Some people consider the director of photography, more like a lighting cameraman. Someone to operate the camera AND deal with lighting challenges when they come up. More of a liaison between the director and the gaffer.
I'm the opposite, I mix the job of director and cinematographer into one position. I bring in a decent gaffer, someone I can give lighting directions to. I will also bring in one or two assistant's to work with the gaffer in order to achieve my vision. In my view, those are the two most critical positions because a cinematographer shouldn't be climbing ladders, adjusting lights. They should be on the ground working with the director to achieve their vision. This is why mixing the two roles into one person, makes a lot of sense. On smaller shows where I can't afford an AC, I've still brought in a gaffer and loaded the film can's myself. I've handed the gaffer a light meter and given him the role of AC. A lot of gaffers like that because they can touch the camera and sometimes run it, depending on how busy I get as a director. I have many fond memories being on commercial shoots loading film can's and talking with the actors or crew about the next shot.
The camera is everything in my view as this is a visual medium. If the shot isn't interesting, then people will turn off. Simply capturing a scene, isn't really interesting in my view. I'm sometimes forced to use that methodology on documentaries because there isn't time to get something interesting. However, on narratives, I tend to focus on more creative looks. It's the directors role to guide the look of the film, so in a lot of ways, they're the real cinematographer. However, on bigger shows, you can afford a cinematographer and I will admit, being a director working with cinematographers is great because you get a lot of input/feedback from them, sometimes invaluable ideas come from that simple exchange.
Due to this modern technical age we live in, I direct, shoot and edit. However, most of the time I don't do all three on one show, I'm hired to do ONE of those three. Because I know how to do all three, I generally can fill in some gaps where roles are left out. As a director, I can help the cinematographer understand my vision better. As a cinematographer, I can help the director understand what works and what doesn't. As an editor, I can help the director understand how certain scenes will play out in post. Unfortunately, most shows today are made in post production. The editor winds up being the real story teller and the director only add's their vision to the mix.
I have been very bossy as a cinematographer on shows, even left a few because the director had no vision. The relationship between the director and cinematographer needs to be strong in my opinion. With the advent of the video village, directors can now sit and watch their shots from a distance, making sure it's in the can. So the trust doesn't need to be nearly as strong as the film days, where you really didn't know if you got the shot or not. With digital, the role of the cinematographer has been diluted slightly as a consequence. It's easy to fix mistakes operators/DP's make and it's very easy to light very even/flat and fix it all in post.
So yes, I've seen DP's call the shots on set, with not very strong visionary directors. Generally the cream rises to the top and ya know, that's OK. If I went to direct a narrative feature and hired Roger Deakins to shoot it, I would listen to everything he said. He has more experience then I will ever have and ya know what, just that experience would be worth it's weight in gold for ANY would be filmmaker.
Edit: I've never worked on a shoot for 9hrs, most of my shoots are 12 - 16. So you're damn lucky!
Edited by Tyler Purcell, 05 May 2015 - 04:51 PM.