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What do you think would count as "micro-managing" from a director?


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#1 Reuel Gomez

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 10:09 PM

I wonder, from a DP's POV, what do you think counts as micro-managing from a director? When they're dead set on a specific camera or lens(es)? When they insist on a colorist that they like to use even if you have a colorist that you feel treats your work in the way you like?
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#2 Justin Hayward

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 10:20 PM

If a DP wonders if any of those questions from the director are micro-managing, they should ask themselves if they should be a DP or a Director. 


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#3 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 10:34 PM

I wonder, from a DP's POV, what do you think counts as micro-managing from a director? When they're dead set on a specific camera or lens(es)? When they insist on a colorist that they like to use even if you have a colorist that you feel treats your work in the way you like?

 

That depends.  I've developed a very specific visual style and I've always DPed my own films.  If and when I wind up in the role of director on a large project with a talented DP (an experience I would welcome,) I would let him/her know that at the outset.  You don't embarrass anyone on the set, but you also don't sacrifice the visuals if it's not what you want.  If the DP pulls out a lens that is too wide for a given shot, you tell them.  That's not be a micro-manager, that's being specific about what you want.  At the end of the day, it's all about communication.


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#4 Nicholas Bedford

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 11:19 PM

 

That depends.  I've developed a very specific visual style and I've always DPed my own films.  If and when I wind up in the role of director on a large project with a talented DP (an experience I would welcome,) I would let him/her know that at the outset.  You don't embarrass anyone on the set, but you also don't sacrifice the visuals if it's not what you want.  If the DP pulls out a lens that is too wide for a given shot, you tell them.  That's not be a micro-manager, that's being specific about what you want.  At the end of the day, it's all about communication.

 

 I guess if you don't trust theDoP to nail the image, then you probably have the wrong one onboard, or you may need to learn to let go of your own exact style and learn to trust the cinematographer's instincts to create better shots as a whole.

 

What do you think?


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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 December 2013 - 12:37 AM

If the director wants a lens and I think it's the wrong lens (or if they want more or less light for whatever reason) I let them know in an aside my thoughts, my reasons, and then whatever choice they make I go with. It's not really my job to force my own vision into the project. Rather, it's there for the director to take, but at the end of the day I am subservient to them and their vision for their film. I may not agree with all the choices they make, and I may be right or I may be wrong, but I will always do all I can to give the director what they want and need.


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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 December 2013 - 04:56 AM

Ideally it's a collaboration.  You test the lenses and cameras and stocks in prep, look at the tests, and mutually agree on the approach, and then follow what you have agreed on.

 

A director is hired before the DP and if he has already decided on the shooting process, the colorist, etc. then it's up to the DP to decide if they want to work for him or not.

 

Of course, it's professional courtesy to get the DP involved in such decisions, so if a director is not interested in collaboration and in being courteous, then odds are high that a number of DP's will decide to not take the job.

 

I don't mind some micro-management is it is productive rather than counter-productive and if it makes sense to me. 


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#7 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 December 2013 - 07:16 AM

On the occasions I've shot for other people, which are reasonably rare, I've more often had the opposite problem: a lack of direction, or even a lack of interest in the images while they're concentrating on actors.

 

But I guess that's fine, if that's the way they want to do it. 

 

P


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#8 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 06 December 2013 - 12:05 PM

Unless you're a psycho control freak that has no business directing, if you have to micro-manage a cinematographer, you've got the wrong guy in that job and you need to adjust that situation immediately before it infects your set. From a directing standpoint,   director/cinematographer collaboration is essential. The smart course of action is to hire the best people you can get then let them do their job. Yes, it's my prerogative to call the shots when creating my vision but translating that vision into a practical nuts and bolts plan of action requires I listen to my cinematographer's thoughts and ideas, discuss our options and together come up with a plan that best serves that vision and ultimately the story. That requires hard work and planning on both our parts and I need to be prepared to communicate what I need to make my vision understandable to my DOP and what he or she needs to help me best achieve that vision. The cinematographer has a superior technical expertise that I rely on along with discriminating eye gained through years of experience that become invaluable to me on set. The cinematographer is the most valuable asset a director can have and the decision of whom that is can make or break a production. As for micro-managing, with essential pre-planning, even if there is a problem on set where the plan just isn't working, there shouldn't be a micro-management situation. What needs to happen is a problem solving situation where together we adjust the frame to a workable solution that maintains the spirit of my original vision without compromising the cinematography. If you have good people, there should never be a need for me to micro-manage. I want to have the freedom to concentrate on the big picture and I don't have the time to micro-manage anyone so I'd rather replace them than have to deal with that situation. If you're dealing with a director who feels the need to triple check and question your every move as a cinematographer even though you ARE serving his vision as planned, I feel for you. The only solution I can see would be to speak privately with him and explain that you are have trouble working under what you consider to be intolerable conditions and should the situation continue, you'll unfortunately be forced to leave the project, that or tough it out and take the cash, either way, it's not the best situation to be in.


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#9 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 06 December 2013 - 12:30 PM

 

 I guess if you don't trust theDoP to nail the image, then you probably have the wrong one onboard, or you may need to learn to let go of your own exact style and learn to trust the cinematographer's instincts to create better shots as a whole.

 

What do you think?

 

That depends on the partnership.  If the cinematographer can give the director a better reason for choosing a particular lens - that serves the story - but that the director wasn't planning on for that shot, that director should embrace the cinematographer's decision for that shot.  That doesn't mean it might go the other way for the next shot.

 

As long as there is a creative dialogue and both have the best interests of the project in mind, the partnership should work.


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#10 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 06 December 2013 - 12:39 PM

 

That depends on the partnership.  If the cinematographer can give the director a better reason for choosing a particular lens - that serves the story - but that the director wasn't planning on for that shot, that director should embrace the cinematographer's decision for that shot.  That doesn't mean it might go the other way for the next shot.

 

As long as there is a creative dialogue and both have the best interests of the project in mind, the partnership should work.

 

 

Sorry...that should read "That doesn't mean it might not go the other way for the next shot."


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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 06 December 2013 - 01:04 PM

I wonder, from a DP's POV, what do you think counts as micro-managing from a director? When they're dead set on a specific camera or lens(es)? When they insist on a colorist that they like to use even if you have a colorist that you feel treats your work in the way you like?

 

It's not a relationship of equals, sorry.  The director has the final say.  The good news for the DOP is that no one ever blames the DOP when a production bombs at the box office.  The director on the other hand will be front and centre in the cross hairs of the critics and the financiers.

 

All of the department heads want a lot of credit and recognition for their work on a movie, and that's fine.  But when things go bad, as they often do in film, none of the department heads get the blame.  The blame is laid on the director.

 

So in that sense the director carries a much bigger share of the burden than anyone else on set.

 

I couldn't work with a DOP who would insist that I use XYZ colorist for "his" work.  Ultimately that is my decision.

 

R,


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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 06 December 2013 - 01:06 PM

If a DP wonders if any of those questions from the director are micro-managing, they should ask themselves if they should be a DP or a Director. 

 

Yes.

 

R,


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#13 Carl Looper

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 04:54 AM

Arguments between director and DOP are usually worked out during planning because it's a lot cheaper than doing it on location.

 

Arguments are a necessary part of collaboration. It is only by arguing your case that a better solution (to some problem) can be expressed. This goes for everyone including the Director.

 

But if the Director's only argument, for their case, is to say "because they are the Director", then they are not making any case at all. They are not communicating anything. They are not directing. They are having their own little hissy fit because they can. Typically you, as a DOP, have to sort of manage the Director in this situation. Go a little easier on them. Say things like: "Sure. No problem, I'll get on with it".

 

C


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#14 Richard Boddington

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 01:08 PM

But if the Director's only argument, for their case, is to say "because they are the Director", then they are not making any case at all. 

 

Really? I didn't know the director had to justify his decisions or make his case for anything if he doesn't want to.

 

I have a hard time believing people debate with James Cameron or Steven Spielberg, and say things like, "if your only argument for your case is because you're the director then that is a weak argument."  Those people will get fired and removed from set.

 

R,

 


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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 01:32 PM

People don't necessarily argue with the director but if his decisions don't make sense to anyone and he can't articulate any reasons for them... then that makes it harder to execute his ideas and to anticipate what he wants next, so production becomes less efficient and the quality may suffer, which I doubt many reasonable directors want as a result.  It's much better when there is a game plan and design structure to the production articulated by the director that people can use to base decisions on, otherwise every single decision is going to have to be made by the director and things will go slower.  I can't waste time on a set asking him if every unit should get a 1/4 CTO or a 1/8 CTO or whether to use a single scrim or a double scrim in this or that light, but I can't make those decisions well on my own either if I don't understand what we are all trying to achieve together.

 

I can't just follow instructions blindly without any understanding of why I am doing it.  I mean, I could... but the results would be a mess, I'd be unable to think more than one shot in advance! I'd light someone from one part of the room only to find next from the director that the next shot he wants looks right where I keyed the actor from the previous shot and now I'd end up with a mismatch because I now had to relight the same actor from a different direction, whereas if the director could have laid out the sequence for me I could have helped him plan the order of set-ups in a way that was not only efficient but allowed better continuity. 

 

Also, in the real world, not every director comes with the same strength of skills, some need more support than others.  A good director isn't afraid of help because he will be judged by the quality of the finished work.  And if a director is really good, he surrounds himself with talented actors, a talented DP, editor, production designer, etc.  So after he has assembled all that talent and hopefully experience, is he honestly not going to solicit their ideas and make them feel like they are contributing creatively -- he's just going to dictate instructions and expect them to be followed blindly?  His ego won't allow him to collaborate? That would be like an executive surrounding himself with yes men.

 

People like Spielberg or Cameron are fairly articulate, I'm sure they'd be more than happy and able to explain why they want this or that to their department heads and crew.  Filmmaking is an act of communicating, so it's odd when you have directors who don't like to communicate with other people.


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#16 Justin Hayward

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 02:02 PM

All true, but in response to the original question, it may be unreasonable for a director not to explain why they insist or are "dead set" on certain technical aspects, but I wouldn't call insisting on anything technical from the director "micromanaging".

 

On commercials, the hard communication for me isn't with the crew, it's with the agency.  When I'm working with the crew I feel back in my element :)


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#17 Richard Boddington

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 02:48 PM

That's all well and good, but I think on this forum we see an attitude from a younger group of people who struggle with the idea that there is a hierarchy on a film set. The director DOES have the authority to do things his way.  The director may throw out 5 weeks of drawings by the set designer and say, "start again."  That's just the way it goes on occasion.

 

Collaboration with dept heads and using their talents is a good thing of course.  But the director does have to step in on occasion and make changes over and above the objections of dept heads from time-to-time.

 

Again, the director and DOP are not equals on a film set. Someone has to have the final say in the end.

 

R,


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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 05:27 PM

Clearly there is a hierarchy and the director is in charge. The original question was about micromanaging and whether that was OK or not. From my standpoint and hopefully the director's it is a question of what approach will make a better movie within the schedule and budget limitations because micromanaging sometimes crosses the line into having an inability to prioritize and to delegate.

Like I said, if the director just wants to dictate all of the essential elements of the cinematography rather than hire a talented cinematographer and work that stuff out together, he can do that and the cinematographer is free to work with someone else who might use his talents more effectively. Ultimately it is the director's movie.

But as for advising a beginner as to the best approach to directing, I'd say that listening is a part of directing, not just telling people what to do. And as with anything you have to learn your strengths and weaknesses and adjust your approach to take them into account. A good director puts the movie itself above his own ego because he knows that he will be judged ultimately on results.

I'm more than happy to work with talented directors who already have strong opinions about cinematography, to me that just means they recognize that film is a visual medium. But if the first thing they tell me when I meet them is how they prefer a PeeWee dolly over a Fischer dolly, I'd start to wonder if they are missing the forest for the trees. Same goes for lenses, I'd rather we start discussing his vision for the story and style before we start discussing the finer points of Zeiss versus Cooke optics...
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#19 Justin Hayward

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 06:03 PM

But if the first thing they tell me when I meet them is how they prefer a PeeWee dolly over a Fischer dolly, I'd start to wonder if they are missing the forest for the trees. Same goes for lenses, I'd rather we start discussing his vision for the story and style before we start discussing the finer points of Zeiss versus Cooke optics...

 

Sure, but he didn't ask when insisting on lenses in the filmmaking process becomes micro managing.  He asked if it is at all.  I certainly wouldn't start talking about something like that in an interview, but at some point the discussion is going to come up, and I don't think its micromanaging to have specific lenses in mind.  Like you said, this is a visual medium and the director is the captain of the ship and we can't see anything without lenses :)

 

How about this; the director might be micro managing when the gaffer is talking to him before the DP ;)


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#20 Justin Hayward

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Posted 07 December 2013 - 10:51 PM

David,

 

Have you ever passed on a project specifically because you knew you and the director would not get along or not be on the same page?  And if so (obviously not naming names), what reason?

 

Thanks


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