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Old March 3rd, 2009, 05:54 PM   #1
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Establishing good relationships with the DP

My apologies if this is the wrong place to post this. I wasn't sure where this type of question should go on this forum.

Anyway, I'm a newbie who hasn't made anything as of yet but plan to within this year or possibly next year (In case it's important, I'm thinking of a career as a writer/director). One of the things I'm most worried about is my relationships with the cinematographer (it's been coming from bad experiences on certain forums on cinematography, which could mean I'm just overreacting). Simply put, how do I establish good relations with these people who are more experienced than I am, are more skilled, and probably work much harder than I probably ever will?

Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
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Old March 3rd, 2009, 07:39 PM   #2
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Hi Benson.

While having a good relationship with all the department heads in your crew is very important, I personally consider the relationship with the DP to be the most vital. I know a few DPs, all really good guys (perhaps what you've been reading on cinematography forums is just a few guys blowing off a bit of steam?), and they each have the same thing in common. They love to create aesthetic, beautiful images.

But it's very important to be realistic when working with a DP. Many years ago, when I was about to make my first short film, I was given some great advice by a veteran DP. He told me to shoot it myself. Even though he knew I'd never touched a camcorder before. He said that doing this would make it possible to work smoothly with a DP in all of my future projects, so I took his advice. Shooting that short film taught me so much. Just really simple things, like "don't stand the actor in front of the window" (because, without an extensive amount of lighting, he'll either look like a dark shadow or the background will be totally blown out) or "you might not be able to fit everything you want into your frame, even if you hold the camera hard against the back wall" (after this, you start paying attention to things like wide angle lenses). The whole experience gave me an extremely healthy respect for what the DP has to achieve - and what he has to put up with on set. So, when working with a DP on set, I tend to ask, "Is it possible to get a shot like this ...?" Because I know how tough it can be, especially with the limitations on equipment and crew that low-budget indie projects have.

The other thing is your selection of a DP. It's a good idea to ask around, make a list of local DPs whose work you like (from watching short films, etc.). If possible, check your short list with some actors and find which DPs they like to work with. A DP who is abrasive towards your actors is a definite no-no. You're trying to make each actor comfortable and confident enough to communicate his/her performance. A surly DP would detract from that.

I think it's also a good idea to meet and have a cup of coffee with a prospective DP, so you can both check each other out and decide if you want to work with each other. He'll probably be most interested in your script. So make sure it's a good one. Aim high when it comes to your DP. Only meet the ones that you really want to work with. Even if they're "out of your league". If it's a script they like, only takes one weekend to shoot and you tell them a bit about your goals and purposes concerning the type of projects you hope to create, then a good DP might decide to give you a go.
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Old March 4th, 2009, 07:51 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Benson Marks View Post
Simply put, how do I establish good relations with these people who are more experienced than I am, are more skilled, and probably work much harder than I probably ever will?
First by being a professional. Be honest, admit what you don't know, ask for help when you need it, be prepared and listen to the guys who've earned their stripes. If you take care of your crew they will take care of you. If you go the ego route, don't respect their skills and generally try to show off in front of your client they will throw you under the bus.

And you'd better work as least as hard as they do if not harder. Good leaders lead from the front.
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