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What a DP wants


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#1 Jody Custer

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 01:05 PM

Cinematographers please speak up. What do you want from your director? If you could request anything of your director, what would it be? What would be the most helpful to you and your crew? Both in pre-production and production.
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#2 Jon Amerikaner

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Posted 05 July 2005 - 04:05 PM

Cinematographers please speak up.  What do you want from your director?  If you could request anything of your director, what would it be?  What would be the most helpful to you and your crew?  Both in pre-production and production.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I'm only speaking for myself:

I do NOT want my director to be the cinematographer. One time I worked with a director who, once on set, told my crew exactly where to place the lights. I asked him, "what do you want me here for if you are going to light the shot yourself?" The only exception to this (and this is my own personal feeling) would be if the director had a very specific story point for requesting a specific light. But even then, the director should be asking or recommending (not ordering) what light he or she wants in the shot to achieve the desired effect. As in: ?What?s the best light to show the character?s sadness in this shot?? or ?I think a Kinoflo gelled blue would make the scene look more depressing. What do you think?? Same goes for any of the hundreds of choices a DP must make.

I do WANT a director who is open-minded and considerate. It's essential for the director to know what he or she wants and needs. But they must be open to any number ideas on how to get there. They should be open for alternate ideas. I might have a different suggestion for a shot or light. It might be better or it might not be. But hear me out first before making any decision. I can handle any number of "no's" if I know that my suggestion or request was heard and considered.

If we (director and DP) have a disagreement, please keep it away from the rest of the crew. If you're unhappy with what I'm doing, talk to me in private. It is my personal opinion and experience that if the crew sees and hears the DP and director arguing, morale and enthusiasm drops. Basically the feeling among the crew, and I felt this way when I was working crews, was that if the director and DP aren't getting along, the day isn't going to go well, and the film as a whole won't go well. It doesn't always happen. But keeping disagreements in private is always a good idea.
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#3 Nate Downes

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 07:19 AM

right now...

a paying gig. 8)

But seriously, I want someone to work with, not work for. I hate dictators on the set, I love managers on the set. As Jamer up there pointed out, it's better to go to me and say "I want her sadness to be emphesized" than "put a blue gel on that kino and place it here..." ya know?
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#4 Jody Custer

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 11:38 AM

The respect and non-diva director approach, is a given. But what would you like a director to communicate to the DP, before and during filming? What are some silent wishes that you have had that the director would handle or communicate to you? What do you want to hear?
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 11:45 AM

I want them to tell me what they think the dramatic intent of the scene is and what they hope to accomplish stylistically -- and then give me a chance at suggesting a way of accomplishing this photographically... and then both of us coming to some consensus and proceding.

Truth is that a lot of this work is done in prep so you're not wasting time having overall visual strategy discussions on the set. It should be more like "remember how we talked about this dialogue scene having an oppressive, expressionist tone? How about we..."

A director may micromanage early on (that's too blue, that's not what I meant by dark, that doesn't feel like moonlight to me, etc.) as a way of fine-tuning communication between the DP and director so they know what's in each other's mind, but at some point, the director has to trust the DP to use their own judgement or else everything will go VERY slowly and the DP will just be unhappy and therefore not doing his best work, rather just mechanically executing whatever the director wants. My best work always comes when the director trusts me so much that I'm allowed to fail, not cover my ass.
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#6 Mike Williamson

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 12:14 PM

The most important thing for me is that the director KNOWS what the purpose of each scene is and can communicate it to me and everyone else. Have a well-refined idea of the purpose of every single scene in the script before you arrive, otherwise you're unprepared and you'll end up stealing time from the rehearsal process, the lighting, etc. to try and figure it out.

Beyond that, I'll agree with the previous posts and say that trust is very important, enough that we can collaborate in a meaningful way, also that you don't have to be looking over my shoulder to feel confident that I'm going in the right direction.

One of the things that I find very important is testing in pre-production to determine the look and agree on the stylistic direction for the film. Looking at different approaches together with your DP will allow the two of you to figure out what works and what doesn't, as opposed to saying something like "it should look darkish and sort of colorful". If you test ahead of time, it will help the two of you build trust in each other and have a specific idea of where you're going. From that, you can develop a short-hand, so that "darkish and colorful" will acutally mean something to the two of you. So I guess my advice would be to test with your DP and to make sure to spend time looking at the tests and taking the process seriously.
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#7 xtraview

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 03:04 PM

Hi,

This post is very useful ....
Not to drift away from the subject... but I have a few questions...
is it director's responsibility to know exactly
what angles should be covered for smoother post-production (editing)?
Or that director tells what kinds emotion the scene should have and he
just concentrates on the actors on their acting ?
The DP would tell the director how to shoot the scene -- how to cover the scene (angle/dolly/pan/..etc.)?



Regards,
RJ
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#8 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 05:11 PM

A vision.

I'd much rather work for a very set, knowledgeable, maybe even demanding director like David Fincher than for some of the limp ones I've encountered over the years. I want a point of view, it's the most important thing.

However, one has to undertstand that directing is nothing but having good taste - that's all it is. And sometimes what is good taste for me may not be good taste for someone else. I think I have good taste, but that doesn't nescessarily make it so. Just to make the match worse, my taste changes all the time. The trick is to work with a director that shares your taste at that particular point in time.

But this is also something I'm sure of (now) works both ways. Directors seek a point of view from me, too. They want me to fight for my vision - otherwise, why am I there? This is important to understand. Delivering just what they want without input or questioning is not going to further your career anymore than doing so. It's a balance, but the best movies are often not the same as the easiest to shoot.

Edited by AdamFrisch, 08 July 2005 - 05:11 PM.

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#9 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 07:09 PM

I'd much rather work for a very set, knowledgeable, maybe even demanding director like David Fincher than for some of the limp ones I've encountered over the years. I want a point of view, it's the most important thing.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>




Adam's post reminded me of an interview with actor, director, producer Jodie Foster. Foster was asked, "What was it like working with David Fincher? His films--Seven, The Game, Fight Club--have made him one of the directors everybody wants to work with. But he's known to be a control freak."

To which she replied:

"Without a doubt, of all the people I've worked with, he is the finest technician ever. He can do everyone's job, and does everyone's job the entire shoot. He's the most meticulous, the sharpest, not just visually but in every sense. Sometimes there's a little complaining about that because he doesn't give people a lot of leverage to contribute. But he has the clearest vision of any director I've ever worked with.

That might mean 40 takes, if that's what it takes. But I'm terrifically suited for Fincher, who knows exactly what he wants all day, because I like playing Twister. I like doing this [pats her head] and this [rubs her stomach] at the same time. I don't do well with people who are not direct. I don't do well with passive-aggressive, wishy-washy. Some actors really thrive in that atmosphere because it makes them feel more important and needed. I don't. Directors who don't come prepared--I can just be a mean person, because I can't believe that you can be given all that money and all that responsibility and waste everybody's time. Now, Fincher may not get his shot until 2 a.m. That's fine. At least I knew where he was headed, and I completely see his goal. And when I ask him a question, he either says yes or no. There's no "Well, I don't know." Pretty much my biggest frustration and pet peeve is jumping onto a project where everybody there is giving up time with their families, they're sacrificing their health and everything else, and the director doesn't know what he wants. Fincher knows how he wants his party. And I love that.

"David's an auteur. His films are strong because he has an opinion on everything . He chooses where the lights go, he discusses color temperatures, he discusses the sound quality, tells you where to put the mike, which mike to put on. That includes my and everyone else's performance. He manicures every single performance."
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#10 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 07:13 AM

The most important thing for me is that the director have a cinematic vision and are able to communicate in clear terms what that vision is.
In France things can get so "heady" and "intellectual" and still not have a clear vision.
It is important for the director to know WHY they want to do WHAT they want to do.
The modern world and the increasing amount of technology has in a way made many far too conscious of HOW. This HOW is the DP's job. IMHO art is born from WHY and not HOW.
Trust is very important. It is important thet the director "goes to bat" for me when necessary.
Also very important is that the director is respectful and friendly to my crew.
What it all boils down to is that the director shows that they really want to make a good film.
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#11 Jon Amerikaner

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 12:51 PM

Hi,

This post is very useful ....
Not to drift away from the subject... but I have a few questions...
is it director's responsibility to know exactly
what angles should be covered for smoother post-production (editing)?
Or that director tells what kinds emotion the scene should have and he
just concentrates on the actors on their acting ?
The DP would tell the director how to shoot the scene -- how to cover the scene (angle/dolly/pan/..etc.)?
Regards,
RJ

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Yes, the director must know what shots are necessary for full flexibility in editing. It depends, of course, on what the intent of the scene is and how much room for experimentation you want in the edit bay. Any editor will tell you the horrors of cutting a scene with too few shots. But too many can cost more time (and money) in photography and editing. Eventually you will have to come to a happy medium. With time, you will learn which shots are necessary and which are not for each moment of your film. Some directors can get so good at their craft that they edit the film (in their heads) before shooting and shoot only the specific shots they need. No more no less.

Yes, the director needs to concentrate on the emotion, actors, and performance. That's why it is essential he or she knows which shots are necessary before beginning the day. That way he or she can concentrate on performance with the confidence that he or she will have every shot needed.

Yes, the DP can SUGGEST how to cover the scene. Especially if the director asks. This is the give and take of collaboration. Many times the director has a very specific shot in mind. Other times, he or she asks the DP what's the best shot. Of course much of the conversation should happen prior to photography, so not to waste time. But many of us have shot in situations where we did not plan enough and came up with shots on the fly. This is why it's important for the director and DP to know how to edit. That way, at least, you can tell each other, well we will cover the shot in a long-shot (master), medium, and close-ups, and know it will edit together.

I like to think of the director as a creative funnel. Through which, many complimentary and opposing ideas, techniques and systems flow, to produce a singular and when best, coherent and unique vision.
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#12 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 02:33 PM

Hi,

Do many major features shotlist? Clearly there's always going to be big money shots with exotic equipment or FX sequences that are planned in advanced, but I get the impression that a lot of Hollywood moviemaking is look at a script, just maybe location recce, turn up and do it. Obviously people are looking at scripts and there's got to be some dialog between director and DP before the day, but one of the reasons I prefer to direct stuff I'm shooting is that few people are willing to spend time (usually unpaid) planning to the level that I like to. I'd hate going into a day not having some idea how many setups I was expecting to do and what the first shot was likely to be.

Am I unusual, or am I just used to working on very rushed low budget shoots?

Phil
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#13 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 04:45 PM

Do many major features shotlist?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Your daily call sheet will have a list of scenes that are going to be shot that day. If there hasn't already been discussion of how to shoot it, and hence, how long it's going to take,how can you possibly schedule?

These schedules are agreed by the Director, DP, 1st AD and whoever else needs to input. Any production that just 'turns up and shoots' is doomed to fail.
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 08:23 PM

Directors like to work in all sorts of ways. It may not be necessary to shot-list a simple dialogue scene as long as the director keeps track of the time he has to block and cover it. He may want to wait until he sees the blocking to know how to cover it.

But it's important that every department be aware in advance of any shots that require special equipment or affect art direction, costumes, etc.

It all depends too on how experienced the director and DP are.

I prefer to be prepared and know every shot planned for the day -- it frees me to improvise from that because I know what I basically need to accomplish and I have had a chance to think carefully about the design of the sequence away from the rush of the shooting day. So when I show up, it's easier to discuss with the director what to follow from the plan and when to deviate from it.

With planning, every department can be several shots ahead during the day having things standing by and ready to fly in.
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#15 Chris Keth

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 11:31 PM

I'm speaking from a student perspective, so I've worked with a lot of directors who are still working on their craft, as I am working on mine.

What I like in a director is someone who can communicate their ideas clearly and concisely, above everything else. If a director can't do that, the project probably isn't going to go so well.

Beyond that, I like people who come into a project with strong ideas of their own but who are also eager to hear my ideas and then formulate a blend of the two visions. I am very willing to admit when someone else's approach is a better one than mine and I like working with people who will say "You know, that's much better than what I had planned" when it will make a better film. I am not studying cinematography to only be an automaton behind the camera for directors. I'm sure I will work with directors that my role amounts only to that, but I prefer to contribute input that makes a better film.

This one is sometimes a forlorn hope but I don't particularly like egotistical directors either. It's not just the egotism that annoys me but also that often egotistical is synonomous with uncompromising...even if it makes a sub-par film than what would have been made had the person allowed other input.

Edited by Christopher D. Keth, 11 July 2005 - 11:33 PM.

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#16 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 12:35 PM

Sorry, I only glanced at the other replies. I want the Director to understand the physical realities of film-making. Don't shoot one direction, then ask to turn around, and then ask to turn around again. Have the patience do things in the right order: Block, frame, light, shoot. Things will go much smoother if you don't panic, and you take the time to do things in their proper order. Understand the diffference between pre-production, when big decisions are made, and production, when the plan is put into action. If you're a student (whoever you are, actually.), don't ask for "The Godfather," on a DVX-100a w/ 3 inkies and a Zip light w/ a broken bulb! In the same vein, don't ask why I can't just turn on the lights ... If you can, observe some big sets. It takes maybe 100 people, and tons of equipment to make "The Sopranos" look like "The Sopranos."

Last, understand the GFC paradigm, which Jim Denault - who now shoots "6' Under" - taught me: Good, Fast, Cheap: You can have any two, but never all three.

Edited by J-Ro, 12 July 2005 - 12:40 PM.

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#17 Chris Keth

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Posted 12 July 2005 - 07:43 PM

Last, understand the GFC paradigm, which Jim Denault - who now shoots "6' Under" - taught me: Good, Fast, Cheap: You can have any two, but never all three.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



That is an extremely good adage. B)
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#18 Bob Hayes

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 11:53 AM

Q: How do you know if there is a Director of Photography at your party?
A: He'll tell you.

Q: What's the difference between God and Directors of Photography?
A: God doesn't think he's a Director of Photography

Q: What's the difference between a Director of Photography and a camera?"
A: The camera stops whining when you say cut.
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#19 J. Lamar King

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 01:11 AM

I forgot where this comes from:

In the beginning there was God.
And God made the light and saw that it was good.

And God made the Lighting cameraman and said he was good.
And the lighting cameraman saw God and said.

"Turn your head a bit, so it's back-lit."
And God said, "But I am God!"

And the lighting cameraman said, "I don't care who you are,
you look better back-lit."

And God turned his head.
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