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When you feel you've Directed as the DP?


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#1 PS Bartlett

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 04:08 PM

This is a bit of text and backstory here, so bear with me, I don't know if i'm just going through a bout of insecurity or have a genuine concern, and I wanted to seek the opinions of others who have gone through similar experiences. Just to say upfront, there is no bitterness involved with this project, and we are all good friends.

 

So, we are currently going through post on our first low budget feature. I was the Producer for the film, and I didn't really have an intention to shoot the film, I wanted to simply be the Producer and gain more experience in that field. I also wanted to find someone else that would benefit more from the Feature DP credit than me, as I am trying to focus less on being a Director/DP and more on building myself as a Director and Producer, I would say I am a decent DP, but without going into too much detail, I don't think its the career path for me. Long story short, I ended up becoming the DP for my good friend who had also written the screenplay, and was going to direct.

 

I did share my apprehensions prior to shooting, I myself am not only older but I have more experience directing and working with actors, I didn't want to end up having to work with the actors, and effectively direct, but we failed to discuss responsibilities of blocking and coverage prior to shooting.

 

Being a Producer and DP did cause an obvious conflict, on one side I wanted to ensure the film had a level of quality and production value that came in line with the material I like to present under my production company, on the other side I did want to just act purely as a DP, and help the Director bring their vision to the screen, there's a reason for hierarchy and positions on set, and I didn't want to mess with that, it was bad enough I was also Producer, and the inherent conflict that could cause.

 

Pre-Production was hectic, so by the time the first day came, the Director hadn't really done any pre-visualization of how scenes would be shot, he was forced by the AD to come up with a shot list for the first day, but when I saw it, I was unhappy with the basic coverage and there being far too many shots, especially for an 18 day feature where we couldn't afford that many setups, more importantly the coverage simply didn't make any sense for the scene, it was a bit film school and textbook. So I scrapped the list and quickly came up with a solution that made more sense, and the general everyday workflow would soon follow this pattern. The director would rehearse the scene with the actors, he'd come up to me and describe the shots, and I would effectively throw them all out of the window, and come up with new blocking and more cinematic coverage, and mess up what the actors had just rehearsed. The AD made the point about how the Director is responsible for the blocking and that I shouldn't butt in, but the Director told them that he trusted me implicitly with anything to do with camera, and that I should be allowed to have my say. Of course this made the AD's job hard, as the shot list was made literally minutes before we would start shooting each scene.

 

We soon found our workflow and got used to it. The Director would rehearse the scene, myself and the Gaffer would watch it, I would work out the blocking with the actors, and the coverage, and then describe the shooting plan to the Gaffer, who like most Gaffers was a DP in her own right so we would have useful discussions with each other, it wasn't before long that that onset relationship between her and myself was more akin to the Director and DP, at least when it came to the camera side of things. As we were shooting I didn't have time to think too much about the fact I was fulfilling a lot of duties expected by the Director, I just figured this is the kind of Director that thinks less about camera, more about performance, and I can be the DP that has more creative freedom.

 

The Director though would get frustrated, and rightly so, when he felt he almost had no say with the camera and lighting, but the truth was 9 times out of 10, my solution just made more sense, and we are seeing that especially now during the edit. I do get frustrated when he describes a shot as his, knowing full well all he did was agree with my idea, I know I am going to get even more frustrated when others watch the film and credit him with the way scenes are covered and shot, it will bother me even more if he got hired to direct something because of those factors, and someone comes to me and says "so what camera did you shoot with?".

 

Fortunately, I didn't have to work with the actors, or work with the Production Design and other departments anymore than a DP traditionally would, and beyond having a significant part in the casting of the film, I do at least feel secure the performances and the tone of the film are something the Director can be proud of, and of course, the writing, which I have always felt to be truly excellent.

 

I am not a big fan of Co-Directing credits, to me they can be messy and reminds me way too much of my early days as a kid, when we were all insecure and uneducated, the "whoever operates the camera is directing" mentality. However looking at the relationship between some well known Co-Directors, I have read in many cases one will be more responsible for working with the actors, and the other will focus more on the camera side of things. The way I look at the way we worked together from the very beginning more than a year ago, it has felt like a co-Directing operation to me, even now as we are effectively editing the film together.

 

My friend is a very understanding person, and is certainly not a credit hog, but I don't want to even bring up this issue with him if it's simply me being insecure, and as a result then make him feel insecure about his own work and credit. Can anyone add their thoughts, or own personal experiences where they felt as a DP that they were effectively the co-Director? Am I just making an issue out of nothing?

 

 

 


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#2 Bruce Greene

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 06:34 PM

My reaction: You are the producer and DP. That's enough credits. Don't dilute them and wear them with pride!

As a DP I do a lot of camera blocking, but never consider myself a director for participating in that. Depending on the director, it's just part of the DP job...
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 September 2015 - 06:35 PM

The director is still the one director regardless of the amount of camera angle selecting the DP does.


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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 September 2015 - 12:43 AM

Personally I think you way overstepped your bounds. It's not a DPs job to be a co-director. It's a DPs job to support their director and watch out for their crew. It's muddled enough with you as a producer as well as a DoP, but beyond that, you should've pulled the director aside as a Producer first and got them to do their work and worked this all out well before hand, or, after day one went to hell, you and the director should've stayed up all night and figured out the rest of the script together-- that's your job support. 

Think of it like this-- how would you feel were you a director working with a much more experienced DoP who overrode your choices for what ultimately has your name on it?

Let it drop. Take the DP credit, move on.

Also you should hope they do get more work out of it as maybe they'll hire you back on, either as producer or DoP.


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#5 JD Hartman

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Posted 13 September 2015 - 07:13 AM

My take, the Director who was also the Screenwriter, wasn't up to the task of directing.  Was this his first time in the role?  He couldn't translate his his vision of the screenplay from paper to "film". If you hadn't taken over some of the duties that he fumbled from day one, the project would have been a disaster and maybe never gotten completed..    If my money was backing this production, I would have sacked the Director and his AD.

    I don't think it has anything to do with screen credits, it has to do with competence or the lack of it. 


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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 September 2015 - 08:46 PM

I think the main issue is as a producer, the job wasn't done, in sitting down with the director/ad and having them do their jobs, or yes, replacing them. And the job of a DoP wasn't done inasmuch as sitting down with your director in private and going over the film so you're on the same page with both of you giving your input for a game plan.


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#7 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 13 September 2015 - 11:20 PM

I think its an age old situation.. producers will very often put a new,inexperienced dir with a seasoned DP..  to cover their arse if it all goes pear shaped.. nothing new here.. and Im sure its led to a lot of grief .. if either the dir thinks they are being over powered by the DP .. or the DP is a veteran but wont do anything new.. can cut both ways ..

If the film is a success the dir may well take a lot of credit not due.. but the DP knew this coming in..  and work/career  wise mostly people will know who "made" the film.. 

 

 

OR they look really good.. but its icing on a turd.. :)


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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 02:24 AM

The last feature I made, I was a co-producer/co-cinematographer/gaffer/editor on. I mean it was one location and 12 days of shooting, so once you get the ideas of each setup, the rest is gravy. First time director and she was literally scared to work with the talent. We had guys like Tim Roth, Bill Duke, Jennifer Beals and James Franco. I'm use to working around stars, none of it phases me at all, they're just people. She couldn't take it and she'd literally freeze up on set. We had an hour or two with each person and the director, one of my best friends, didn't know what to do.

Now I've directed for years and it was very difficult to bite my tung. When she wasn't looking, I'd walk over to the actors and give them a little hand with lines or explain the shot so they knew where to look. I even pulled the director aside a few times and tried to get her to actually direct. Unfortunately, sometimes that didn't work. We did get through the shoot, but some of the performances were weak and I know it hurt the reviews.

Moral of the story… I think it's important to speak up and work together as a unit on low-budget films when you've got an inexperienced crew member doing a certain job. They need support from those around them so they can learn, that's what low budget filmmaking is all about. So yea, I've been there, done that and honestly I think it's pretty normal. People want the film to come out good, so they speak up even if it's not their turn. It may hurt feelings, but those can be mended as long as the final product is amazing.
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#9 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 03:03 AM

What is classified as a feature these days..  to me a feature would never have the same person doing camera/gaffer/editor/ producer/director .. this would be an indie.. at the very best.. 

 

Im not meaning to knock any ego,s here.. and this is not to have a dig at you Tyler.. but serious question..bought on by your post .. sorry !  to me a feature is properly crewed shoot..  professionals to a varying degree of experience .. with very least something like an F5.. with PL cine lenses.. even if one zoom.. a decent lighting kit .. I mean this is bare minimum .. not a pocket BM camera as A camera.. 

It has catering,transport guys.. i.e. a general level of professionalism.. to make a "feature" film..   for TV or Cinema.. 

 

In my day if a DP was shooting his/her first feature.. it was a pretty big deal even if a very modest budget.. but now it seems a feature has less crew than when I was at film school.. and can be called one even if shot with 2 people and an iPhone .. 

 

Could be Im a way out dated old fart.. I don't know.. probably Im .. !  just something thats been bugging me for years now.. 

 

Rant over 


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 14 September 2015 - 03:06 AM.

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#10 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 03:36 AM

This seems to be the definition of a feature film: https://en.wikipedia...ki/Feature_film

 

It has nothing to to with the camera being used or the size of the crew. If this was the case "Monsters" wouldn't be a feature film (crew of 7). https://en.wikipedia...ers_(2010_film)


Edited by Brian Drysdale, 14 September 2015 - 03:37 AM.

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#11 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 03:54 AM

"The term feature film came into use to refer to the main film presented in a cinema and the one which was promoted or advertised. The term was used to distinguish the main film from the short films (referred to as shorts) typically presented before the main film, such as newsreelsserialsanimated cartoons and live-action comedies and documentaries."

 

So they are already taking for granted that it is going to show at a cinema.. has been promoted etc.. which is already going way beyond the galaxy of 2 men, a dog and an EX1..  I think it re enforces what my thoughts if anything.. 

 

​I think you found a pretty extreme example with  Monsters . although they shot in 5 countries and had a budget "under $500,000".. I would class this as an indie.. that got lucky ala Blair witch.. but these a needles in the hay stack ..will crop up every 10 years or so.. and the Dir/DP was already pretty experienced .. and did want to shoot on a RED initially.. 

 

Technology marches on I know.. but really the term .. feature film .. is being thrown around now for anyone who walks out their door with their phone/DSLR on and pointing forwards ..  its not the same ..


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 14 September 2015 - 04:07 AM.

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#12 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 04:08 AM

Theatricial distributors will take on a feature film made by 2 men, a dog and an EX1 if they think it'll make a profit, It really helps getting this if the two men are George Clooney and Brad Pitt with Rin Tin Tin as the dog. The names are important in this process.

 

Having said that, it's usually the case that enough has to be invested into the film's prodyction in order to make the high marketing costs worthwhile. Outside of this, there has to be something unique about  the film and saleable to make these costs worthwhile and they may have to make further investments to bring a production up to a required standard.


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#13 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 04:54 AM

" bring a production up to a required standard."    exactly the words I was looking for..   :)

 

Ironically distributors or rather studio,s as having to spend more and more regurgitating cartoon /comic books as "blockbusters" to make a buck..  pretty sad there a lot more better content on TV now..  was just on 2 long flights.. and True Detective was light years better than any of the new film releases on offer.. !

 

Enough of the Robot/super hero bollocks.. I heard Ant man V,s Scooby Doo is next with $10 billion dollar budget.. 


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 14 September 2015 - 04:57 AM.

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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 08:08 AM

For me a feature just means it's over 50 minutes or something and doesn't mean it has to be a blockbuster.

An indie feature can also be a feature, it just means that it isn't a studio production.

If someone shoots a feature on an iPhone then so what. It's just another digital camera.

I don't think it matters how many people you crammed onto the set.

 

Whether stuff shot and projected on video is actually cinema and not just a giant shared television experience might be more of a question for me but not all this other stuff.

 

Freya


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#15 Freya Black

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 08:15 AM

Returning to the original posting, I find all this kind of nonsense incredibly silly and pathetic.

All this bickering after the event over who had what credit! Incredible!

This is especially the case when it's some tiny production where people are making their first feature.

You are just starting out and you are already bickering over minor issues around status and credit?

If you want director credit then go and make a movie where you are the director from the get go.

You should be concentrating on making sure the movie is a success and moving onto the next one, not arguing over who gets to put their name where.


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#16 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 08:18 AM

I agree it can be shot on an iPhone.. but by an experienced crew.. with some sort of structure on the set.. with HOD,s etc.. 

 

I thinks its probably a stupid subject for me to bring up.. its to do with age and personal preferences.. and thats why it just grates with me.. when people talk about shooting a feature.. but its a couple of kids with an EX1.. Im not saying that they shouldn't be allowed to shoot.. but now virtually any shoot is being called a feature ..  


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#17 Freya Black

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 08:48 AM

I agree it can be shot on an iPhone.. but by an experienced crew.. with some sort of structure on the set.. with HOD,s etc.. 

 

I thinks its probably a stupid subject for me to bring up.. its to do with age and personal preferences.. and thats why it just grates with me.. when people talk about shooting a feature.. but its a couple of kids with an EX1.. Im not saying that they shouldn't be allowed to shoot.. but now virtually any shoot is being called a feature ..  

 

 

I think these things have always been called a feature if they are feature length.

To be honest I think that the days of having proper sets with heads of departments etc might be coming to an end because it seems likely that working practices are likely to shift further over into the kinds of ways of working that have been historically used in TV.

 

Freya


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#18 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 09:02 AM

You still have heads of departments etc on TV dramas because it's an efficient means of working on larger productions. No escaping the demads of needing art direction etc in order to tell a story.

 

A breakdown in this regard tends to be found on TV documentaries and other types of production where 2 person or one person crews are more common. The middle ground in TV has been seriously reduced over the years.


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#19 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 09:38 AM

 

but now it seems a feature has less crew than when I was at film school.. and can be called one even if shot with 2 people and an iPhone .. 

 

Could be Im a way out dated old fart.. I don't know.. probably Im .. !  just something thats been bugging me for years now.. 

 

Rant over 

I was having a similar conversation about this recently with another DP.  It used to be that whenever you shoot "scripted material" you have a crew.   At the very least your skeleton crew involves camera and lighting support and now it seems a struggle to get even the basic players you'd have in a splinter unit.   

 

Dated old fart?  Nope.  I think we just remember a time when the attitude was "do it right".   Unfortunately that's been traded for "get it done".  


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#20 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 10:24 AM

This is a bit of text and backstory here, so bear with me, I don't know if i'm just going through a bout of insecurity or have a genuine concern, and I wanted to seek the opinions of others who have gone through similar experiences. Just to say upfront, there is no bitterness involved with this project, and we are all good friends.

 

So, we are currently going through post on our first low budget feature. I was the Producer for the film, and I didn't really have an intention to shoot the film, I wanted to simply be the Producer and gain more experience in that field. I also wanted to find someone else that would benefit more from the Feature DP credit than me, as I am trying to focus less on being a Director/DP and more on building myself as a Director and Producer, I would say I am a decent DP, but without going into too much detail, I don't think its the career path for me. Long story short, I ended up becoming the DP for my good friend who had also written the screenplay, and was going to direct.

 

I did share my apprehensions prior to shooting, I myself am not only older but I have more experience directing and working with actors, I didn't want to end up having to work with the actors, and effectively direct, but we failed to discuss responsibilities of blocking and coverage prior to shooting.

 

Being a Producer and DP did cause an obvious conflict, on one side I wanted to ensure the film had a level of quality and production value that came in line with the material I like to present under my production company, on the other side I did want to just act purely as a DP, and help the Director bring their vision to the screen, there's a reason for hierarchy and positions on set, and I didn't want to mess with that, it was bad enough I was also Producer, and the inherent conflict that could cause.

 

Pre-Production was hectic, so by the time the first day came, the Director hadn't really done any pre-visualization of how scenes would be shot, he was forced by the AD to come up with a shot list for the first day, but when I saw it, I was unhappy with the basic coverage and there being far too many shots, especially for an 18 day feature where we couldn't afford that many setups, more importantly the coverage simply didn't make any sense for the scene, it was a bit film school and textbook. So I scrapped the list and quickly came up with a solution that made more sense, and the general everyday workflow would soon follow this pattern. The director would rehearse the scene with the actors, he'd come up to me and describe the shots, and I would effectively throw them all out of the window, and come up with new blocking and more cinematic coverage, and mess up what the actors had just rehearsed. The AD made the point about how the Director is responsible for the blocking and that I shouldn't butt in, but the Director told them that he trusted me implicitly with anything to do with camera, and that I should be allowed to have my say. Of course this made the AD's job hard, as the shot list was made literally minutes before we would start shooting each scene.

 

We soon found our workflow and got used to it. The Director would rehearse the scene, myself and the Gaffer would watch it, I would work out the blocking with the actors, and the coverage, and then describe the shooting plan to the Gaffer, who like most Gaffers was a DP in her own right so we would have useful discussions with each other, it wasn't before long that that onset relationship between her and myself was more akin to the Director and DP, at least when it came to the camera side of things. As we were shooting I didn't have time to think too much about the fact I was fulfilling a lot of duties expected by the Director, I just figured this is the kind of Director that thinks less about camera, more about performance, and I can be the DP that has more creative freedom.

 

The Director though would get frustrated, and rightly so, when he felt he almost had no say with the camera and lighting, but the truth was 9 times out of 10, my solution just made more sense, and we are seeing that especially now during the edit. I do get frustrated when he describes a shot as his, knowing full well all he did was agree with my idea, I know I am going to get even more frustrated when others watch the film and credit him with the way scenes are covered and shot, it will bother me even more if he got hired to direct something because of those factors, and someone comes to me and says "so what camera did you shoot with?".

 

Fortunately, I didn't have to work with the actors, or work with the Production Design and other departments anymore than a DP traditionally would, and beyond having a significant part in the casting of the film, I do at least feel secure the performances and the tone of the film are something the Director can be proud of, and of course, the writing, which I have always felt to be truly excellent.

 

I am not a big fan of Co-Directing credits, to me they can be messy and reminds me way too much of my early days as a kid, when we were all insecure and uneducated, the "whoever operates the camera is directing" mentality. However looking at the relationship between some well known Co-Directors, I have read in many cases one will be more responsible for working with the actors, and the other will focus more on the camera side of things. The way I look at the way we worked together from the very beginning more than a year ago, it has felt like a co-Directing operation to me, even now as we are effectively editing the film together.

 

My friend is a very understanding person, and is certainly not a credit hog, but I don't want to even bring up this issue with him if it's simply me being insecure, and as a result then make him feel insecure about his own work and credit. Can anyone add their thoughts, or own personal experiences where they felt as a DP that they were effectively the co-Director? Am I just making an issue out of nothing?

 

 

Getting back to the original post, here, I would suggest you be satisfied with the producer/DP credits and let the co-director credit go.  As Adrian stated, the main problem here was lack of pre-production and, as a producer, you have to make sure that gets done.  If that had been accomplished, you may have been happier with what the director was planning on a day-to-day basis. 

 

It also sounds like you want to have full control over the image, so maybe going the director/DP route for future projects would be a better approach.  This way you'll avoid stepping on other people's toes like you did here.


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