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Old May 21st, 2005, 02:21 PM   #16
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That's not very cool, and something a DP should NEVER do, unless you trust him or her. Something like that would be grounds for termination on my set, but not necessarly your set.

A DP can make the film look good, based on your direction, but be careful they're not trying to get awesome shots for the reel. It's YOUR vision, ultimately.

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Old May 21st, 2005, 03:19 PM   #17
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Finding someone you can work with can be really hard. There has to a synergy there or it can be a miserable experience. My partner and I have a lot of trust and respect for each other. On one occasion, she was ill and allowed me to direct and shoot a scene while she stayed home so we could stay on schedule. That's trust. It sure weirded out the actors, who probably thought they were watching a coup. I can't imagine a DP who would just take it upon himself to roll the camera without you even knowing. If you have options, I don't think it would be too extreme of a reaction to replace him with no further discussion. If you don't have that option, you at least need to have a firm talk with this joker. He clearly thinks it's his movie. Have this conversation one on one, or its going to explode on the set in front of cast and crew. You definitely don't want that. Don't let him make you think you're over reacting either. You're not. Keep the discussion firm, but productive, and remember -- never say anything when you are angry. That's just a good rule in general. Choose the time, place and terms of this discussion, stay on point, and do it soon. Also, before having the discussion, make sure you know in advance whether you are prepared to fire him or not if need be.
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Old May 22nd, 2005, 09:50 PM   #18
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as a DP i'm there to serve the Director .. put the directors vision up on the screen ... then on small budgets there is the DP helping the producer/AD get the days/project work done on time .. so at times towards end of day director , DP , producer/AD must decide how much time is left and what shots can be done in that time or come back another day . the relationship on who does what just depends on the Director .. some just direct actors and let the DP take care of the image ..others like a hand in everything .. usually there are pre production meetings/rehersals and the shot list, mood/lighting is worked out by discussions between Director and DP .. then reality sets in on day of shoot and if you only have 4 hrs at a location that affects the shot list ..
= working TOGETHER ...

bottom line IMO it's the Directors call on where camera is placed, angle framing etc DP's are there to suggest , give different options .. the only thing i do not allow is the director to decide EXPOSURE of the negative, other then if they want deep or shallow DoF, hi/low shutter speed for effect .. i have to deliver a high quality negative to the producer.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 12:17 AM   #19
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A thought.

You are definitely not the only director that has had difficulties with their DP's. I understand your plight. You're probably thinking that if you say nothing and keep your opinions to yourself, then the shots will go smoothly and everyone will be happy...but you!

It's tough directing your first feature when everyone else around you has had much more filmmaking experience than you do. There is an incredible amount of pressure that is put on a director, especially if it's an independent feature that has a lot of other people's money invested into the film.

Working on an independent feature film, no matter how well a director and a DP gets along, will never be a smooth, easy operation. It never is. You will have your good days and your bad days, and what you hope for in the end is that you finish the production, on time, on budget, and that you got most of the shots that you originally wanted.

It's never too late to change the way the production is going. Pull your DP aside. Tell him/her your concerns, always be open minded and respectful, but never let anyone on YOUR SET intimidate or embarass you in front of your cast and crew. Once you let the set get away from you, then you'll see that everyone on the set will no longer listen to you.

Trust me. I have seen it happen many times.

Believe in yourself and your vision.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 08:39 AM   #20
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Don,

Thanks for chiming in... I was just about to post that we have heard a lot from directors on this topic, but not from DPs... I would would like to hear from more of you if you are reading...

I have been lucky and haven't had any real conflicts with my DPs. I enjoy the collaboration.
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Old May 23rd, 2005, 12:28 PM   #21
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A DP's POV!

When a DP decides to work on an independent feature with a first time director, he/she will try to get a feel for what the director wants to accomplish. The interview process between the DP and the director becomes an important one because a seasoned DP does not want to go into a long project if the director doesn't know what he/she is doing.

I have seen first time directors/producers get funding for a project, book all the people and equipment, secure locations, etc., and within the first three days of production, the movie is called off because the director had become overwhelmed with the entire filmmaking process. This can be due to lack of preparation, arguments between departments, or that the director had not taken the initiative and maintain leadership when difficult situations arose.

As a DP, you want to see a strong director take charge of the film. When a director is not present on the set, always wandereing away, on the phone, or basically goofing around, then you'll see other people on the set start taking charge. It's very disheartening to see a first time director lose control of the set because he/she is doing everything else but directing.

For DP's:

- Be optimistic, supportive, and patient. A rookie director will look to you in many situations that will require your experience and expertise. Be open minded when you and the director have differences. Remember that negative vibes between the director and the DP will be picked up by everyone else on the set.

For first time directors:

- Be respectful to EVERYONE on and off the set. Come to the set prepared. Do not expect that things that were not worked out in pre-production will magically work itself out on the set (very bad idea). Always be present on the set. Do not try to be involved in EVERY aspect of production. Hire an experienced 1st AD (this person will make your life so much easier on the set). Pick your battles and trust those around you. Be a leader. Remeber, everyone on the set is trying their hardest to make your vision a reality.


For both DPs and first time directors:

Be professional.
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Old May 24th, 2005, 01:54 AM   #22
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I've read this thread with interest, as it is a subject near and dear to my heart. The story about the DP who wouldn't let the director walk over to the actors and also did a take without the director present is a bit baffling--hard to imagine someone with experience on a set thinking that is acceptable behavior; he should have quit the film before going to those ends. I would be interested in hearing his side of the story.

I wish it were the case that as projects get bigger, directors have more confidence or understanding of the visual side of the craft, but sadly this is not always the case (Spielberg is obviously a notable exception, as are many others). I have worked with directors who knew exactly where they wanted the camera and what focal length, but honestly it's been quite a while. Much more often these days I see directors with a vague idea of what they want, have trouble communicating what they want, or perhaps can only articulate what they don't want...mostly they need the DP to find the shot, block the whole scene and sometimes do most of their job for them, right down to communicating with the actors. It seems to be a growing epidemic, and I know more than a few DP's(I'll be bold and include myself) who really deserve co-directing credit for their contributions, which come not so much from a desire to take over the show as a need to do so, to fill the void left by directors who choose not to do their homework, put in 110% or even consider these things part of their job. But guess who takes credit for all once the movie is done?
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Old May 24th, 2005, 03:15 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ahmed Malik
Should I approach him about this? How should I approach him about this?
Did you hire him? Does he answer to you or do you both answer to someone else above both of you?

If you hired him, or if he has to answer to you even if you did not hire him, then the way to approach it is "I appreciate your concern and your experience and I'm taking your input under advisement, but this is the way I want to do it."

Since the film is not turning out to be what you wanted it to be, how much worse - or better - could things have been if you stood up to him from the beginning? Maybe he'd have left and you would have found a better candidate. No matter what, it sounds like it can't be much worse. You get the credit or take the blame for how the film turns out, you know.

Keep your chin up!

BP
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Old May 24th, 2005, 07:41 PM   #24
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I have not had experience on features as a director, but I have written/directed/filmed/edited a lot of shorts. I can understand how things can get overwhelming. I can tell you how valuable an AD can be! My brother is usually my AD. The nice thing is we can be 101% direct with each other on how a scene should be and what I DON'T want to see. I play the role of the DP because no films we have done have warranted an actual DP yet.

I would have to say though, that if I am directing, what I say goes -period. Because who do people blame when the movie turns out bad -me! This doesn't mean, as said above, that I don't know my weaknesses. I do. I use every piece of talent made available to me though and am always willing to listen to suggestions. But in the end, it is the directors show...
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Old May 24th, 2005, 11:02 PM   #25
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Charles,

I was wondering if you were going to jump in. Thanks for doing so, always valuable to get your perspective.

I'm a bit surprised at how widespread you indicate that problem to be. What do you attribute this to? Any theories?
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Old May 25th, 2005, 12:19 PM   #26
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I'm not really sure, Richard, but perhaps it is a long progression of migration from music videos and commercials, from agency positions, from powerful actors setting up deals for their pals, etc. Writer/directors are hot now, which means that someone who might have spend little or no time on set but have written a good (or saleable) script are handed a directing deal. This one can be really catastrophic--this could be an individual that doesn't necessarily have a handle on the tools of film grammar, communicating with their crew or even their actors. My (actress) girlfriend saw an interview with Frank Miller after "Sin City" came out and was annoyed with the way he talked about Mickey Rourke doing it "all wrong" on the first day.
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Old May 25th, 2005, 10:24 PM   #27
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I guess to get the hot script, hire the writer to direct. Kinda like, if you love a house so much, offer more than what they want. Doesn't always work out on either end.

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Old May 26th, 2005, 04:55 AM   #28
 
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When I'm directing, I have a strong idea about everything from acting to lighting/shots/lenses/movement. Everything. But be extremely open to suggestion. If what they suggest is better, then do it. Drop your ego. If you don't think it's better, don't do it. But also consider that the DP might have technical reasons as to why he suggests you should or should not do something. Also consider the speed you need to shoot at (setup time). Many disagree with me, but I see director more like the auteur, kind of like James Cameron, who kind of sees actors as moving props. Just lose the ego and listen to actors and dp and even gophers if they say something smart. Get what you want, but don't be a jerk, and also remember filmmaking is a collaboration.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 08:09 AM   #29
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I know someone who just shoots his own stuff, because he's not happy with what others will do. Of course, his first film was completely out of focus...

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Old May 26th, 2005, 08:29 AM   #30
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Charles,

I think you're probably right in your assesment. And it goes back to 'where' the director comes up from I guess.

I worked (stunts) on a VERY big, small film. Shot in 35 (TWO panavision cameras) mini-epic. It was a trailer/short for a crusade flick. The director came up through the ranks as an 'art director'. Worked on some MAJOR sci fi flicks. Anyway... he had awesome storyboards, and you could see he was dedicated to capturing a very specific vision.

Nothing wrong with that.

Except it was driving the AD and DP's crazy. I mean, this guy would spend inordinate ammounts of time, dressing the set... while the actors, horses and crew would twiddle away. After a couple of days, the AD and DP's sort of went about, organizing the crew and setting up the shots... pretty much running the show... until it was time to shout 'action'. IN this case, it was all handled very well. BECAUSE the director, had these incredible story boards, everyone knew what the shot was supposed to look like. And they worked quietly and efficiently and respectfully, getting his vision on the film. He was actually more comfortable with that, and eventually, the workflow sorted itself out, and everyone was comfortable with it. It was only a seven day shoot, but it wound up looking great. Basically, the DP's and AD were pro's... stepped up and took over where the Director was weak... and kept it all moving forward on time and on budget.

In this case, because of the professionalism of everyone involved, it worked. But had their been major egos anywhere in that chain, I think it would have cratered.
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