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Old January 31st, 2019, 03:38 PM   #1
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Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

So far as an aspiring filmmaker, before hiring a DP, I will do my own preliminary shot list and storyboards of the entire screenplay, ready to go, cause when I get a DP signed on, things get quite busy from there and I like having as much ready to go as I can, on a tight budget and tight time schedule. By preliminary, I mean that the all shots are not necessarily set in stone and we can make changes and I'm open to new and better ideas than mine. I just like having a preliminary one, that is of my style, of the tone and world I am trying to create.

However, I was told by a couple of other filmmakers that it's not the director's job to making shot lists and storyboards, and that's the DPs job, and that I am taking the DPs job away.

They said that it's the director's job to concentrate on working with the actors, while the DPs job is to handle the shot list, storyboards, and blocking. But is this true though?

I learned in film school to do the shot lists, storyboard and blocking myself, so I have always done it that way, and had it all ready to go before bringing a DP on. But now I am told I am taking the DP's job away, so I might as well not even bother with a DP and be own, I was told, and just get a lighting crew and gaffers to do the rest.

But I feel some directors do it the same as I do. For example, a director like Wes Anderson has a very distinct look and style to his shots in his movies, but when the same DP that he works with, goes and works on movies for other directors, his cinematography is nothing like it is on the Wes Anderson directed movies. Doesn't this mean that Wes Anderson decides a lot of the shots and storyboards, himself?

And when it comes to blocking, is it true that the DP is in charge of all that, or is the director? I watched some video essays on how Akira Kurosawa is a master of blocking and staging for example, and it went in depth. But if that is the DPs department, was it actually Kurosawa who is the master of blocking and staging or was it his DP who had all those ideas then, and Kurosawa just worked with the actors had not creative decision making in shots?

Do DPs dislike me doing the shotlists myself before bringing them on? Of course I am perfectly willing to listen to their ideas and a lot of times I will take on new shots, or change shots, based on their advice. But I still like having a preliminary shot list and storyboards, ready to go, and then we can over them, and if they come up with certain shots here and there that would work better, than great!

But what do you think? Is it bad for me to present them with a preliminary list beforehand?
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Old January 31st, 2019, 03:58 PM   #2
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

Once again I dont know that I agree with that, though some aspects of the DP/Director relationship are specific to WHICH director and DP and how the director likes to work. There is SOME crossover in their jobs but each relationship will be different in where the duties divide.

*At least to my completely-inexperienced-in-a-professional-setting-with-that-stuff knowledge.
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Old January 31st, 2019, 04:26 PM   #3
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

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Originally Posted by Ryan Wray View Post
So far as an aspiring filmmaker, before hiring a DP, I will do my own preliminary shot list and storyboards of the entire screenplay, ...

However, I was told by a couple of other filmmakers that it's not the director's job to making shot lists and storyboards, and that's the DPs job, and that I am taking the DPs job away.

They said that it's the director's job to concentrate on working with the actors, while the DPs job is to handle the shot list, storyboards, and blocking. But is this true though?
I look at it differently. My thought is that it's the directors job to tell the story. It's the DPs job to support the director's vision of how to tell the story. How can the DP do that if he doesn't know what the director's vision is? So it comes down to how you communicate your vision to the DP.

There are a lot of ways to do that. One of the best IMHO is the storyboard. It lets the DP know exactly what you want because it's visual, and it supplies context with the other shots so DP can get his transitions down.

So I'm voting with you. It's fine for you the director to communicate with the DP any way that works for you. If it doesn't work for the DP, he/she will let you know, and you can then fire them and find another. I'm only half kidding. The DP needs to be able to take direction, just like the actors. And they all have to take that direction from you. If they can't, then you need to find someone who can. Fighting people over how you communicate is expensive, time consuming, and pointless. Life is short -- work with people who can work with you.
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Old January 31st, 2019, 04:53 PM   #4
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

Well another thing, is that I am also my own producer so far, just starting out on short films, and moving into my first feature.

So one of the reasons why I do my own preliminary storyboards, of my shot style that I prefer, is to also keep costs down, with less shots, and less time set ups, compared to a movie that might have a much larger variety of shots and set ups, in comparison.
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Old February 3rd, 2019, 12:32 PM   #5
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

As Josh says, different people will work in different ways. That said, the scenario you describe where the director only works with actors and the DP blocks and shot-lists is atypical. That would be reserved for the most inexperienced directors and honestly if I were placed into this scenario I would ask for a co-directing credit.

With most of the directors I work with, we will aim to sit together and work through the shot list in prep. If the director chooses to storyboard, they will do that on their own. I only find storyboards necessary when a number of people need to see the intended sequence broken down visually, such as an action sequence or something intricate. I have seen inexperienced directors put a lot of time and energy into storyboards that I barely look at because they tell me little that the shot list didn't already communicate (I know what an over-the-shoulder shot looks like, have done a few), and that time probably could have been used to work through other things.

In the episodic TV world, where we have rotating directors and I am on set every day, I usually get an hour or two tops with an incoming director to sit and prep. We'll talk about the most elaborate stuff that is planned, or shots that will need special gear etc. The standard expectation is for them to come prepared with the intended blocking, a shot list or overhead diagrams with camera positions. On the day we can adjust that as needed, but the plan needs to be in place.

So yeah--the fact that multiple filmmakers have told you that a DP's job is blocking and shot listing is honestly a bit alarming because that is not industry standard, and I'm curious how this would have come about.
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Old February 3rd, 2019, 03:49 PM   #6
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

I'm wondering how experienced those filmmakers are.
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Old February 4th, 2019, 07:19 AM   #7
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

I would say, clearly not that experienced. But it is still surprising to me that there are so many that seem to think that staging and blocking is not part of the director's job.
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Old February 4th, 2019, 08:12 AM   #8
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

Okay thanks, so it seems it might be normal for a director to actually pick the shots then. As for not needing to storyboard, I use to not do this either, but I wasn't satisfied with how certain shots were turning out.

For example, the DP was not aware of the exact degree of angle I wanted on the shots, so storyboarding allowed to show the exact degree, if that helps.

Plus doesn't storyboarding also help the audio people know where to place the boom mics, and how the booms have to move, if they have storyboards? I have been a boom operator in the past, and wanted storyboards, but the directors wouldn't give them to me.

But this caused problems, cause the DP would find out only later, that the mics would interfere with his lighting and cause shadow problems, so I thought that if the audio department has storyboards too, this issue can be worked around much better possibly. Plus the audio department knows the blocking more ahead of time, and can know how and where the boom mics have to move, without too much rehearsal. So wouldn't storyboards not only help the exact degree of the angle, but also help the audio department as well?

Or do most shots still just need a shotlist without storyboards, as long as I explain the exact degree of angle, blocking, and camera movement in words?
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Old February 4th, 2019, 03:12 PM   #9
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

It sounds like you are very particular with the shots you want to get!

If storyboards help you communicate best with your crew, then by all means use them. Often the last few degrees of specificity for a shot is found on the day when all the pieces are in place. A storyboard may indicate the size and position of the actors in the foreground but usually doesn't include much background, which is an important factor in landing a frame (often I will line up the background perspective first and place the actors into that frame vs the other way around). We generally use a finder of some sort to help with is--more often than not these days, an app like Artemis will suffice to communicate exactly where you want the camera. And of course, you are free to adjust the frame once the camera lands!

That is a VERY interesting perspective on the audio dept and one that I have never encountered before. The usual protocol is that we rehearse a scene, director and DP will adjust blocking to accommodate camera/lighting concerns and we set to lighting it. As cameras land for a setup, the boom op and mixer will usually confer about the best way to mike it and proceed. In a perfect world, the boom op is rehearsing his positions while lighting is going on to look out for potential shadows on the set. At that point they will point out potential issues and I can help them with teasers, or turn off practicals that may be causing issues and aren't in the scene etc. Sometimes they wait too long to do this (like right before we roll) and this makes it harder for me to accommodate the, so the mixer may opt to go with the wires for part of a scene.

So generally speaking, sound follows cameras once they are placed but they rarely ask for information further ahead of time than that. If I know we are about to do a certain shot that requires extra planning on their part I may let the mixer know in advance if I can remember to! For instance, we did a very long walk and talk last year that required my team to run two separate receivers for video transmission to cover the whole run and we switched between the signals halfway through. I walked the mixer through the intended path well ahead of time so his guys would have time to string cable for their receivers alongside ours.
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Old February 4th, 2019, 03:35 PM   #10
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

Ryan I just want to add that Charles works in the tip top tier of production (look up his credits), so you can take anything he tells you to the bank.
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Old February 4th, 2019, 04:30 PM   #11
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

Oh okay thanks for the input people!

Do you think maybe I am being too peculiar though, for the DP, if I bring a preliminary storyboard list of the whole movie, ready to go?
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Old February 4th, 2019, 04:36 PM   #12
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

Thanks Josh...but I would also clarify that I have done many small productions over the years too. I get the sense that there is some thinking that we working in the rarified air of "the industry" are operating on a very different plane and there are different rules in the indie world. Having gotten my start working on bigger sets from a young age and applying that back down to smaller productions, it all seems to translate pretty well. I have however witnessed less experienced people make up their own way of doing things and I think this can be problematic sometimes as it requires the rest of the crew to bend to them, with the resulting stress or confusion one might expect.
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Old February 4th, 2019, 04:41 PM   #13
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

Right. What Iím getting at is Ryan is getting a lot of often conflicting advice from different sources and that if anyone should be listened to itís probably you.
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Old February 4th, 2019, 04:42 PM   #14
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

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Originally Posted by Ryan Wray View Post
Do you think maybe I am being too peculiar though, for the DP, if I bring a preliminary storyboard list of the whole movie, ready to go?
I wouldn't be offended if a director had everything shotlisted or boarded!

Part of the joy of this business is collaboration, so if you are ready to entertain other ideas, it may be very worthwhile to sit with the DP and go over all of this in prep and see if they have any other thoughts or approaches.

Another approach if you are able to rehearse with the actors is to shoot a down and dirty pre-viz of it on your phone and rough cut it. Maybe not the whole movie but a scene or two? Gives the DP an idea of what you are thinking and how he or she can suggest within your visual tone.
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Old February 4th, 2019, 07:35 PM   #15
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Re: Am I stepping on the DPs toes by creating my own shot list for them?

You can even use toys for the pre viz stuff... just lay your own voice in for dialogue to help get the timing and the idea across. You can also use programs like frameforge or some free alternative for that stuff. Frame forge (or other similar programs), now that I think of it, would be a good way to experiment with the whole zoom/ambush thing. Recreate your set, pose your actors, do some different angles, edit it, see what works and what doesnt.
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