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Finding an established (documentary) cinematographer


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#1 trinityroots

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Posted 27 May 2012 - 08:54 AM

Hi all,

Put aside your "you-will-never-pull-this-off" judgments for a moment, and help a lady out: I am looking to director/produce a feature doc and want to secure funding from a bigger production company. Putting aside the issue of access to an executive to pitch, I've been told that the best way to pitch a doc is to have a team lined up. Particularly, to have an editor and cinematographer that have already agreed to be apart of it, especially those with at least some track-record.

My question is, how to get this happen? Is it common practice for established cinematographers to be approached with a "I am going to do a pitch, and if I get it, you'll get paid xxx, but i need you to agree you'll do (contingent on a successful pitch) before I pitch?" And from relative no-bodies with just a shorts to their name? If so, how to get around the issue that pitching with some vague trailer / rough cut material is always more likely to get traction.. I assume no one will agree to work for free for a few days to get material?

Any thoughts on how to navigate this are much much much appreciated!

- ab.
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#2 trinityroots

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 09:19 AM

.... no thoughts at all?
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:11 AM

.... no thoughts at all?


Nothing to stop you asking a cinematographer. If they like the sound of the project and your vision of it they may agree to be attached to your project subject to you obtaining funding. Often a lot of this is already in place before camera people become involved, but it does vary and may depend on established working relationships with directors.

A more likely problem is if the bigger production company is going to secure funding from broadcaster(s) for the documentary itself regardless of there being a cinematographer attached. Basically the documentary proposal has to stand on its own two feet first and have a market.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 10:45 AM

Not saying that I'm super established nor anything all that particularly special; but I don't see a problem with someone coming to me and saying, hey, I want you to work on this project, i don't have funding, I'm going to try to get funding and I would appreciate it you saying you're on-board once funding is in place.
The only issues that can come up are scheduling; but this is something that I'm sure you can workout.
It's not all that rare for me, for a project and/or person, I like, to come out for an "i owe you one," and help them even shoot a short snippet to get funding-- not that it always helps-- so long as I haven't got anything better to do. I suppose in the end, I'd rather be rolling on something and sweating, than cleaning my apartment or watching judge judy.
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#5 trinityroots

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 04:19 AM

Thanks Adrian and Brian, good insights. So basically - might work, depending if the particular cinematographer is a) a generally decent person and B) the two schedules might align?

That seems eminently reasonable.
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#6 trinityroots

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Posted 31 May 2012 - 04:20 AM

B) was supposed to be b ). Was not prepared for auto-emoticoning.
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