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Director/DP Relationship


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#1 Kyle Geerkens

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Posted 25 September 2005 - 06:06 PM

Hey


I'm having a slight problem coming to agreements with my Director on an upcoming project.

I'm kindof feeling that she wants to have such a strong vision that I'm not going to be using my full potential.

How in your experiences does pre-production work? I know it varies a lot depending on the two people. However, I would like to know if i should be involved strongly in the planning of shots or if she should do everything and then once i look it over i should suggest chages then. I was thinking that we would work very closely on planning (ie cam movement, shot selection mood etc...) and when it came down to the nitty gritty she would obvioulsy have the final say.

Is it me that creates the mood I feel suits her ideas. Or do i just make her mood.


Thanks
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 September 2005 - 11:56 PM

It's her movie.

You are there to help her turn a script into real images that tell the story. How much she involves you in the coverage and set-ups, etc. is up to her, but obviously you will do better work the more you are involved and you should convince her of that.

If you can't agree on the look she wants for the movie, you shouldn't do the movie, but either way, you can't be doing something contrary to what she wants. Before you proceed, you both HAVE to be on the same page.

Now I wouldn't want to be involved with a movie where the director just dictated the look of the movie to me, as if I were a robot executing her orders... Some directors just want a DP who knows where the "on" button is on the camera, you know what I mean?

If she doesn't respect you enough as an artist to seek your creative input, then why did she hire you in the first place? Unless she has never worked with a DP before.

But ultimately, you have to understand that this is not a relationship of equals.

Try to explain to her that you will do better work for her if she involves you creatively. If she thinks a DP is just a technician who executes her ideas only because she can't do it herself, it probably will not be an enjoyable experience for you.
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#3 Dimitrios Koukas

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 02:12 AM

Hey
I'm having a slight problem coming to agreements with my Director on an upcoming project.

I'm kindof feeling that she wants to have such a strong vision that I'm not going to be using my full potential.

How in your experiences does pre-production work?  I know it varies a lot depending on the two people.  However, I would like to know if i should be involved strongly in the planning of shots or if she should do everything and then once i look it over i should suggest chages then.  I was thinking that we would work very closely on planning (ie cam movement, shot selection mood etc...) and when it came down to the nitty gritty she would obvioulsy have the final say.

Is it me that creates the mood I feel suits her ideas.  Or do i just make her mood.
Thanks

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Since that David covered your question totally I believe,
then the only thing that I would like to add is that cinema is a collaboration Art and includes all the other arts known till now.
Without collaboration, some departments may feel ''out of the game'', wich will affect the project itself.
A director is a Director, but he/she isn't the project.

Dimitrios Koukas
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#4 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 02:30 AM

A director is a Director, but he/she isn't the project.

Unless she/he is the only one working on the project, lol...
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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 03:18 AM

Unless she/he is the only one working on the project, lol...



Hi,

That's called a dream.

Stephen
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#6 Sam Wells

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 10:10 AM

Oh I think some directors pretty much are the project.

Wong Kar-wai is the project; tell me who shot what on 2046 :D
(a friend reports that WKW at a Q&A said he decided to shoot a closeup film in 2.35 to "torture Chris Doyle" I guess it worked.

Some collaborations are like a duet, the voices blend: Bergman & Nykvist; Hou Hsiao-hsien & Li Ping-bin; lately I think Van Sant & Savides

-Sam
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#7 Dimitrios Koukas

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 01:52 PM

Oh I think some directors pretty much are the project.

Wong Kar-wai is the project; tell me who shot what on 2046 :D
(a friend reports that WKW at a Q&A said he decided to shoot a closeup film in 2.35 to "torture Chris Doyle" I guess it worked.

Some collaborations are like a duet, the voices blend: Bergman & Nykvist; Hou Hsiao-hsien & Li Ping-bin; lately I think Van Sant & Savides

-Sam

You know that I pretty much agree here, but they are both students.
Dimitrios Koukas
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#8 Sam Wells

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 07:10 PM

Well true enough but somebody's got to have a vision, maybe a synergy can happen.

I've worked with talented "recently graduated" students it's been OK.

The danger is not a Director who has a "vision" for a film, but a Director whose vision can't be formed by the tools and grammar of filmmaking.

-Sam
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#9 Tomas Koolhaas

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 04:05 PM

Hello,
I agree with david. I would also add that having worked with a variety of different directors I would say that you will run into quite a few who want to almost totally dictate the shots, look, movement, mood etc.. of the piece. As David rightly says it "their" film so if thats what they want to do you don't have much choice in the matter, except the ultimate choice of turning the project down. Since you are a student I assume you haven't shot a great number of projects, and therefor probably shouldn't turn down a project just because the director is quite controlling about what shots and look she wants. I was in a very similar situation once in film school, I worked with a guy who basically wanted to dictate the shots to me , and have me execute them. This frustrated me in pre-production but I found that once we got on set, the fact that I had a greater understanding of the practical aspects of cinematography allowed me to adapt the shots/style he had planned for to something also more to my taste, the reslut was that we were both happy with the final look.
In short I would say shoot the project, and just keep trying to influence her in a direction that you like, you might be suprised how much easier it gets once you get on-set. But don't forget that the job of a DP is to give the director what he/she wants, not impose your will on them.
Good luck,
Cheers.
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#10 Tim J Durham

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 04:40 PM

In short I would say shoot the project, and just keep trying to influence her in a direction that you like, you might be suprised how much easier it gets once you get on-set. But don't forget that the job of a DP is to give the director what he/she wants, not impose your will on them.
Good luck,
Cheers.

Not only that, but you might find that she has a unique visual style and if you pay attention you might learn something that is worth knowing. Sam mentioned Wong Kar Wai and if I were in a position to shoot one of his films, I'd jump at it (obviously). It wouldn't bother me at all that he had already determined the look he wanted, I know I'd be learning from someone with a true visual stamp. Predicated, ofcourse, on whether I actually thought I COULD deliver for him. Which is an important question.

With some directors it may be clear that they have NO visual sense at all and if THEY were to insist I just do what they say, then I might turn THAT project down. I don't think you've made it clear which situation you are in.
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#11 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 05:18 PM

The commentary has been restrained, civilised and worth the price of admission. However how many times have you wanted to but your foot where the sun don't shine?
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#12 Lav Bodnaruk

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Posted 08 October 2005 - 10:10 AM

Here is a quote I like,

"In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman." - David M. Ogilvy

---------
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#13 Micah Fernandez

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 08:21 AM

What about directors who think they know what they want, but can't quite interpret it lucidly?

Not to toot my own horn, but in all the short films I've shot, I've had a better grasp on visual communication than the director. Usually I'd be asked to set up a shot that doesn't quite match, whether related to the composition, focal length or camera angle, with what the director says he/she wants. In the past, I've let it go, keeping in mind that it is, after all, their movie. But lately I've been questioning whether I should be more active in protecting not only my images, but the director's vision, as hazy as it is. Would I be out of line if I suggested a different shot from where the director spikes the camera?
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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 December 2005 - 12:17 PM

Would I be out of line if I suggested a different shot from where the director spikes the camera?


Of course not -- but there's a difference between suggesting and making a persuasive argument versus demanding.
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#15 Sidney King

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 02:38 AM

Well, it's no secret that especially on a low-budget shoot (especially with a first-time director) the DP is going to be the most technically knowledgable person on the set. And a green director may have ideas that just don't make much sense or be misguided, technically-speaking (asking for shots that don't match, won't cut well, etc...)

However, i think it's important for DPs to remember that on these shoots they may have little or no idea what the director (who is often also the producer) has gone through getting the film into production (the sweat, the blood, the Faustian bargains...). Yes, the DP is also working hard and wants the project to be successful and their abilities to be well-represented, but that is very different than having your mortgate, inheritance, a sold kidney, and your cousin's school loans riding on it.

Be tactful, share your opinion, offer advice, but ultimately you have to let the director sink or swim. In the meantime keep in mind that on your next project you may be able to work with someone more accomplished/experienced...

Edited by Sidney King, 24 December 2005 - 02:42 AM.

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#16 Josh Bass

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 04:40 AM

I thought "traditionally", the shot compositions/camera movments, and lens choices (if that applies) were under the director's domain, while the DP was more about lighting (making concrete the director's idea for how this or that scene should look in terms of mood), and treatments of the film (tinting this scene blue, etc.), things like that. Again, I say "traditionally."

Way off?
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 11:10 AM

I thought "traditionally", the shot compositions/camera movments, and lens choices (if that applies) were under the director's domain, while the DP was more about lighting (making concrete the director's idea for how this or that scene should look in terms of mood), and treatments of the film (tinting this scene blue, etc.), things like that. Again, I say "traditionally."

Way off?


Yes, way off -- there is no specific demarkation like that.

A cinematographer's concerns are with how a movie story is told visually using the tools of photography and lighting. Of course this overlaps with the director's work, which is why it is a collaboration. Yes, some directors are more dictatorial than others when it comes to camera placement, focal length lens used, composition, etc. - but it is certainly part of a cinematographer's job description to work in these areas.

Now a great director may be so good at these things that a cinematographer will recognize the value in just executing what the director wants rather than constantly discuss it. But after shooting thirty features, I can tell you that a director who calls out for a specific focal length lens and actually knows what they are talking about is extremely rare.

Discussions on lens choice in general happen in prep, so that when you're on the set, you tend to confirm with each other the choice -- DP:"Do you want to shoot this master on a 25mm?" Director:"Sure" or "Maybe something wider like the 18mm". DP sets up the shot and has the director look at it, director makes adjustments, etc. We work together. He hired me for my eyes afterall.

Directors are the final word on everything so my job as a DP is to present options and ideas to him (or her). That doesn't mean they aren't directing if they don't come up with every idea themselves -- that's why it's called "directing" and not "creating".

Now lighting does tend to be the one area where a director will leave more up to the DP, although not always (i.e. Ridley Scott or Stanley Kubrick). It has nothing to do with "that's your terrritory" and more to do with the level of a director's knowledge and interest in that area.

There are some directors like Bertolucci who do pretty much tell the DP "this is the camera movement and use this focal length" and let the DP try and figure out how to light it.
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#18 Sidney King

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 11:00 PM

It's interesting to note that in Europe (well, at least England, I'm not as sure if it applies to all of Europe) the DP's responsibilities are much more exclusively focused on lighting (hence "lighting cameraman"), while camera movement, lens selection, framing, even blocking, etc... is more the realm of the operator. Consequently directors often have more long-term collaborations with operators and not necessarily DP's (or lighting cameraman).

Just curious if people who do or have worked in the English system feel this is an accurate description, and if anyone has any ideas why/how this somewhat different style of collaboration emerged there as opposed to the American method.
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#19 Tim J Durham

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Posted 25 December 2005 - 08:12 AM

It's interesting to note that in Europe (well, at least England, I'm not as sure if it applies to all of Europe) the DP's responsibilities are much more exclusively focused on lighting (hence "lighting cameraman"), while camera movement, lens selection, framing, even blocking, etc... is more the realm of the operator. Consequently directors often have more long-term collaborations with operators and not necessarily DP's (or lighting cameraman).

Just curious if people who do or have worked in the English system feel this is an accurate description, and if anyone has any ideas why/how this somewhat different style of collaboration emerged there as opposed to the American method.

Umm,
I've done quite a few gigs for the BBC and I both lit and operated and was called "lighting cameraman" when anyone felt the need to comment on what I was doing. Ofcourse that was here in the U.S. not in the U.K and were news and/or documentary shoots.

I your scenario, I find it hard to believe the "lightting cameraman" gets paid over 1000 quid per day. They sure weren't paying ME that rate but I was hired indirectly. Guess I won't let THAT happen again.
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#20 Mario C. Jackson

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Posted 25 December 2005 - 01:08 PM

I think the relationship between the director and dp is like a marriage. I believe the dp should be involved as early as possible. I know that a director has a final say so but it is a dp's job to make sure the image is good. I have worked with all types of directors. One director I worked with wanted me to come up with every shot of her film. Other directors wanted me to go over everything with them from the beginning, lighting, camera placement, it was highly collabrative effort. I have also worked with directors who already had the movie visualized in their mind but allowed and trusted me enough to make suggestions. I guess it pretty depends on who you are working with. I think every dp has a nightmare story but nevertheless you are the dp so shoot a good picture.
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