What is everyone's expectations of the DP as a leader?
What does it take to be a good leader as a DP?
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Leading the crew
21 replies to this topic
Posted 16 November 2015 - 10:37 AM
What is everyone's expectations of the DP as a leader?
What does it take to be a good leader as a DP?
Posted 16 November 2015 - 10:51 AM
I think the DP should be aware of the set safety and make sure the crew and actors are not taking risks when doing their job. I think the DP is also responsible to say NO to the director or/and producer if something can't be done safely (usually only the DP, lead actors and the producer, if present, are able to do that on set if the director is a jerk and does not care about safety)
Posted 16 November 2015 - 11:08 AM
DP should be aware? Think Midnight Rider...
Electrical safety, there's the gaffer and then there's God.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 11:55 AM
I think the DP is also responsible to say NO
The problem is that this simply marks one out as a troublemaker and can have profound career consequences.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 12:23 PM
almost every shot can be made safely if adding 5% more time and budget. most of the time it does not even need any extra time or money, it just needs that someone on the set thinks thoroughly about these things before doing anything dangerous. Those who don't care about safety should be banned from the industry for life...
the DP is the link between creative and technical people so he/she is the one who has best possibilities to negotiate the best compromise between crazy creative ideas and most working (and safe) practical solutions.
the only way the Midnight Rider scene could have been shot safely would have been green screen btw, the track has so heavy traffic that the operator couldn't have it closed for movie shoot but it would have probably been possible to shoot quick plates on location and do the rest of the scene with green screen in safe place.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 01:50 PM
No, you are dead wrong. You don't shoot on live tracks. Shooting next to live tracks in the USA, usually requires a RR safety person.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 02:04 PM
So has death.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 03:11 PM
I truly don't believe that Phil or Aapo is any way condoning any decisions made on the film Midnight Rider.
And I do think we all can agree that the DP is responsible for safety, just as much if not more so than the other department heads as he is the bridge between production and below the line.
I do see the point Phil made of being difficult in production it can hurt you career wise if you don't negotiate and explain why you can't do something or pose a solution on how to do it safely and effectively to still convey the message.
All good points.
I want to know why you want to work with a DP again vs a DP you don't much care to work with?
Posted 16 November 2015 - 04:34 PM
Well, I'm so glad someone finally brought this topic up on this forum because this is the number one thing up and coming DPs do not understand. Being able to light, compose shots, assist with blocking, etc, is all very well and good and every DP must bring this to table.
But very few younger DPs understand the concept of being a dept head and a manager of people, and someone who hires and fires them, etc. I worked with Denis Maloney, ASC on The Dogfather, and he is a former naval officer. This experience is a huge asset to him in terms of how he manages all of the people under his jurisdiction.
I find too many younger DPs want to hire their buddies as their crew and be the big hero, etc. But, what happens if you have to correct or fire one of your best buddies, what then? All dept heads on film sets walk that fine line between being friendly and too chummy with their crew.
If I could give some sweeping generalization advice to rising DPs, it would be....show the producer and director that you are a leader of people not just a lighting genius. It doesn't require you to be mean to people, but it does require you to always put the production first, and really be a leader.
And NO, it does not mean ordering your crew into an un-safe situation. I want to make that clear before the, "oh he's an evil producer," crew arrive and comment. Which should be any minute now....
Posted 16 November 2015 - 05:05 PM
Actually I quite agree.
Many directors of photography, especially those who come up through the traditional route of camera assisting or (more often in the UK) moving in from broadcast, find themselves very abruptly in charge of a camera department and very often lack the knowledge or experience to do it properly. By far the largest problems, and the largest proportion of problems, that I have ever seen on film sets have been caused not by technical incompetence but by properly atrocious management. It is such an endemic problem in film and TV work that we're almost used to the additional stress it creates.
This is one circumstance in which people who have never done anything but shoot may actually do better, because they will have been gradually introduced to managing larger and larger groups of people. Most first assistants will never have been responsible for more than two or three other people, other than on the very, very biggest shows.
I would also suggest that a military style of leadership is actually highly inappropriate and that military experience would probably need to be thoroughly unlearned before working with civilians. Some ex-military people get the picture immediately and temper their behaviour. Some don't, and I have seen this cause significant problems. Camera assistants, grips and gaffers are not military subordinates and it is neither reasonable nor effective to treat them as if they are.
As to the safety issue, the problem with this is simply the inevitability of the outcome. Ultimately the producer has the authority to replace anyone who dissents, so the unpalatable choice is between two terrible outcomes: doing something unsafe, or losing one's livelihood. Producers who argue with crew over these things need to understand the appalling pressure it puts people under, and to be extremely sensitive to the fact that safety concerns are probably being downplayed because you are so powerful.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 05:36 PM
I was referring to military training in the sense that it is experience leading others outside of the film industry, and therefore has value. I wasn't suggesting the crew should get up at 5am, salute the flag, and fall in for chow, before the 10K hike.
If a DOP can bring any other leadership experience to the table, ie as a manager of a dept in a corporation, police captain, or anything else...that has value. It's management experience which has a lot to do with being a great all around DOP.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 05:51 PM
I have found that a DP who listens just as much as she speaks will build trust both in her crew and director/producer.
Many fail to do this and want to just command people. That's one thing you always read that distinguished some of the more famous cinematographers and directors - they were always listening to their crew for concerns, suggestions, etc.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 07:38 PM
Managing your crew is one of the skills that so few people talk about, but which is essential to a DP. On my movies, I'm directly in charge at least 5 people in Camera, and another 6 or 8 in G&E. I regard it as a core part of my job to make sure that they are well treated and looked after by production, and that any concerns, gripes, conflicts or whatever are addressed and dealt with. If you throw 12 or 15 people together who haven't necessarily worked together before, and then add in long days and high pressure, you're sure to have a few arguments and difficulties, and it's the DP's job to make sure that these issues are dealt with quickly and quietly.
There are many 20-something DPs who never have never worked with a full crew, and consequently have no idea that man management is a much a part of the job as lighting.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 08:09 PM
I actually find that coming up through the ranks on bigger shows can help to better prepare you for management simply because you will have the opportunity to see it done well (and not so well) many times before you have to step up and do it yourself.
A DP who has never crewed and is working their way up the budget ladder may never have worked with an agency, a professional 1st AD, or A list talent which can complicate the politics around the job. They may also not fully understand what they are asking of their crew in certain situations if they have not been in their shoes before. Not to say that these things can't be learnt on the job (they can), but sometimes it's easier to observe your boss navigating those waters before you jump in yourself.
I do agree that hiring friends can be messy and unprofessional. Serving the production's needs (including keeping the cast and crew safe) must come first before personal feelings, kit rentals, etc. As long as all parties understand this going into a job, then it's fine. Otherwise, it's always bad news.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 09:41 PM
coming up through the ranks on bigger shows can help to better prepare you for management simply because you will have the opportunity to see it done well
Well, observation is not experience, and that's sort of the point. Lots of people are managed. Not all of them are potential managers.
The problem it creates is that people who have been in a certain non-managerial role for years can suddenly find themselves thrust into one, and that's a bad time to find out you aren't a potential manager.
Yes I have suffered problem people.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 09:47 PM
Like anything in this business it requires unique skill set. Few of the film school students dreaming of becoming the next big DOP, or even one that works on Hollywood majors consistently, will not become so. That's just they way it is.
Posted 16 November 2015 - 10:47 PM
It's easier to lead people when you honestly know what you want to do. And when I say, "honestly" I mean, HONESTLY. Once people realize you've thought about this, and have a plan how to execute, they'll follow before you have to step up and "lead."
Posted 16 November 2015 - 11:49 PM
? I meant that shooting the green screen plates with 2man scew in 15min with the railway company's safety persons when they can stop the traffic for a little moment/when they know there will be no traffic for a little moment and then shooting the actual scene using green screen at safe place would have been the only correct manner to do the scene
Posted 17 November 2015 - 12:34 AM
My point is that as you move up in the ranks to become a head of department, you will be handed incrementally more responsibility and you can make an informed decision on whether you can handle the next position up or not. Spending time in the trenches getting to know the rhythm of all the different departments and what they need from a DP to do their job properly is an important lesson to learn. Someone who just picks up a camera and starts shooting isn't going to get those benefits.
I do think that managerial skills can be acquired in all manner of business, it's just that filmmaking has a particular rhythm where if you are not yet comfortable or competent at the basics of your job no one will take you seriously, so those skills will do you no good.
Posted 17 November 2015 - 11:49 AM
I feel like the chain of command is an extremely important part. "It's the chain I go get and beat you with until you realize I'm in ruttin command!" (Jane from Firefly). I feel the DoP is the right hand of the director and the 1st AD is the left hand. All parts need to work together to make it happen. I feel I should support the director's vision with my decisions and actions. I also feel responsible for the crew in a kinship that only happens in foxholes and trenches. I try my best to subtly voice concerns to the director from the crew, but that is met with mixed reactions. Making movies is war!