DPs, Operators, ACs & Gaffers.

DP: for obvious reason

Operator: Obviously because he's the one with his eye to the viewfinder, offering creative solutions to achieving the shot the DP and Director want.

AC: Although often not necessarily always part of the creative team, all AC's are cinematographers, I think we can all agree to that.

Gaffer: Under the direction of the DP, he's lighting the scene. And without light, there's no picture. And I'm sure many DP's certainly view their gaffer's as great artists who understand light and how to shape it. Not surprisingly, many gaffers become DP's, regardless of the fact that they probably don't know a whole lot about camera equipment.

I guess my point is that I'm much more comfortable with the term Cinematographer. In fact, on my business card I have "Cinematographer" as my title, with the roles of DP, AC, Camera Op in fine print below it. I have two versions, depending on who I'm giving my card to. One in the aforementioned order, and another with AC written first, just if I happen to be handing my card to another DP who's looking to hire an AC :)
  • 0

#4 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7117 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 09 February 2009 - 04:50 PM

One could say you become a DP or a Cinematographer as soon as you're hired as such. Of course, just because you're hired as such doesn't mean you'll do a good job. . . As said, it's just a title and it's given to you because that's your job. The real meaning-- and this is just for me-- comes not when I generate an invoice which says "director of photography" or "cinematographer," but rather when one of my peers says to me, "hey that looks really good." I beam when that happens, though I do try to control it. Biggest point is this-- don't let any title go to your head.
  • 0

#5 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11937 posts
  • Other

Posted 09 February 2009 - 05:21 PM

I have never referred to myself as a director of photography, but several other people have, to my cringing embarrassment.

On the chilly Hades morning I was given a full crew to play with, I'd probably end up doing it on the basis of wandering around with a light meter describing the sort of results I wanted to the gaffer, allowing him or her to sort out the details of implementation. While I understand that certain people do actually do it like this, I suspect it's only OK to play those games once you've learned how to be very specific indeed, as you could easily end up asking for the unachievable or, conversely, wasting rental money on unused gear.

I also suspect that an experienced crew can smell an inexperienced director of photography at 500 paces - the same probably goes for actors and directors, too, and that probably happens much more often. This situation has arisen for me only a couple of times, and in each case they were commendably polite about it and I don't think that there was any ill feeling because nobody was pretending that the situation was anything other than what it was; there is a strange sort of relationship that can exist in these situations, rather as recently-qualified military officers find when working with a much more experienced sergeant. Hopefully I can at least recognise when I'm being carried.

P
  • 0

#6 Satsuki Murashige

Satsuki Murashige
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3510 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 09 February 2009 - 10:04 PM

I honestly wouldn't worry about it. When you work with a DP, you'll know their experience level within the first 15 minutes of shooting. If the experience level is appropriate to the project (student film, low-budget short, etc.) then it shouldn't be a problem. We all have to start from someplace anyway - it's nothing to be embarrassed about. The worst thing is to pretend to know more than you do, or to have an ego about what little you do know - only then do you deserve to be called out. Like Storaro says, he was "Vittorio Storaro: Cinematographer" on his first film - he was hired for his ideas and skills at the time so he should have been allowed to express them without fear of being judged inadequate. In fact, he threatened to walk after his first day because he thought the director did not respect his input but only wanted someone to point the camera and record the scene.

An experienced DP has the ability to see problems and nuances in the frame that a less-experienced shooter would only catch 10 minutes later. I've had the humbling experience of mentioning to an older DP that I saw a problem with something in his frame only to have him snap back at me that he knew what he was doing. Sure enough, he had two grips working on it already. So I learned to keep my mouth shut on set until I knew what was going on. Now I speak up and give my opinion to the DP only when I've been asked to specifically or when I work with a peer that I know well.

Anyway, I think the term cinematographer is more inclusive of different type of shooters. For example, I think most people would agree that Stan Brakage was a cinematographer but not a director of photography, since he never directed a crew of grips, electrics, and ACs on his films. The same might be said of Stanley Kubrick, Nathaniel Dorsky, Ridley Scott, etc. So if you want, call yourself a cinematographer - no one is going to challenge you or even care. If you make a living shooting, then I don't see the conflict.
  • 0

#7 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5482 posts
  • Director

Posted 09 February 2009 - 10:15 PM

Why worry at all? Tons of people in this industry call themselves "directors" even though they've never directed any thing or made any money at it. So you have a lot more basis to call your self just about any thing you want compared to many people in this industry.

In some ways the best thing to come along was IMDB. At least it stops people from making outlandish claims about their credits.

R,
  • 0

#8 Satsuki Murashige

Satsuki Murashige
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3510 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 09 February 2009 - 10:44 PM

Why worry at all? Tons of people in this industry call themselves "directors" even though they've never directed any thing or made any money at it.

Yeah, but director is an entry level position - anybody can do it! :rolleyes:
  • 0

#9 James Steven Beverly

James Steven Beverly
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 4199 posts
  • Director
  • El Paso, Texas

Posted 09 February 2009 - 11:55 PM

Yeah, but director is an entry level position - anybody can do it! :rolleyes:


Well, thank God for that. If I actually had to know what I was doing, I'd be in real trouble. :D
  • 0

#10 Jaron Berman

Jaron Berman
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 160 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • New York, NY

Posted 10 February 2009 - 01:58 AM

IMDB is a joke. Ever look into how you get "listed?" It's no better than an inflated resume. If someone makes outlandish claims, ask for references. Call them then call OTHER people from those shows and ask how Mr./Mrs. bigshot was on set. That will probably tell an entirely different story than a line of text on IMDB.

Why worry at all? Tons of people in this industry call themselves "directors" even though they've never directed any thing or made any money at it. So you have a lot more basis to call your self just about any thing you want compared to many people in this industry.


I actually have patience for first-time directors or entry level directors because they come from so many different backgrounds. A lot of directors were writers and have no knowledge of the technicalities of film. They know language and performance and because that's their job. I worked with a "first time director" who happened to have more than 30 years stunt coordinating and acting on A-list films. He'd never directed before or made money off it, but he was an excellent director and had very good instincts. DP's on the other hand should have excellent and intimate knowledge of the filmmaking process. This is the above the line / below the line argument, but DP's are tradesmen. Paid to do a job. Directors are paid to artistically approach the generation of performances from actors and tradesmen. Obviously there are holes in my reasoning, but I feel it's an art vs. craft argument, and I find the nuts and bolts of filmmaking in progress to be craft where the final product and culmination of the entire team can at times reach art.
  • 0

#11 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5482 posts
  • Director

Posted 10 February 2009 - 02:14 AM

IMDB is a joke. Ever look into how you get "listed?" It's no better than an inflated resume. If someone makes outlandish claims, ask for references. Call them then call OTHER people from those shows and ask how Mr./Mrs. bigshot was on set. That will probably tell an entirely different story than a line of text on IMDB.


Well getting listed on IMDB is much more difficult than making up stuff and putting it on a resume. In order to get credited the show you worked on needs to be in the data base first. Getting the show into the data base is not always so easy since the submitter needs to prove that the show was accessible to the public in some way i.e. via a film festival, or TV broadcast.

These "hoops" are more difficult than simply telling some one what you did on set. I'm amazed at how influential IMDB has become, I have seen from first hand experience employers going straight to IMDB as a first step in verifying some one's resume.

R,
  • 0

#12 Mike Lary

Mike Lary
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 472 posts
  • Other

Posted 10 February 2009 - 02:33 AM

Chris, what do you see as the difference between a Director of Photography and a Cinematographer? I know some people make the distinction between the two as being managerial vs. artistic while sharing the same technical responsibilities, but at the high end they are interchangeable. Others say they are completely interchangeable with only perceived differences. I'm curious as to your thoughts.
  • 0

#13 Michael LaVoie

Michael LaVoie
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 719 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 10 February 2009 - 06:35 AM

Even though I'm working as a DP and have been making a living at it for a while, I understand totally about feeling like an imposter. It has nothing to do with my work which I feel fine about but rather the onus that is placed once you start using the title of a cinematographer because, in this business, that title purports that you've either shot movies that have played in multiplexes or you've worked on television shows or you're basically nowhere. Few people know of or care about the purgatory of the low/no budget film scene and those of us who are doing are time there work in modest anonymity with no acknowledgment or recognition of our efforts. It's tough when the question "What do you do?" comes up. I feel good about doing what I love but I also know that most people will judge me based solely on whether I've shot anyone famous and so in that sense, I usually don't bother talking about what I do and I don't bring it up. On the other hand, always show confidence to potential employers and I learned early on that almost everyone on set is a potential director one day. Call yourself what you want based on your goals.
  • 0

#14 K Borowski

K Borowski
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 3905 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • I.A.T.S.E. Local # 600 Eastern Region

Posted 10 February 2009 - 07:47 AM

A cinematographer is anyone that has captured a moving image with a camera. A director of photography is anyone that has directed the photography of a motion picture. Simple as that.

Feel bad if you put "ASC" after your name when you are not in the ASC, not this. Remember, half of life is BS and exaggeration. So remember, this is what your competition is doing while you're feeling guilty.
  • 0

#15 David Rakoczy

David Rakoczy
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1579 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • USA

Posted 10 February 2009 - 08:40 AM

A cinematographer is anyone that has captured a moving image with a camera. A director of photography is anyone that has directed the photography of a motion picture. Simple as that.

Feel bad if you put "ASC" after your name when you are not in the ASC, not this. Remember, half of life is BS and exaggeration. So remember, this is what your competition is doing while you're feeling guilty.



Exactly.
  • 0

#16 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11937 posts
  • Other

Posted 10 February 2009 - 08:45 AM

few people know of or care about the purgatory of the low/no budget film scene


Actually, I think most of us do...
  • 0

#17 Sean Elder

Sean Elder
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 76 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Houston, Texas

Posted 10 February 2009 - 09:55 AM

I am pretty sure in the wealth of knowledge that has been spread over this forum my question has been answered to a certain degree, but I will ask none-the-less. How would one position themselves as a DP of Cinematographer? I understand you can fluff your way into these positions, but how would you develop the mental lexicon needed for either or both of these positions?
  • 0

#18 David Rakoczy

David Rakoczy
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1579 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • USA

Posted 10 February 2009 - 11:43 AM

DP and Cinematographer are the same thing.. except that Cinematographer usually refers to one working with Film... if you wanted to distinguish that within the title itself.

As far as the how?... simple... read, watch films, shoot, visit sets, work for free, read some more, keep shooting, pray, keep working for free, keep shooting, gain experience, create your reputation, keep shooting, pray some more... start wherever you can and just do it. Even taking baby steps can (eventually) get you there.
  • 0

#19 Sean Elder

Sean Elder
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 76 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Houston, Texas

Posted 10 February 2009 - 11:55 AM

DP and Cinematographer are the same thing.. except that Cinematographer usually refers to one working with Film... if you wanted to distinguish that within the title itself.

As far as the how?... simple... read, shoot, watch films, visit sets, work for free, read some more, keep shooting, pray, keep working for free, keep shooting, gain experience, create your reputation, keep shooting, pray some more... start wherever you can and just do it. Even taking baby steps can (eventually) get you there.



Thank You I think that that is the best answer that I have gotten. I really appreciate this site and how it has helped me and other people like me.
  • 0

#20 Chris Durham

Chris Durham
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 290 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • New York, NY

Posted 10 February 2009 - 12:02 PM

Hey everybody, thanks for the responses. On the low budget projects I work these days, Cinematographer and Director of Photography are basically synonymous. I run the "camera department" which is often myself, an AC, and a grip or two; but I also advise on technical aspects and collaborate on the look. I work as my own gaffer and operator. Sometimes I direct another operator. I understand the term "Cinematographer" is fairly broad and applies to the artistry of things, and this is where I get skittish about using it. For the size of projects I work on I have more technical acumen than many other "DP's" operating in the same arena. As an artist though, I feel pretentious using a term that implies a degree of mastery when I'm really not even a journeyman. I suppose, though, that as long as I can keep my wits and humility about me and not misrepresent myself, I'm doing okay. Dallas is a small market and I guess that if I'm not worth my salt I won't have work for long. Like i said before, the proof is in the pictures.
  • 0


rebotnix Technologies

Willys Widgets

Wooden Camera

CineTape

Technodolly

CineLab

Opal

Tai Audio

Visual Products

Ritter Battery

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Glidecam

FJS International, LLC

Paralinx LLC

Aerial Filmworks

Abel Cine

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Metropolis Post

The Slider

Ritter Battery

Wooden Camera

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

CineTape

Willys Widgets

rebotnix Technologies

Visual Products

Technodolly

Tai Audio

Aerial Filmworks

Metropolis Post

Glidecam

Abel Cine

Rig Wheels Passport

Broadcast Solutions Inc

FJS International, LLC

The Slider

Opal

CineLab

Paralinx LLC