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#1 Joshua Powless

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 02:25 AM

So today I had a conversation with a director and he got me thinking if everything i knew about the dp was wrong. i just was thinking about how is a cinematographer creative because he made it sound so technical and our only job is to get exactly what he wants which is right but i guess i was curious of where our art came in as a cinematographer. because we "paint with light" so is that our only job i mean, if the director decides the shot angle - how do we decide the composition if a director says ah tighter or something, or they have a lens in mind, and they already have an idea of how they wanna move the camera i mean obviously its there vision so whats the point of reading the script if all you need to do is listen to the director on the day of an think of a way to light the set. im kinda confused.
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#2 Keneu Luca

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 03:17 AM

So today I had a conversation with a director and he got me thinking if everything i knew about the dp was wrong. i just was thinking about how is a cinematographer creative because he made it sound so technical and our only job is to get exactly what he wants which is right but i guess i was curious of where our art came in as a cinematographer. because we "paint with light" so is that our only job i mean, if the director decides the shot angle - how do we decide the composition if a director says ah tighter or something, or they have a lens in mind, and they already have an idea of how they wanna move the camera i mean obviously its there vision so whats the point of reading the script if all you need to do is listen to the director on the day of an think of a way to light the set. im kinda confused.


There are plenty of people here with more experience than me who may have a better response to this.

If possible, this is the kind of stuff you'd learn in the interview for the job/gig/shoot. Director and DP would get a feel for one another and you both would have an idea of what to expect from each other.

I see 3 basic scenarios:

1) As a beginner, you pretty much take whatever job you can get.

2) As you become more established, you take the jobs that will give you whatever necessary degree of creative satisfaction you personally require. You may even seek directors who have a reputation for trusting and encouraging the DP to flex creative muscle.

3) You take a job where your personal creativity is compromised but it it because something else about the project makes it worth it (a hefty pay check, brilliant script, attached talent you want to work with, or the director inspires you and is so damn thrilling to be around you dont mind being his or her camera bitch)
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#3 Joshua Powless

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 03:27 AM

I did a little research and this sounded pretty comforting.

The role of the cinematographer


That's a difficult question but whether it's art or not is immaterial. I suppose, the Cinematographer's role is to act as the director's visual 'right hand'. I would say that, on balance, it is evenly technical and creative. With a more visually orientated Director the role may be skewed toward one of technique, how to get what the Director wants, conversely the role can be one of much greater creative responsibility. But creativity in what is such a technically dependent role is of little use without technical knowledge and technique is worthless if you don't have a certain creative 'vision' (a pretentious word but one I can't get around!). It is of no use knowing everything about what you CAN do with a camera if you have no idea WHAT to do with it.
I remember the first question I ever had to answer on a set, "What do you want to shoot first?" Is the answer to that based on technical knowledge or is it a purely creative decision? Of course, it's both.

I think Cinematography is essential to the narrative, certainly. It does vary considerably just how essential but at the very least it's important to see the actors faces! I am being facetious but they do call them 'Movies'!
As for shot composition, I can think of very few instances in my own experience when a Director has taken the camera and actually set the shot. The way I am used to working is that I discuss the shot with the Director, maybe look at the angle through a viewfinder, and then my crew and I are left alone to set the camera and light the shot. When we are ready the Director returns and either checks the shot before we shoot or, quite often, we just go directly into shooting. Sometimes a particular Director might 'tweak' the shot but it's quite rare in my experience. It's really all about trust and delegation of responsibility.

- Roger Deakins
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#4 Frank Barrera

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 12:04 AM

the dp's job is to help the director tell the story. that might mean that you make decisions about everything from lighting, blocking, camera position, composition, wardrobe and makeup. or it might mean you become a mindless monkey who presses the record button. normally your true function lies in between these two extremes but it doesn't matter. this is your job. you are below-the-line. check your ego at the door. if you don't like it then become a director.

part of what i find interesting about this job is exploring different relationships with different directors. some want minimal input from me creatively. some want me to do everything except work with the actors. its too easy to say that i don't like being "told what to do" because, for example, i can learn a lot from a strong director who doesnt require too much from me. i know there will always be another job were i get to "spread my winds" or whatever you call it. so if i work with a director who is that strong i can watch and learn.
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#5 John Brawley

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 01:08 AM

i mean obviously its there vision so whats the point of reading the script if all you need to do is listen to the director on the day of an think of a way to light the set. im kinda confused.



The cinematographer is " Visual Author " . The director tells you what to write about but you choose the words (LIGHTS) how to form the sentences (COMPOSITION) and where to put the punctuation (Camera movement and Coverage)

Even if the director tells you exactly how they want it to look, compose and light, you still have to execute the description.

Even getting EXACTLY what the director tells you to do in minute detail can be incredibly challenging creatively to do. Don't be foole into thinking that this isn't creative work.

99% of the time most directors aren't that dictatorial anyway and haven't got the faintest idea on how to achieve what they want. A large percentage of them only have a vague idea of what they want and are looking for collaboration.

Sometimes though you will work with directors that will want to OVERDIRECT.

It's up to you as the cinematographer to diplomatically find ways to tell the story visually.

Personally, I prefer a director who actually knows what they want and can articulate it succinctly. Very few actually can.

jb
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 November 2009 - 11:43 AM

As mentioned, it'll vary from director to director. In my own experience, directors and I tend to work things out in terms of shots and compositions well before we get to set. I figure out how to light it, under their guidance, and then on the day, we both creatively problem solve. When we're about to do something I don't think will work, I let the director know my concerns, they tend to listen, and whether or not they agree, so long as I'm heard my creativity is satisfied. Its give and take and based on trust. You need to earn the director's trust and to a certain degree, I think the director must earn yours. But, at the end of the day, you and the director are both beholden to the narrative, the story. Hopefully you're on the same general page on how to tell it. If not, it'll be a long shoot, but as a professional, you have to do your job, the best job you can, and sometimes just understand that you are under the director and put your trust in their overall vision. If it doesn't work out, and sometimes it won't and it'll look "bad," to you, you just have to take solace in the fact, hell, at least it wasn't my bad idea ;)
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#7 Dominic Case

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 08:21 PM

The director's and the DoP's roles overlap, just as the DoP's role is an overlap of creativity and technical operations. Some directors will tell you exactly how they want every shot placed, lit and covered: others will only talk to the actors and leave everything to you about how you capture the scene that they parade in front of you. But it's all collaboration. I suspect that a director who had confidence that you knew what the extent of your role was would more likely allow you to be a bit creative. One who knew that you understood what (s)he wanted to "say" in the scene would also be more comfortable sharing decisions with you about how to convey that. In collaboration and discussion, of course.

If you are still confused you might think about how a great classsical conductor can be creative - after all he or she has the score to follow. Equally, how can the players in the orchestra be creative? And yet most of them, especially the section leaders, the concertmaster, the principal horn etc have to do more than just follow technical instructions in order to get the unique performance that a great orchestra can deliver.
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