Relationship of Director and Director of Photography | Whistling Woods International Blog
Here are five ways DPs can create an excellent relationship with the director to strengthen morale on set and produce a better quality project. They are the two sides of a coin; a director visualizes the film but a is an important conversation between the Director and Cinematographer. The relationship between a director and a cinematographer is such an important one. Not only are the two planning the logistics and overall.
There have been a myriad of changes in the film industry as of late as the indie realm continues to expand and evolve. A director has to deal with several challenges, not least of which include a tanking economy that makes it difficult to even get a film made, and the new technologies that are changing the rules in everything from the first shot to distribution.
Establishing a good working partnership with your cinematographer can go a long way in making sure the shooting experience is successful. So how do you make it all work? This is no small task for experienced filmmakers, let alone novices. There are so many variables when it comes to hiring and working with a good cinematographer. Things will change during principle photography—that is a given.
But everybody should understand their role on a film set—and movie history is littered with bloated epics and curiously shot, personal films that suffered because egos got in the way. I always bring in suggestions — I like to talk about our options and come up with the best way to tell the story.
So there are many things that the director and the cinematographer have to consider before collaborating on a film. First of all, will it be a good fit for both? You have to work with this person for months at a time. Can you both serve the story? How much say does the cinematographer have in the lighting that's used during a shoot? The most important job that a Cinematographer has is the lighting, and It's completely his or her decision.
If a Director doesn't like the lighting, they hired the wrong person. If a Director wants to do the lighting, suggest he or she uses the gaffer directly, so that you can go home. A lot of bounce boards I'm guessing? Why does he do that? His films look so gorgeous. Is natural-light cinematography a real option for directors who can't afford to spend half a year shooting only at magic hour like Malick does? What are the techniques used? Is natural-light a philosophical thing, or an image thing?
As Sven Nykvist has just died Sep 06it might be a good moment to reflect on 'natural light' photography which is a principle dear to the hearts of many Cinematographers including me. John Alcott was mentioned recently, and I would add Nestor Almendros to the list. A New York Gaffer once told me the story of when he had a pre-light crew spend a couple of days lighting Central Park for a night shoot: Nestor arrived on the night to shoot and looked around and said: Well the one leads to the other.
I will always consider what would a set look like if it was situated in the real world instead of in the studio. All good Day Interior lighting has to be based on what would happen to that window if the room were in a real place.
Malick is willing to take the time to shoot at the right time and schedule accordingly. There's not a lot of Directors out there who have the patience or the power over the studio to do that: Lighting is based on Sunlight and as such there is nothing deeper, older or more profound than Sunlight.
Without it there is no world, no life, so you'd better get a grip on what it is, and what it does, if you are going to be a Cinematographer. We mankind invented Electricity, which has given a whole new level of lighting to study: Electric Light which has quite different principles to Sunlight, but could be considered 'natural' to the modern world - or at least to the world that has electricity.
The 'technique used' is simply to Look. For really important scenes, are you involved with editing to make sure the filming work done is put together properly, since the two are separate production departments? We might be shooting another film. We might be on holiday. I used to turn up more often than I do now, when film was edited 'manually' on Movieolas and Steinbecks. This kind of editing was slower and more considered, as making changes was more laborious and could not be 'undone' so easily.
This meant that there was only one 'version' of the movie available at any one time: Directors and editors had more space to listen to the opinions of others: Now I find that I only occasionally comment to the editor, as they always have had to listen to opinions before mine, so I feel sorry for them!
Assuming a fairly well-planned indie shoot on 35mm with an experienced crew of say 3 and 3 plus a swing what do you think is an achievable number of set-ups to plan for?
I realize that using daylight vs. What would be a reasonable number of set-up's? Also, do you think it makes sense to try and shoot two cameras in an effort to boost the amount of coverage you are shooting or does it lead to too many compromises in the lighting?
Lastly, is it reasonable for a director to expect that a set is lit in such a way that most of the tighter shots other than the reverse can be shot with minimal tweaks to the lighting on the master? I feel like I would rather spend some extra time on lighting the master if it means we can rock and roll once the actors are on set and ready to start shooting. Thanks for the advice.
Movies are usually under 20, and some are under I think screentime is a more interesting measure, as it takes into account how much of the movie you have shot, rather than how many shots.
I guess The Shining wouldn? Two cameras can be useful in some situations, but when every set-up is 2 or 3 cameras, it can compromise the lighting and the soundand actually takes longer when you are in a confined space tripping all over each other. Occasional second camera is a good way to shoot I think, but then I mostly shoot straight drama and not action.
I like precision and controlled framing, so multiple cameras CAN but not always lead to "found" framing. This can be a style in itself like the dynamics of a Tony Scott filmso there is no real answer to this question, without reference to the intended shooting style of the picture. I would say that most close-ups in the same lighting direction should not take longer than 10 to 15 minutes to "tweak".
Some you can shoot straight away. Some will take longer. Altman likes to just zoom in from the master position and "just shoot it! That's what makes the acting in his films "fizz", whilst the framing is loose and "human".
5 Tips to Ensure a Great DP and Director Relationship
So you adapt to the circumstance. What is the relationship of the cinematographer with the director? Does the director give you a basic idea of what he or she wants and lets you make the decisions or are they much more specific in what shots they want? Also, what is the relationship between the cinematographer and the film editor? Do you shoot with a editor's style in mind? Some films are storyboarded by the director, with or without the DP.
I then showed them to Lasse, he made some changes and then we shot the combined result. This happens because it was the third film we have made together, so some confidence grows up between us. Who decides the shot is a matter of no importance when you watch a film, so as far as I am concerned the same applies when we shoot a movie.
I'm not sure an Editor has a "style", but perhaps they do. I certainly give no thought to the personality or "style" of the editor when I am shooting. I am hoping to give him or her material that will cut together well, as well as choices that will enable the film to be cut in ways that I might not have foreseen.
The editor's world is prescribed by the images that we supply: If you think of the shooting as making the cloth, the editor turns it into a garment. We have a concept via the script of the nature of the garment, but the editor may or may not make a better movie from the materials we supply.
Some of the films I have shot I thought were improved in the editing, and some were spoiled. That's just the way it is. I've spent several years carefully developing a relationship with a DP who's work I love and whom I trust personally. Now for economic reasons, Vancouver may be the location. Since I'm not established and on the low end of the spectrum I have little chance of bringing an American DP. Assuming I get past having someone imposed upon me I'll be under the gun to find a new collaborator.
The Art of Collaboration: The Importance of the Director/Cinematographer Relationship
I suppose I'll just have to trust my eye and my gut, but any suggestions would be a blessing.?? It's worse than trying to run a dating agency! I always think of my "interviews" with directors as "Meetings" since both of you have to decide if it going to work.
The good news is that Vancouver is a major film making centre and also a nice place to live, so there are good people there. I don't think you will have much trouble finding your DP: I've lost a few jobs through being "over-recommended" by a keen producer, only to find the director wants to make up his own mind.
3 Thoughts on the Collaborative Relationship Between DPs and Directors
I respect that and think that the DP works for the director and only the producer after that. How should a director communicate to cinematographer? There is absolutely no reason why a director needs to know anything about cinematography, especially at the beginning of their career. Some directors some from a "graphic" background but some come from a literary or theatrical background. What a cinematographer is looking for in a director is direction der.
If the director knows nothing about cinematography nor about directing then we have a problem. Usually what happens is the cinematographer winds up shooting the film and directing it from the backseat and no-one is happy. There is not an answer to "how" to communicate with a cinematographer: This will start a dialogue which hopefully will generate good results.
Is something like that scripted? Does the DP decide or is it the director's decision? In this particular case I came up with the idea, but like everything else in film, you never know who comes up with which idea. Generally scripts don't give direction about his kind of thing. Since American History X was shot and directed by Tony Kaye then I would imagine he made the decision - he's a very strong individual who makes a lot of commercials, and so would be very grounded in images.
If I happened to know that the tea lady made that decision, would that make any difference to how you view the film?
In your experience, how do you overcome this, do you have a lot of input into the look and feel that is trying to be achieved in a shot??? The collaboration is not something to "overcome", but rather a meeting of minds.
So You Wanna Work in the Movies
The cinematographer is both a creator and a translator. One day you feel as if you are no more than an assistant and on another you might as well be the director.
On a good day I don't mind which role I am playing as my aim is to achieve a state of mind where the particular shot is created without thought of whose idea it was. I take pleasure from a good idea whether it is mine or someone else's: The most frustrating situation is when a cinematographer works with a director with whom he or she is in conflict. This may not necessarily be a bad thing for the movie: I know of at least one director who seeks out conflict with the DP to keep him awake!
DP's vary enormously in their interest and ability when it comes to setting up shots. Some brilliant DP's mostly from the UK are completely uninterested in the montage and concentrate on the lighting, letting the operator work with director on the shots. Others like myself find the montage very interesting and I like working with Lasse Hallstom for that reason: I did a lot of the storyboards for Casanova and then he would change what he didn't like.
Then he would do some and I would comment on things I didn't like. I do 8 weeks of prep as he is usually busy with his last film so I "stand in" for him until he turns up.
This can be a bit strange, but when I consider how you can be treated by directors, it is a pleasure to have such input into the films. The shots in a particular sequence just "fit" when things are going well - like making miter joints in carpentry and then finding they just slot together.
A good film is the result of many things: In a recent column you stated that there are very few cinematographers who leave an indelible mark on the medium. The first two have worked on several films with Francis Ford Coppola, while Richardson has worked extensively with Oliver Stone and has made three films with Martin Scorsese.
Thomas I believe that great films are made by great teams, with a great team Leader. One of the talents of a great director is the ability to assemble a team of brilliant people to work with them: If Scorsese asked me to shoot a film I would be unlikely to say no, although he has a reputation of being difficult to work with. In my essay at Cineman. Being "nice" is not a pre-requisite for being an Artist.
Rodrigo went on to work with Ang Lee on Brokeback Mountain and immediately his work shone again as it had in previous films like Frida. A good piece of cinematography can't turn a bad film into a good film, but it can wreck a good film with the wrong "look".