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Old January 25th, 2008, 11:39 PM   #1
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Director vs Cinematographer

I'm a senior in high school and I'm going to be attending a film school in Fall '08. I've heard some schools are better for directing and others better for cinematography. I can't decide whether I want to direct or DP. Has anyone had this dilemma? Any advice?
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Old January 26th, 2008, 12:14 AM   #2
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Congratulations! Oh to be your age again! I will leave the issue of schools to those with more direct experience, but I can tell you that while many Dp's have moved to the role of Director, I have never heard of a Director becoming a DP!

Seriously, if you like the craftsmanship and technical side of production more, like to work with crew to get exactly the lighting style and "look" the film calls for, then starting as a cameraman would let you learn and practice the process, and leave you the option of moving to a Directors role after you have gained experience and know what you want to do.

If you like problem solving, know how to manage a complicated project within budgetary constraints, enjoy managing people, both crew and actors, (and you have got to like actors to be good at directing), and enjoy capturing the pace and emotional content of a story, then go ahead, set your sights on becoming a Director.

Just my opinion.
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Old January 26th, 2008, 11:09 AM   #3
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Make a short film and do both. See how you feel about it. It is inappropriate to make decision without any experience.
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Old January 26th, 2008, 06:48 PM   #4
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there are many Director/DP cameraman doing commercials, Documentary , corporate etc ..
so you could do both !!!
don't usually find that many Director/DP in features BUT there are a few ...
they usually received DP credit under a different/bogus name ...
if they also edited the project they also do the bogus name thing .. not sure if it is something to do with unions rules or what ?
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Old January 26th, 2008, 07:26 PM   #5
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Commercials lend themselves to the director/cameraman job more easily as generally a spot will be visual or performance driven, but usually not both. In features taking on the workload of both jobs is not for the faint of heart. Personally I find each is a distraction from the other (during a take you are focusing on the lighting and framing as well as the performances, then making multiple notes in your head to deal with each--can be hard to multitask to this degree) but I've done plenty of double-ups nonetheless, often without the benefit of the really strong support team that usually makes this sort of thing fly on a "serious" project.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 11:41 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Emre Safak View Post
Make a short film and do both. See how you feel about it. It is inappropriate to make decision without any experience.
Yeah, I've been making short films and videos for about 5 years now, doing everything myself. It's difficult to decide what I want to abandon...
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Old January 27th, 2008, 01:03 PM   #7
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Maybe it's better to think of it as "which aspect do I want to expand on" than "abandon". Even when the jobs are separated, often in student or low-budget situations the lines between them can blur.

For instance, who designs the shot list? I have worked with many directors who are virtually unable to do so and leave it up to the DP (or at best in collaboration with them). However, when I am directing I consider it irresponsible not to show up without the day's work broken down and shotlisted, but that's partly because of my particular background as a DP.

Which schools are you looking at, out of curiousity? I'm pretty out of the loop these days, it's been a lifetime since my single year at NYU (!) but I'm wondering what is the state of undergraduate film programs (and are they still shooting on film?)
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Old January 27th, 2008, 02:49 PM   #8
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Maybe it's better to think of it as "which aspect do I want to expand on" than "abandon". Even when the jobs are separated, often in student or low-budget situations the lines between them can blur.

For instance, who designs the shot list? I have worked with many directors who are virtually unable to do so and leave it up to the DP (or at best in collaboration with them). However, when I am directing I consider it irresponsible not to show up without the day's work broken down and shotlisted, but that's partly because of my particular background as a DP.

Which schools are you looking at, out of curiousity? I'm pretty out of the loop these days, it's been a lifetime since my single year at NYU (!) but I'm wondering what is the state of undergraduate film programs (and are they still shooting on film?)
I've applied to NYU and University of Austin Texas. (haven't heard back) I got into GVSU and University of Milwaukee Wisconsin. I can easily get into Colombia Chicago and Colombia Hollywood...not sure if either of them is even worth it.
A lot of schools still shoot on 16mm in addition to digital...I've never shot on 16mm but it seems like a waste of time considering the fact that more than half of all movies will be shot on video by the time I would graduate.
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Old January 27th, 2008, 04:30 PM   #9
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Yes, but the other half would still be shot on film, no?
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Old January 27th, 2008, 05:59 PM   #10
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If you are going to shoot film, do it on somebody else's dime.
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Old January 28th, 2008, 05:18 PM   #11
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If you are going to shoot film, do it on somebody else's dime.
Agreed.

Thanks for everyone's input. Further comments/suggestions are welcome.
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Old January 29th, 2008, 02:56 AM   #12
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I've directed and DP'd a couple of times and definitely found it distracting but, you don't have to abandon one to do the other. As a director, you can be visual and as you work on larger scale projects you will love having someone to not only bounce ideas of off, but to take your visual cues and make them rock. and as a DP you can tell a story using only images, possibly expanding upon the directors original vision (and making him or her look really good).

I've move on a bit from DP'ing and now concentrate more on writing and directing. Try doing both separately a few times to see which one's a better fit.

I had a friend that when to Columbia chicago, he hated it (too mainstream for him). I know a ton of cinema alums from SF State, seems to be a good program there (I'm biased, Urban studies '05). Plus, there's a great film/arts community out here.
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