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Offered a low-budget feature, should I take it and lose other work?


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#1 Josh Dunleavy

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 12:54 PM

I've been offered a super low budget feature that would shoot in December or January. I have never shot a feature, but have shot dozens of shorts, web commercials, music videos etc. I would be missing out on a decent amount of work if I were to take a whole month off. My question is basically, is it important for a DP to build up a "feature resume"?

I've been longing for my first feature in a while, but I was thinking it would have more money than this one does. I would be shooting it with my own Scarlet, and not making much money. So the main benefit would have to be if there is actual serious value in just getting a feature "under my belt". I do like working with this particular director, but I am a bit skeptical on how good the finished product will actually be in the end, given the abysmal budget. Any thoughts?
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 01:00 PM

Go with what your gut tells you. Money is nice; having a feature is nice; but it seems that you already know whats best for your situation; you know.
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 01:21 PM

You have to go with how you feel about the feature, it might also be worth checking out who they've got in the cast. Good actors can make a big difference on a low budget production.
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#4 David Desio

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 02:23 PM

You have to go with how you feel about the feature, it might also be worth checking out who they've got in the cast. Good actors can make a big difference on a low budget production.



Well, is the rate offered worth risking your gear for? Are they insured? Are you normally busy during that time?
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#5 Brian Rose

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 03:09 PM

Well, is the rate offered worth risking your gear for? Are they insured? Are you normally busy during that time?


You can judge a lot by the crew and the director. I mean, in my experience, it takes only a few minutes of conversation to discern the sleazeballs from the genuine artisans. That you are considering the gig suggests you trust this director, and it's a question of money.

The next question is, what sort of calibre is this project, and what doors will it open? Say, for example, it was a horror film of some kind. Does it really have a shot at a big name fest, or will it play at one of the horror themed ones. Will it lead to the kind of work you want to do, or more horror?

Really you just need to weight the benefits versus the risks, and judge if the opportunity is promising enough? Odds are it won't go anywhere, and you'll regret having lost the money.

BUT, you never know. You may have a blast making the movie, make great friends and connections with talented people who'll bring you along for the ride, like what happened with Eric Steelberg hooking up with Jason Reitman on his debut.

Or this film may position you for your big break. Remember, Wally Pfister was shooting soft core porn and direct to video poop until he DPd a film that made it to Sundance...where he had a chance encounter with another filmmaker exhibiting a feature named Chris Nolan, who just happened to have a script for a film called "Memento."

That's all it takes.

Honestly, I say go for it. If it fails, at least you tried, and all you lost was a little money. What is money at the end of the day? It fades, it won't last, it only staves off the inevitable. But this film could be YOUR SHOT. Better to take a chance on a failure, than pass on a golden opportunity, and live your life full of regret for not having taken that gig that was a breakout hit and won awards and launched the careers of those who helped to make it.

Go. For. It.
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#6 David Desio

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 04:18 PM

I Agree with Bryan, I'd do if it were me. The only thing I don't agree with is the statement about horror films. Whats wrong with them? They always get a bad rap but people still pay to see them don't they? Nothing wrong with horror IMO. Even if it leads to more horror...
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#7 Freya Black

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 05:27 AM

My question is basically, is it important for a DP to build up a "feature resume"?


Theres no need to ever shoot features if you don't feel like it.
There are some DP's who just do a lot of high end commercials for instance, and are very happy.

love

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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 06:07 AM

People have an unattainably extreme metric of success sometimes. Personally I'd think that people who were shooting porn and direct to video were actually doing quite well if they were able to make a living out of it. I'd be a lot happier if I was regularly shooting direct to video features, and shooting "just" a lot of high end commercials is a way to become very rich if you can get the work.

In my extremely limited experience, having done a feature of some sort is often a prerequisite to doing other features; you don't want to be the "it's his first feature" guy for any longer than you can help. This naturally assumes you are interested in doing more long term. I turned a feature down in similar circumstances to yours last year and regret it to an extent. It clashed with other, paying work and was apparently an absolute train crash organizationally so I don't feel too awful about it, but I'm still the "it's his first feature" guy and that's not usually a plus. Of course if you're going to do something so you can claim that future work isn't your first feature, well, you're going to have to show people your actual first feature, so you'll need to be happy that there's a scene or two at least that you can make something out of.

I am not that interested in mainstream feature filmmaking as there simply isn't a living in it for more than a very tiny number of people, depending where you live, so my bar for what's worth doing financially and creatively is, paradoxically for someone who lives in a place where there is no film industry, quite high.


P
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#9 Claude Mangold

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 09:47 AM

Josh, my advice would be to find out more about the director, in particular whether this is his first feature as well. If so, I would stay away.

If he's made other features, I'd jump at the opportunity.

I am speaking from experience. When I shot my first short film in 35mm, it was the DP's first, as well, and the project nearly ended in disaster. At any rate, very different from what I had wanted. And bitter feelings allround.

So, as a director, if I want to tackle something I've never done before, I shall now always choose a DP who has done it.

I would imaging that this is also true the other way around.
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