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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old May 17th, 2003, 09:28 AM   #1
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Cinematographers and Editors in Hollywood

I've been wondering lately. Why is it that if you search around through IMDB, you find very few DP's that also edit and vice versa? It seems that most of the top names either do one or the other.

The reason I ask is because I enjoy both of these technical aspects of filmmaking. I really can't decide which path I want to follow if I were to only choose one course. My original solution was to focus on both! Though the more I get into each, the more complicated it gets to maintain a good grasp of both mediums. Do you think this is the reason why you don't see too much of this for medium to big budget films? Are the technical aspects of each so complicated that you can only get really good at one of these subjects?

Of course there are acceptions to this rule such as people like Robert Rodriquez, who directs, shoots, and edits - jack of all trades. This is just something I've been thinking about recently because I'm pondering film school for either editing or cinematography and I can't decide if I should just focus on one or try and maintain both.

Any thoughts on this?
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Old May 17th, 2003, 09:38 AM   #2
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Though the more I get into each, the more complicated it gets to maintain a good grasp of both mediums.
Haven't you answered your own question there? ;-)
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Old May 17th, 2003, 09:39 AM   #3
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I think that having a good base knowledge of all the fields, helps to round out a project. Being primarily an editor, I know what kind of shots work, and as a videographer, I know what to shoot, and how. I also know what kind of audio will be used, and capture what I need. Lighting helps the scene look better to the camera, which means less I'll have to fix in post as editor. Too many hats, and one big head :)
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Old May 17th, 2003, 01:09 PM   #4
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I "emigrated" to Los Angeles from the Boston area, where I spent a number of years building my career in that relatively small market. From my earliest exposure to "the industry" (in the form of the AV department of my school system!) I was involved in both shooting and editing. As I became more focused on shooting, no pun intended, the editing side fell off a bit with a couple of gigs here and there. The reality was that any given edit system requires a learning cuve to operate, and especially in the "linear" edit days (actual tape running through machines, or film through a flatbed) there was always a particular way that a suite would be set up which took a while to get comfortable. When non-linear came in, I always wanted to spend the time to learn Avid or Media 100 but never really had, as I was too busy shooting (see Nigel's reference to your own well-made point!).

The very recent availability of affordable, powerful edit systems that one can easily own has made it possible for virtually everyone to own one and figure it out "off the clock" or without using up favors, or hanging around someone elses facility. Likewise, the DV revolution has made it possible for editors to own and work with easy-to-use cameras that are capable of fine images, as opposed to having to beg, borrow or steal a film camera and short ends of film and cheap processing, etc.

So (long winded, sorry!) I arrived in Los Angeles having a solid background in shooting both video and film as a DP and as an operator, as well as understanding editing even if the systems I was once proficient on were by then outdated. I discovered after a few years that most of my co-workers had one job classification with an ambition towards another (i.e. a camera assistant who occasionally did low-budget operating, or an operator that got to second unit DP a bit, etc). But not many who had the time or inclination to be a jack-of-all-trades, because to be honest in this town, it's too confusing if you present too many hats to people. Subsequently, I fell into operating, and suddenly six years went by with my DP career all but fallen by the wayside, let alone editing...damn!

It IS a shame, because I absolutely believe that my editing background informs my shooting, and vice-versa. Thankfully FCP and DV have made it easy to become proficient at both. Already the younger generation of craftspeople in LA come to the table with computer skills and more diversity of experience, which may create a different aesthetic down the road.

I personally suggest you take classes in both areas, and one course will likely "speak" to you more than the other, naturally leading you in that direction; the lessons learned on the other will be valuable eventually. I have heard many make the distinction between working on set in a physical fashion, interacting and working with many others, versus working by yourself in a controlled indoor environment, at your own pace.
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Old May 17th, 2003, 04:23 PM   #5
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haha yes Nigel I guess I did answer my own question, I was hoping I was wrong though. ;-)

Charles, it's good to hear from someone in the industry who has experience in this area. Honestly you're the first person I've really talked to who actually works on big movies so this is all VERY helpful to me.

Your post makes a lot of sense. My goal is similar to what yours was. I want to work here in Washington DC for awhile and get some solid experience and build a reel. Then want to move to Los Angeles. It seems like the smartest thing to do. If I moved to LA right now, I'd be a little fish in a sea full of sharks.

So, what are your future goals? Do you plan on being an operator for awhile or are you "working towards" becoming a DP? See, I don't even know how the ladder works in that area. Is becoming a DP something most camera operators work towards? I mean, obviously it's higher on the credit list, but when I often see DP's in action, I see them pointing around and telling other people what to do. I like operating the camera myself, and I think I always will. Though sometimes I've seen DP's grab hold of the camera and shoot themselves. If you have time, could you explain a little about the relationship between DP and camera operator? When does the DP usually take hold of the camera? Whenever he wants? Or does he usually not involve himself with it and focuses on other aspects like lighting etc...

Sorry if these questions are so basic. I've never been on a film set and am pretty new to all this. For me, it's all small scale because I am working on short films. The DP is always the cameraman because our crew is so small. I'm just wondering how it works in major motion pictures with a big crew.
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