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Quality DP for a low-budget film?


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#1 PJC

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 03:30 AM

Hi guys,

Ok, I'm going to be making a low-budget film here in Los Angeles. I have a few questions:

1) Is it possible to get a quality DP for a relatively small salary? I read here on the forum that some of you have worked for $200 a day-- that would be the max I could pay. (The shoot will be about 25 days.)

2) Would the DP basically be his own crew for that price? In other words; he would set the lights up, load the camera, operate the camera, etc. (I don't think I can afford an assistant for him.)

3) Where would you recommend I look for a quality DP?


Thanks, Paul
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#2 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 03:42 AM

1)  Is it possible to get a quality DP for a relatively small salary?  I read here on the forum that some of you have worked for $200 a day-- that would be the max I could pay.  (The shoot will be about 25 days.)

2)  Would the DP basically be his own crew for that price?  In other words; he would set the lights up, load the camera, operate the camera, etc.  (I don't think I can afford an assistant for him.)

Thanks, Paul

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


No. For $200/day you're not going to get someone good that will do 5 jobs. You might be able to get someone to do it, but they will probably not be good.....and how could they be when they're running around like a chicken with their head cut off trying to do so many jobs? It's silly to think that someone would be able to do good work while doing that many jobs. Even if you paid $2000/day you won't find a person that can do all those jobs well at one time. You should adjust your expectations, and raise your budget, before you shoot.
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 04:13 AM

Hell, it's more'n I'm making at the moment. Fly me out there, do the paperwork, I'll happily do it...

Phil
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#4 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 05:29 AM

You can get a DP for that money, but not one who's willing, or even able, to do all those jobs rolled into one. Besides, that's bad for your film - the quality will suffer and you will most likely go over schedule which means more money.

If you're strapped for cash I'd get a proper DP and pay him, and then get students or others to do the other jobs for free or on a deferred payment.

No matter how small your production is, I'd say you need at least one camera assistant, one gaffer and one gaffers assistant, one sound guy and one grip guy. Anything else is unrealistic.

What format are you shooting on?

Edited by AdamFrisch, 14 July 2005 - 05:31 AM.

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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 11:28 AM

Earlier in my career, I've shot more features for around $200/day or $1000/week than I care to think about. Even on "Northfork", which had a 1.5 mil budget, everyone high and low was paid a flat $1000/week. For the six-day weeks, that was $167/day!

You can definitely find someone young and talented with that price if you look around, just like you can find talented actors willing to work for nearly nothing.

But you MUST hire a competent crew to surround the DP. Minimum will be a camera assisant but probably two minimum (1st and 2nd AC). If you only have a few lights and a small dolly, no generator, etc. then at least you'd also want one electrician, one grip, and one swing person to work for either. So that's probably about a five-person crew working for the DP.

Then of course, there are the other departments like sound, art, etc.

On the super low-budget films able to pay some small amount, I generally consider that a symbolic $100/day is the sort of the basement, the lowest anyone should get paid. Maybe the keys can get $150 or $200/day.

And you better treat them well, feed them, etc.
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#6 PJC

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 12:44 PM

Thanks guys, good info.

Basically what I'm trying to do is hire one true pro and then the rest are volunteers, students. Also, the set ups would be as simple as possible.

The format is 16mm.



Hell, it's more'n I'm making at the moment. Fly me out there, do the paperwork, I'll happily do it...

Phil

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hmm, I might have to fly out there!
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#7 Brian Wells

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 07:25 PM

It is interesting the way rates work. There have been days I've made $600 as a corporate v****grapher or as a camera operator for live events, both tasks which require only a rudimentary skill level. The "digital cinematography" work is mostly, for me, pro bono or at heavily discounted rates, like $60/Day, for example. At end of day, I would much rather be doing movies. Truthfully, there have only been a small handful of days where I earned the going rate.

My hope would be that a production would be both respectful of a person's skills and contributions and more importantly than paying them the "going rate," they would do all they can to provide an adequate support team to assist them. This means working for very little is not as much of a burdon if there is an eager crew ready to take on some of the load.

Good food and juices, instead of Coke, will go a LONG way towards getting qualified students to help on a movie. Commitment levels are generally low without good food. It may sound trivial, but I assure you, it is not.

I believe if a production takes care of the people's needs, then the people will take care of the production by embracing it with quality workmanship.

I hope this perspective from a young guy helps.

best-
Brian
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 07:29 PM

You have to give the DP some decent support, at least one camera assistant, one electrician and one grip who know something, or else the DP is going to waste his time doing their jobs or training them on how to do their jobs.

I did a feature like that once, with just two PA's assisting me, one pulling focus (on an F900), the other schlepping equipment and setting up lights (all four of them, and most of the time, I shot only available light). As long as the director and producer are aware of the limitations that will occur because of this.

Many features lose whatever money they saved on inexperienced crew on time lost and equipment damaged. It was almost inevitable that the L&D (loss and damage) was higher on my smaller films with inexperienced crew people.
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#9 Brian Wells

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 07:41 PM

Many features lose whatever money they saved on inexperienced crew on time lost and equipment damaged. It was almost inevitable that the L&D (loss and damage) was higher on my smaller films with inexperienced crew people.


I would tend to agree, merely based on a single feature I worked on recently. This project was shot over two weeks by of crew of ten. It was budgeted at 32K for aquisition, which did not include any post. As I understand, everyone was paid $60/Day and some of us were able to rent our gear to make up some of the difference.

After two non stop 6-day weeks of 15 hour days, the Gaffer accidentally backed the grip truck into an overhead tree while slowing pulling out of a location at night. The insurance deductable (or simply paying for the repairs, I'm not sure) increased the budget of the movie by nearly 20%, as I recall.
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#10 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 14 July 2005 - 08:47 PM

You get what you pay for.....and you pay for what you get. I wish producers would remember that.
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#11 PJC

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 12:04 AM

Good food and juices, instead of Coke, will go a LONG way towards getting qualified students to help on a movie. Commitment levels are generally low without good food. It may sound trivial, but I assure you, it is not.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I fully agree with you there. I'm going to ask actors and crew what food and drinks they want and have it waiting there for them.

Well, lot of good advice here. Basically seeing what I'm up against. Thanks all.
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#12 Jonathan Bryant

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 03:16 AM

Where are you shooting your feature? What is it about? Did you budget for other people besides the dp?
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