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A question to all of you: Why aren't you a director?


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#1 Hrishikesh Jha

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 02:29 PM

After spending a few months on sets I've come to realize the importance of a cinematographer. Just as an editor makes a film, so does a DOP. And they aren't recognized(at least among the general population) on the level of a director. And I wonder...what is it that a director does that a DOP can't?

You can read scripts, even write.

You can sit with an editor in post and do everything that a director can.

And that thing called vision....surely I bet each of you has it. In fact I often wonder if the DOP is thinking "But it'll look much better from this angle, and this way". 

So,,,,what is it that stops you from creating your own content? Why be a DOP and not a film director?

I wish I could ask this question to all major DOP's and I hope you aren't offended, but let me understand/

 

 


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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 03:05 PM

Personally I found directing; when I did it, not challenging enough for me or better put not challenging in a way from which i took too much satisfaction. Also, there is the time commitment-- in a year a director may, if he's lucky, work on one project, maybe 2, whereas as a DP in a yr I'll have worked on numerous numerous projects which all keep me, well, out of the house, and also engaged in myriad styles, ideas, locations, genres etc.


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#3 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 03:38 PM

Having done both for my last two shorts, I can tell you I enjoyed the DP part far more than the directing.  Both have their pros and cons just like everything else.  But creating images based on the many films that have made an imprint on me over the years is visual storytelling - and that's what it's all about. 

 

There is a lot of truth to what Adrian says, especially the part about directing not being enough of a challenge.  There is so much to learn - aesthetically & technically - with cinematography.  The trick these days - at least at the lower echelons of indie film-making - is to find directors with vision who will also allow you to grow with a given project.  And I personally feel the democratization of the craft of film-making has made that extremely difficult.


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#4 Larry DeGala

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 04:19 PM

that's a good question.  i dunno.


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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 04:30 PM

Beats me...
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#6 Miguel Angel

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 06:11 PM

A director does a lot more than what you suggested :)

 

Let us take a look at what a normal director (not a director / producer because they do even more) does:

 

In a normal movie, the director micromanages a ton of people, from the make up department to the camera department and let us not forget about the producers. 

 

He / she has to say yes or not to millions of things in a couple of minutes, he / she has to know how to deal with stress very well, has to understand each others points and take them into consideration scene by scene.

 

Also, there are actors, and the director has to deal with them and convince them that they are doing it absolutely well and give them appropriate directions when needed, and actors are very tough people to deal with. 

 

A director is also an incredibly talented person in the way that he / she has to get along very well with everybody and has to play a lot of roles him / herself. 

 

It is not just about "the vision", although that is one thing that you have to have and it helps, it is about being "the best friend" in everybody's mind. You need tremendous social skills, you need to be at everybody's party being funny, witty, friendly and etc. 

 

Granted a DOP can work on a lot of projects per year, so can a director if he / she wants to go on the commercials route.

 

A good director also has to have a clear picture of what he / she wants to get on set so when the time for editing comes, he / she doesn't miss anything and can make it work. 

And also he / she needs to be very articulate about what he / she wants the project to look like. 

 

Take a look at what Fincher, Spielberg or Almodovar, to name a few (although Almodovar is pretty special :D) do in all their movies and then you will realize that sitting down in the editing room is not the way to go.

 

Sadly, there are very few directors like the ones I just described, and usually they are very very in demand. :)

 

They are just amazing people to work with and for! :)

Have a good day! 


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#7 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 09:48 PM

 

So,,,,what is it that stops you from creating your own content? Why be a DOP and not a film director?

I wish I could ask this question to all major DOP's and I hope you aren't offended, but let me understand/

 

 

 

 

The major obstacle to actually directing a film is financing.  You can't just direct a movie without having some track record or financing the picture yourself.  Even if you raise private equity or crowdfunding you're still basically self producing and that's not putting yourself to work as a director only.  You're putting yourself to work as a "producer" first and foremost.  Directing is like the short 4 month vacation you'll take during a long 3-5 year process as a producer in making that film from the initial development to getting it into stores.  At least, that's what I'm reading about in my research on this hysterically arduous process.  The filmmaking portion of it is a very tiny window of relief in an otherwise hellish nightmare of business and marketing.

 

So yeah, that could be one small reason why people don't just decide "Hmmm, I think I'll direct the next one."


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#8 Justin Hayward

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 10:09 PM

This is such a great topic, not just because it's true, but because it's totally underestimating things at the same time.  I can only sit back and enjoy the responses. But, great topic...  B)

 

And thank you Miguel for your thoughtful and kind words toward directors.


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#9 Richard Boddington

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Posted 08 July 2015 - 11:55 PM

After spending a few months on sets I've come to realize the importance of a cinematographer. Just as an editor makes a film, so does a DOP. And they aren't recognized(at least among the general population) on the level of a director. And I wonder...what is it that a director does that a DOP can't?

You can read scripts, even write.

You can sit with an editor in post and do everything that a director can.

And that thing called vision....surely I bet each of you has it. In fact I often wonder if the DOP is thinking "But it'll look much better from this angle, and this way". 

So,,,,what is it that stops you from creating your own content? Why be a DOP and not a film director?

I wish I could ask this question to all major DOP's and I hope you aren't offended, but let me understand/

 

 

 

Sorry, but I could not disagree with your post more if I tried.  There is a distinct difference between the job of a DOP and a director.  I don't know where to begin, but these days it's common for a director to shepherd his project for YEARS before it goes into production.  There is so much behind the scenes that goes on that a DOP has no connection to.  DOPs can easily shoot 3-6 indie style features a year, a director would be lucky if he made one movie every 2-4 years.

 

As for writing and editing, I've never known a DOP to do either.  I've written two screenplays as a director that made it into production, and I can tell you that coming up with 100 pages of original content that distributors will actually pay for is a real challenge.  Very few people can do this.

 

Editing? Well I'm cutting my fourth feature film, again, not an easy task.  Months of work at the computer, creating shot combinations, finding matches, etc.  I've never seen or heard of a DOP that edited an entire feature film.

 

As for being recognized for their work as a DOP, well I'll tell ya.....the day I hear the critics ripping apart a movie because of the DOP and blaming him for the movies failure, then I think DOPs should get the same "glory" (for lack of a better word) as a director.  As it sits right now, when a movie fails, who takes all of the blame?  The director that's who.

 

Each movie I finish has a line up of people waiting at the door ready to bitch and moan about it.  The DOP?  Well no one even knows where he is? Sunning himself on a beach in the Caribbean counting his money and laughing at the silly director who thought he was making an epic high quality movie.  :D

 

R,


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#10 Hrishikesh Jha

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 12:17 AM

Thank you for your responses. I agree with all. 

As a director who wishes to someday produce his own content I completely agree with the hellish nightmare that is dealing with the business aspect of things. My first feature film could be made right now(as in by Nov-Dec) and I know I can make a great feature but already the distribution/P and A aspects are becoming a thorn embedded in my flesh. 

 

And I agree about a vision. As a director I have a clear cut look or feel I want. Technically speaking I love Fade outs and Fade ins, slow pans and long takes. But its a certain feel which I convey to the editor. As someone who is socially stunted half(or maybe more) of my energy goes into trying to understand expressions and rising above this complex that everyone is judging me or "why did he/she say that. If I could take all those hours I spent pondering on these thoughts I could put more into my work.

 

And I can see why someone would not want to deal with any of the hassle. As a DOP your job is fixed. You come in, you get it done, you get out. 


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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 12:27 AM

Technically speaking I love Fade outs and Fade ins, slow pans and long takes. 

 

These guys want to meet with you:

http://www.telefilm.ca/en/?q=en

 

R,


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#12 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 12:42 AM

Yep, the cinematographer is a hired gun. Kinda like anyone else on the standard "production" crew. The only difference is that cinematographers are generally allowed to be involved in post production. Directors are generally involved with the story/production from the very beginning, especially on low budget stuff.

I have yet to direct anything I haven't shot as well (though I've shot a lot of stuff I haven't directed). I love the challenge of cinematography, everything from shot composition to lighting. On film it's a great challenge, round table discussions with actors as you load magazines. With a small crew and no real overhead, it's a fantastic experience that really puts one person in the drivers seat. With bigger shows, it's a lot difficult to get away with that mentality, it gets pretty draining. However, I do like the collaborative process quite a bit. I just enjoy the cinematography aspect of it so much, it's hard for me to let go and PAY for someone else to do a job I'm fully capable of doing. Sure, it's more stress on set, but it's worth it in the long run.
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#13 Simon Wyss

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 02:12 AM

An old saying:

 

One is not a director, one has directors.


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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 06:39 AM

Because directors are horrible.

 

But in all seriousness, I have on occasion been forced to attempt to direct (I have never actually been a director in any worthwhile sense) and found it a miserable, dispiriting experience. All actors seem to have subtly different requirements as to how they wish to communicate, so the problem cannot be defeated as a learning experience. I have always been terribly aware that I'm both frustrating and disappointing the cast as well as myself. More than camerawork it creates circumstances where people are forced to work together without any very specific expectation or guidelines as to how the situation is supposed to work, and I can't really understand how anyone is ever happy doing it. An incredible degree of self-belief is presumably required, but even then, I would presume that it's impossible to make all the people happy all the time - or even most of the people, most of the time. The constant knowledge that one exists in a state of almost universal disparagement is crushing.

 

Horrible, horrible experience. Shudder.

 

P


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#15 Richard Boddington

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 09:48 AM

Well Phil, there is no group of people that bitch, moan, and complain more than film workers.  Spoiled brats is the term that describes most of them.  And I'm not talking about the dept heads, they are professionals, which is why they are dept heads.

 

Here's the philosophy of the typical set worker....what steak and lobster today for lunch?  Good thing it's FREE!

 

Canadian crews are the worst, OMGosh, do they go on and on.  This would prompt one of my former 1st ADs to scream, "it's a location, not a vacation!!"

 

R,


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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 01:45 PM

If we're not talking about what it takes to be a GOOD director (storytelling skills, knowledge of acting, understanding editing, etc.), just what it takes to become a director, then it mainly involves MONEY, having it or finding it, because without it, it is pretty hard to make anything but the smallest of personal projects.

And that's a real skill in itself, finding investors, finding projects that attract investors, etc. (of course this overlaps with producing).

It's a bit different with television directing, which is more of the hired gun model not unlike the hiring of other department heads, your resume, your skills, your track record, all factor into getting those gigs.

It's a tough life, that of the feature film director, and I respect anyone who manages to get into that position.

As for film crews, they are generally some of the most reliable, resourceful, and hard-working people I know and they can make a huge difference in terms of the quality of the project, not to mention, whether it is a positive experience or not. Yes, some are a bit spoiled but that's also like casting, try to avoid crewing up a low-budget indie movie with people who normally work on high-end commercials -- you want people who know the drill and have realistic expectations.
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#17 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 02:18 PM

try to avoid crewing up a low-budget indie movie with people who normally work on high-end commercials

 

Usually, this doesn't happen simply because people don't apply for jobs that are too low-paid for them.

 

But strangely enough, recently, I've had a few instances where this might have happened. It's very odd. I have no idea what's going on.

 

P


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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 02:31 PM

I should amend what I said... Truth is you can hire whoever you want as long as you sense that they accept the parameters of the job and have realistic expectations.

As for some complainers on a film set, it's mainly a matter of morale, whether the complaining is higher than a normal minimal daily level (there's always a few harmless whiners) and whether there are some legitimate complaints that need to be addressed -- obviously there have been some shoots with a few bad apple types who have a bad attitude, but it's the job of the department heads to address that.
As for food, well, it's personal with a lot of people and it annoys me when the expectations for the quality of food are unrealistic; however, I've also been on jobs where the catering was so poor that it became a downer to break for meals, which is bad for morale, when people get depressed at the thought of what is going to be served to them.
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#19 Richard Boddington

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 03:17 PM

 you want people who know the drill and have realistic expectations.

 

Do you have any resumes for said people?  :D

 

Hilariously it's now common for grips and ACs to have agents and to ask the producer to contact their agent to "do a deal."  I just fall out of my chair laughing when I hear this.  I tell the guy, "sorry, I'll find someone who doesn't have an agent."  I mean really, a grip with an agent?

 

I about died laughing when our production co-ordinator in South Africa told me she had an agent.

 

Imagine if the UPM had to deal with agents and their piles of BS for every crew member hired, it would takes weeks just to hire the crew!

 

It won't be long before grips and ACs have gross dollar back end points and "entourage" fees!

 

R,


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#20 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 03:22 PM

I suspect that differences in international terminology may be confusing agents and diary services.

 

P


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