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Old 06-26-2016, 02:17 PM   #1
rianlemon
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Directors role vs DP's role

Hi folks

I'm in a sticky situation. My current project is up in flames and one of the main causes is me and my DP's relationship. He came to me two days before the first shoot and told me he hasnt been happy with his level of creative control and as a result he doesn't care about the film, and hasn't for the past 2 months of pre-production. It's been like pulling teeth trying to sort stuff with him and now I know why.

I gave him oppurtunities to come up with shot ideas and storyboard the film and he didn't take them, but I'm definitely to blame as well. I'm a writer/director and my scripts are what you'd call 'writers films', as in there's not much room to interpret whats happening visually, its quite detailed on the page. When I write the scripts I think of the visuals, I can't help that, and then I write the script around that. So basically my DP wanted more say over whats actually happening in the film, but I have such specific ideas written into the script that its hard for him to express himself creatively.

SO for future projects, how do I toe this line? Is my script just the bones that I should let the DP completely visualise and storyboard or is it reasonable for me to have the whole film and shots sorted in my head? What I've done is, visualise the whole film, storyboard it and then give that to the DP, but he hasn't been happy about that. One other issue is my DP is quite lazy and I simply wouldn't trust him to visualise the whole film, but for future DP's I work with, I want to understand my role and when I'm overstepping it. Any help would be much obliged

Thanks for reading!
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Old 06-26-2016, 04:25 PM   #2
mlesemann
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As a writer and producer (but not director), I've had to learn to let go and give the other department heads room for creative control. I've learned to write in fewer specific directions, and be flexible on changing them when I do write them in.

This applies to other department heads as well - even when wardrobe may not matter to me, I've learned to respect the people who run that, and recognize the importance of their creative expression.

I think you have two choices going forward: (1) continue to work as you have, but recognize that you're going to have to function as the DP as well, and simply bring on camera operators to shoot the movie or (2) step back and be less specific about exactly how everything is to be shot, so that your future DP's have room for their creative expression.

It's your choice - I've learned to be happy with option 2, but everyone is different.
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Old 06-26-2016, 06:15 PM   #3
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Personally, I find the best partnerships are truly collaborations - where the Director and DP are comfortable enough with each other to throw out ideas and explain their viewpoint. Being open to that is important. Sometimes the ideas I throw out to a Director will be met with much excitement. Others will be thrown back as 'actually I want to do this'. That's totally fine.

At the end of the day, though, the DP serves the Director's vision. And if you're the Director, and you feel your vision isn't being served, then the DP isn't doing his job correctly.

Assuming you have a good relationship with your DP, you should be able to implicitly trust him/her, and trust their servitude to 'the vision,' and be sure that their suggestions are to make the film better. In addition, the DP is the guy looking through the camera and setting up the shots, and assumedly has a lot of experience doing that. He/She is potentially more likely to know what is and isn't going to work given the time and budget constraints you're working within. Saying 'I want the camera to start on the roof and then slowly move down to the two sleeping bodies, then rotate and peel out the door' is cool. But pulling that off? That's where your DP can go 'well for that we would need probably a steadicam or gimbal and operator on a jib... our budget is $100 and we have an hour to get 10 shots done. What I suggest instead is [insert alternate easier but still good shot]'.

Just be open and trusting. I've had many conversations with Directors on set where we've discussed how a particular shot will work the best. That's fine.
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Old 06-27-2016, 07:13 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlesemann View Post
As a writer and producer (but not director), I've had to learn to let go and give the other department heads room for creative control. I've learned to write in fewer specific directions, and be flexible on changing them when I do write them in.

This applies to other department heads as well - even when wardrobe may not matter to me, I've learned to respect the people who run that, and recognize the importance of their creative expression.

I think you have two choices going forward: (1) continue to work as you have, but recognize that you're going to have to function as the DP as well, and simply bring on camera operators to shoot the movie or (2) step back and be less specific about exactly how everything is to be shot, so that your future DP's have room for their creative expression.

It's your choice - I've learned to be happy with option 2, but everyone is different.
Yes, well I'm struggling with the way im working now, its just too much to keep track of. I wouldn't mind option 2 but its about finding a DP that I trust to do a good job and the current DP certainly isn't that. Thanks for your reply!
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Old 06-27-2016, 07:16 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jax_rox View Post
Personally, I find the best partnerships are truly collaborations - where the Director and DP are comfortable enough with each other to throw out ideas and explain their viewpoint. Being open to that is important. Sometimes the ideas I throw out to a Director will be met with much excitement. Others will be thrown back as 'actually I want to do this'. That's totally fine.

At the end of the day, though, the DP serves the Director's vision. And if you're the Director, and you feel your vision isn't being served, then the DP isn't doing his job correctly.

Assuming you have a good relationship with your DP, you should be able to implicitly trust him/her, and trust their servitude to 'the vision,' and be sure that their suggestions are to make the film better. In addition, the DP is the guy looking through the camera and setting up the shots, and assumedly has a lot of experience doing that. He/She is potentially more likely to know what is and isn't going to work given the time and budget constraints you're working within. Saying 'I want the camera to start on the roof and then slowly move down to the two sleeping bodies, then rotate and peel out the door' is cool. But pulling that off? That's where your DP can go 'well for that we would need probably a steadicam or gimbal and operator on a jib... our budget is $100 and we have an hour to get 10 shots done. What I suggest instead is [insert alternate easier but still good shot]'.

Just be open and trusting. I've had many conversations with Directors on set where we've discussed how a particular shot will work the best. That's fine.
Yeah, I think one of the issues is that my DP is quite inexperienced, so he doesn't really know how to offer advice on the execution of shots, I'm the one that has to think of that. We have had conversations about shot ideas before but its been too infrequent and I can never seem to get a hold of him and then I have to just do it myself. I think in future, I'll build the film from the ground up with the DP and ask about the shots before I start to get a concrete visual in my head

Thanks for the help!
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Old 06-27-2016, 09:55 AM   #6
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He says he wants more creative freedom, but what he really is saying is that he needs your help to find motivation to handle his part of the deal. He hints how.
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Old 06-27-2016, 10:34 AM   #7
directorik
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Sounds like this DP is the wrong person for you. It happens. Not
everyone is creatively compatible with everyone else. The director/DP
relationship is a complicated one. Many DP's feel they are the visual
“director” of the movie thus the title director of photography. And
many of them are very good at that. Many director feel they are
the one who decided each shot and the overall visual look of the
finished movie. Those two types do not work well together. As you
have learned.
Quote:
Originally Posted by rianlemon View Post
SO for future projects, how do I toe this line?
In the future you need to pick the right person to work with. It seems
what you need in a DP is a camera operator who knows how to light.
You write your script around your visuals with specific ideas on each
shot and you want a DP who will make your vision happen. As you said,
you can't help that, it's how you write, it's how you direct, it's who you
are as a filmmaker. So don't fight it. You are not overstepping.

In the future talk to several people before you choose one. Tell them
you think and write in visuals and have all the shots written into the
script and the storyboards and expect them to follow your vision. You
may narrow down your options but when you do you'll end up with the
right DP for your style and needs. Your script in not just the bones, it
is the entire film shots and all.

I happen to be an actors director. I write with story in mind and prefer to
focus on that and the actors. I prefer a DP who takes over the visuals. You
are not overstepping your role if you are a visual director. You simply need
to hire the right person.
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Old 06-27-2016, 10:35 AM   #8
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Sounds like you need a new DP. THe DP is there to bring the directors vision to life in the best way possible. They can have ideas and back and forth but at the end of the day creative control is the directors. Period. (Unless creative control is the producers). In the case of a volunteer DP (ie, not being paid or getting deferred pay), there can be a bit more give and take but stiil, at the end of the day control is in the hands of the director.
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Old 06-28-2016, 02:56 AM   #9
apollo1980
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I've directed a tv pilot and an independent feature.

It's the director's job to have his/her vision of how the film will look ultimately made. Yes, the DP can advise, even suggest. Sometimes, the DP has a point, or a great idea, and the director may modify a shot/scene via the DP's suggestion.

Sometimes, the DP will tell you of logistic issues that you may not be aware of, and you'll have to modify accordingly.

But the DP should work with you, not make things difficult.

You may need to look into replacing this individual. And don't be afraid or ashamed to do so.
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