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#1 Damon Tidwell

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 05:44 AM

I'm going to need your honest opinions regarding cinematographer getting all the credit.

Whenever I worked on the set as crew member, I found it very strange when so called DP don't know what they're doing. They're depend on their AC and gaffer. Few years ago, a young DP had a veteran AC (20+ years SOC member) and 10 years experience gaffer. These guys know their STUFF but the DP was not very good giving direction. At the end of the night, the producers were truly impressed by him.

Also, I worked on another music video and the DP was even worse, in my opinion the gaffer should've been a DP because he's smart and FAST. The DP's very slow and indecisive. I said to myself...WTF. Recently, I saw the video for the first time on youtube (it came out good) and then check his website and he shot over 100 music videos, features and commericals (90% of the time he used the same gaffer).

I know some DP jump into the game without any type of training or experiences. I thought it better to start from bottom and understand all three dept. before becoming a DP.

My fellow DP told me " make sure you hire a GOOD gaffer " What you guys think ?

I want to shoot again...
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#2 David Rakoczy

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 07:45 AM

I believe the best Dps come from gaffing.. nothing worse than hiring a DP who can't shoot until Wednesday because his gaffer is not available till then. Many call for 'Lighting Cameramen' to be sure their DP knows how to Light. I believe (to be) a DP one should know how to Light. I am very glad I worked my way up through the Grip/ Elec... Best Boy Grip/ Best Boy Elec... Key Grip/ Gaffer worlds.... THEN becoming a DP. While Operating helped me become a better Director in that I felt very comfortable getting all the 'coverage' needed, I feel, if you want to DP, I highly suggest you learn to Key/ Gaff first. No doubt others will have differing opinions but for me Camera (Stocks, Lenses & Filters) was easier to learn than the endless tricks of the trade employed to use all the equipment available to achieve certain cinematic lighting effects. I respect any DP who can actually set a C Stand correctly even though he should never have to. The difficult part is trying to forget all that and just tell your crew (once you are a DP)... the feel of the scene and the 'feel' of the Light that you are looking for as opposed to telling them exactly what Lamp you want where and what exact diffusion you want to use etc.. etc... basically gaffing from the Dolly. This is not good and has taken me a while to learn to speak in broader terms and letting my Gaffer do the rest. They often come up with a better method than what I had in mind to create an effect. Either way tho.. when push comes to shove.. I know what I want and I know how to do it... from the bottom up. ;)

That being said... always hire the best Gaffer/ Key Grip and Camera Crews you can afford!!!!
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 10:16 AM

The fact that a DP wants to hire a good Gaffer, or the same Gaffer regularly, is not an indication one way or the other of their ability to light. It just makes sense to get good people in each position.

I didn't climb up the crew ladder, I've always been a cinematographer. But I had an aptitude for lighting even in my Super-8 days when I only had one light. In fact, lighting is probably what I'm best at, it's what interests me the most.

And even though I didn't climb up the crew ladder professionally, I did my own short films as director/DP for a decade before going professional, and in those cases, I was a one-man band.
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#4 Damon Tidwell

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 02:00 PM

The fact that a DP wants to hire a good Gaffer, or the same Gaffer regularly, is not an indication one way or the other of their ability to light. It just makes sense to get good people in each position.

I didn't climb up the crew ladder, I've always been a cinematographer. But I had an aptitude for lighting even in my Super-8 days when I only had one light. In fact, lighting is probably what I'm best at, it's what interests me the most.

And even though I didn't climb up the crew ladder professionally, I did my own short films as director/DP for a decade before going professional, and in those cases, I was a one-man band.


David,

I felt the same way too. I have had alway been a cinematographer since college as one-man band. When do you know it's time to go on your own become a cinematographer full time ?

I have a hard time getting a job as a crew member but never stop learning and hone my craft. I am confidence and talented. Sometime my mind tell me to join the crew first but my heart tell me to stay as cinematographer.
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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 05:24 PM

I'm going to need your honest opinions regarding cinematographer getting all the credit.

Well, who said life (and the film business) was fair... Some people just get lucky and that's the way it is, so get used to it! ;)

If it's any consolation, the crew will always know what the deal is. Those DPs you mentioned are gonna have to put up with a lot of smack talked behind their backs for a while. That said, being a successful DP involves more than just knowing your craft. I've noticed the people who start strong are good at networking, asking for favors, and selling themselves to producers, even if they can't back it up yet. Because of that, they get to work a lot and learn quickly so they end up further ahead than those who haven't developed their people skills.

Sometime my mind tell me to join the crew first but my heart tell me to stay as cinematographer.

A LOT of us are trying to do both at the same time, ACing, gripping, etc. while shooting projects (often for free or nearly so) on the side. While it's a great way to learn by watching other DPs work in a professional environment, you won't really grow as a DP from those experiences until you put those techniques into practice yourself and make your own mistakes. However, it's the only way most of us can make enough money to support ourselves at the moment.

I would say if you can make a living as a DP right from the start, then that's the way to go. Passion has a way of fading over time if you don't follow it, and you don't want to spend the next 20 years of your life "moving up the ladder" only to realize by the end that being a DP is not really what you want to do anymore. By then of course, you've passed up a lot of opportunities for other life experiences which you may regret...

One caveat - I have a gaffer friend from LA who has been shooting on the side for 3 years or so, and she said that almost all of the DPs she had worked with coming up in the electric department would no longer hire her for those jobs when they found out she was shooting too. She had to drop out of the union for lack of work and had to start over. So I guess in LA, once you're in the system and you decide to move up professionally, then there's no going back. Something to think about.
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#6 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 06:18 PM

These guys know their STUFF but the DP was not very good giving direction.



Well I suppose lighting well to a schedule and efficiently running a camera aren't the only aspects a DP needs, framing, understanding staging and camera movement, trying to make the directors vision physically practical are all aspects too, there are probably many more.

And yes in life there are many instances where credit (the financial sort too!) is given to the wrong individuals.

Its at those moments you need to remember what Mr Kipling said:


IF.....

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
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#7 Bruce Greene

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 10:34 PM

I'm going to need your honest opinions regarding cinematographer getting all the credit.

Whenever I worked on the set as crew member, I found it very strange when so called DP don't know what they're doing. They're depend on their AC and gaffer. Few years ago, a young DP had a veteran AC (20+ years SOC member) and 10 years experience gaffer. These guys know their STUFF but the DP was not very good giving direction. At the end of the night, the producers were truly impressed by him.

Also, I worked on another music video and the DP was even worse, in my opinion the gaffer should've been a DP because he's smart and FAST. The DP's very slow and indecisive. I said to myself...WTF. Recently, I saw the video for the first time on youtube (it came out good) and then check his website and he shot over 100 music videos, features and commericals (90% of the time he used the same gaffer).

I know some DP jump into the game without any type of training or experiences. I thought it better to start from bottom and understand all three dept. before becoming a DP.

My fellow DP told me " make sure you hire a GOOD gaffer " What you guys think ?

I want to shoot again...


Hi Damon,

I've probably worked with hundreds of dp's over the years, and there are all kinds, with different strengths. I've worked with some that have a brilliant eye, but don't know how to really use a light meter. Others are masters of story telling, or just making directors comfortable (a very important skill!), but don't really light much.

In the end, if the result is successful, I think one must give credit to the cinematographer, even if only for hiring a brilliant crew and knowing how to communicate to them.

Also, there are often many things a cinematographer may consider, that aren't obvious to others. Maybe it's the schedule, perhaps it's a story point that others aren't aware of. You know, many crew people, even gaffers don't read the script. Without knowledge of the script and the director's approach, one can come up with many brilliant ideas...for a different movie.

And lastly, If "the gaffer should have been the dp", why do you think he's the gaffer and not the DP? I'll bet there is some strength the DP has that may not be obvious. The trust of the director may be 1st among them.

Damon, I always feel when I work as a crew member for another cinematographer, that my job is to serve the DP to the best of my ability. I'm long past thinking about whether they are skilled enough to deserve their job. After all, they did get the job, and I'm there to make them look like a genius:) That is the crew person's job I think.
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Wooden Camera

Glidecam

Aerial Filmworks

FJS International, LLC

Ritter Battery

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Technodolly

rebotnix Technologies

Abel Cine

The Slider

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

CineLab

Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Visual Products