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Director and DP relationship


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#1 Lee Tamer

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 02:32 PM

This past spring/summer I shot my first indie feature, lets just say I didnt have the best time.

 

The director was consistently unprepared. We never scouted locations, she never met with me to discuss scenes when i constantly asked her to. I never knew what scenes we were shooting until the night before. I also only ever saw the script twice due to constant scene rewrites. There were many times where I wanted to walk off the project. 

 

Was there anything I could have done to make this a better experience considering I had to do everything on the fly? 

 

What should the director have done? 


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#2 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 03:21 PM

I'm sorry to hear that. I don't speak from great feature film experience, but a lot of commercial experience. Whenever you have trouble meeting up/prepping or getting the director in a room, it's normally because they're either overwhelmed and/or haven't figured it out yet. That can be because the producers/financiers keeps the director in the dark, or it could be the director itself. Here's my experience: whenever that's the case, whichever it is, you're much more on the hook or likely to be thrown under a bus. And your experience will be less pleasurable. You will end up getting the blame for stuff that didn't work because of that and they will most likely not hire you again. Those are the sad realities of shooting politics. Not always the case, but more often than not in my experience.

 

Here's my tip: when they're weak, you have to slightly steamroll and take more charge. Be bossy. Your name is on that project, too. They'll feed you to the dogs if you're too subservient and yielding to a rudderless ship - they just want someone to take charge. By taking a bigger creative part, they might think overly so, at least the film has a more honed point of view and is something you can stand by. What you got to lose? It's a fine line, but there's ways of steering things in the right direction without overstepping your bounds or taking power away from people.


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#3 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 03:43 PM

I think the question is what you should have done.

 

I you are like me, expecting well prepared, organized set,

where at least the director knows how to run things,

you'll be frustrated in those lo-budget/indie sets were

there is no "strong" hand to lead the project and people

appear to mindlessly  play make-believe film crew...

 

 

If the directors "approach" is Rock'n'Roll, you should be the same.

 

If you can't, this is not your type of director.

 

 

Chris Doyle was very frustrated on the shoot of "Lady in the Water" because

the director M. Night Shyamalan was well prepared, with storyboards, wanting to explain things,

while Chris was " I just wanted to go film something!".

 

More details in the full article in "American Cinematographer" about "Lady in the Water" here.

 

 

Best

 

Igor

 

 


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 04:27 PM

Early in your career you need to learn your craft but you also have to learn flexibility, and that even includes winging things when the director is unprepared. It will teach a number of things, not only how to deal with the unexpected, but what to avoid in the future. But honestly unless you can only work with people you already know, this is just an inherent risk. Live and learn as they say.

It's good to alternate between projects that are hyper-prepared and designed with ones that are more freestyle, just to exercise different parts of your brain.

But ultimately the cinematography to some extant will only be as good as the director allows it to be, by enabling the cinematographer, so the best advice is to find better directors!
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#5 Lee Tamer

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 04:33 PM

Ive done a lot of music videos that werent very organized, but i didnt mind because the directors knew what they wanted. 

 

When a director cant tell me what they want, I have to guess, which is even harder when I dont know the scene. 

 

I guess now is the time to learn and not further down the line when I might be wasting a studio's money right? 


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#6 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 07:06 PM

whenever that's the case, whichever it is, you're much more on the hook or likely to be thrown under a bus. And your experience will be less pleasurable. You will end up getting the blame for stuff that didn't work because of that and they will most likely not hire you again.


Agreed. I have had exactly this experience. Last year, I shot a movie for a director who was completely unprepared and wildly erratic. From day one, it was a constant battle to make sure we shot the right material to make the scenes work. It fell to me to persuade, cajole and bully the director into shooting something comprehensible. In post production, I became the whipping boy for everything that was wrong with his movie, and as a result I haven't worked for that company since.
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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 07:20 PM

I'm sure we've all whispered to the camera "I have no idea how any of these people got to be in charge of a movie."


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#8 Lee Tamer

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 07:47 PM

The funny thing is, she ran B camera a lot of the days as well, which aggravated me even more. She should be focusing on the actors and not running camera. If she's running a camera, whats the point of having a DP? 


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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 October 2013 - 08:03 PM

Alexander MacKendrick used to say that sometimes directors hide behind technical problems so they don't have to deal with people problems.


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#10 Matt Stevens

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 09:50 PM

Chris Doyle was very frustrated on the shoot of "Lady in the Water" because

the director M. Night Shyamalan was well prepared, with storyboards, wanting to explain things,

while Chris was " I just wanted to go film something!".

 

More details in the full article in "American Cinematographer" about "Lady in the Water" here.

 

Thank you for that article! A great read. 

 

I'm gearing up to direct my first feature and there is no question I am nervous as hell about it. We won't have much money and we certainly will not have a Christopher Doyle around. The burden will be on me and I am doing my best to be prepared. 


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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 09:57 PM

Well my last film was kids, wild animals, and the outdoors, daily  :D

 

So no matter how well prepared I was the crew had to be flexible.  Some days the weather and animals co-operated and sometimes they didn't.  I added a day to the shoot with just one hour left at our main location.  This sent the UPM and his staff and the 1st AD and 2nd AD into a mad scramble, as the schedule for the remainder of the shoot had to be re-written, hotel dates changed, flights changed, you name it.  

 

That is as they say, show business.

 

I was able to compensate for this because I maintained a very strong overall vision of the movie, plus I wrote the script and I was shooting my own material.  As producer I also had the freedom to raise and lower the budget at will.  This helped to balance out all the missed shots due to time, or lack of co-operation from mother nature or animal cast members.

 

R,


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#12 Guy Bodart

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Posted 24 October 2013 - 05:21 PM

The director must know what he want and the DP must give the picture that the Director want. Simple! Only one  Captain on the boat!


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#13 Lee Tamer

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 03:29 PM

I can understand that things can go wrong during filming, you have to accept that. But things like not even having a location set up the day of filming is just sloppy and unprofessional 


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