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Old 07-06-2016, 02:24 PM   #1
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Director already wrote shot list (I'm DP)

Hey guys, I'm also in an unfamiliar situation with my current Director/DP relationship.

We have just been handed the finalized script from our writer and now we're in pre-prod for the project. The director is really excited to direct it and has already written a shot list for the first two pages of the script without my input whatsoever. I feel like this is telling of the way the whole project will go; I'm going to end up being simply a cam op with little to no creative input. This is a no budget short so I feel like it's important for all of us to share the workload.

I understand that as a DP, the final say always goes to the director. However, I also want: 1. this project to have the highest production value possible and therefore think it's a good idea to delegate tasks to trusted crewmembers (i.e. myself), and 2. to have some creative input and be able to proudly put my name in the credits (to be as realistic as possible, despite the vapid egotistic nature of that desire).

Do I tell him that I'm going to write a shot list from scratch?

Do I simply revise and add to the existing shot list?

Do I just let him write the whole thing and then make tweaks afterward?
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Old 07-06-2016, 02:36 PM   #2
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On both of my features, the DP and the director developed the shot list together.
So my suggestion would be to tell him that you'd like to sit down with him to develop the shot list together. You might sugar-coat it a bit by telling him how much you like what he did so far, but you have a few things that you'd like to add. If you give him a (good) specific example of something you'd like to add to what he did so far, you can (hopefully) convince him without any further discussion.
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Old 07-06-2016, 03:36 PM   #3
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These kinds issues come up all the time and should be dealt with using tact and sensitivity.

You can't control the Director's behavior, but you are in complete control of your own words & actions. Do not get into a pissing contest over titles & roles, or you might find yourself removed from the project entirely (a tough gig is usually better than no gig at all). If I were in your shoes, I'd find all the things I like about his shot list and openly acknowledge his skill. Words like "I love it" and "I wouldn't change a thing" would work well here.

So how do you get your voice heard? I suggest the following: Start your first suggestions with "What do you think about (insert idea)?" You will share your idea, but pose it as a question to respect to his authority. This is a nice way to break the ice and study how receptive he is. Properly handled, I'd expect that he would allow you to contribute.

Remember: "It's not what you are selling, it's how you tell them the price."
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Old 07-06-2016, 06:03 PM   #4
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My first question is "Are you being paid?" If the answer is "yes" then you are a hired hand expected to do exactly what the director (and producers) want. So shut up, stop whining and do your freakin' job! If the director and producers do not wish to take advantage of your experience, expertise and genius that's not your problem. Do what they want and move on to your next gig. As their resident expert, however, you need to point out obvious faux pas, errors and problems. Keep a log of all your conversations and be sure to note your disagreements (so when the feces hits the fan and they need to reshoot you're not the one who gets splattered; you already detailed the issues.)

If the answer is "No," you are not being paid (or only receiving a token fee), then you need to re-evaluate your participation in the project. There are a multitude of factors that will influence your decision; will participation forward your career? Are there any challenges in the project that you would like to address to expand your skill set? Are there any other participants - on either side of the camera - with whom you really want to work? Etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.
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Old 07-06-2016, 06:37 PM   #5
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Thanks guys. Had a short conversation with him about scheduling a couple meetings next week to finish the shotlist together. His response was completely understanding if not apologetic. I told him I liked what he had which revealed that he did want to keep the first scene (two pages) as it had already been shot listed, but mostly so that I could single-handedly do the whole rest of it on my own, using the first scene as a guide for mood and style.

Good suggestions, appreciated.
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Old 07-06-2016, 07:11 PM   #6
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And they all lived happily ever after
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Old 07-06-2016, 09:47 PM   #7
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Be glad that you have a director with vision. On one particular project, I was the sound guy, but the rest of the crew and I waited and watched every day start out like the following:

DP: "What setups are we doing today?"
Director: "Lead actors arguing in the museum."
DP: "How are we shooting it?"
Director: "They are going to discuss their relationship. Nancy gets mad and leaves."
DP: "How do you want it shot?"
Director: "I want to show how sorry Will is, and I want to emphasis Nancy's anger."

That is the short version of something that would last up to an hour. Every day, this pitiful and time consuming conversation took place! There was no instruction as to what kind of camera moves, lighting or angles that should be done.

A shotlist isn't supposed to be etched in stone, but rather a malleable guide that aides the process of continuity. As you discovered, by talking to your director, he is open to suggestion. That's how it is supposed to be, since the best product comes from utilizing the best talents of everyone involved. Embrace it.
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Old 07-12-2016, 04:04 AM   #8
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I'm a little bit looser with shot lists. They are there mainly to remind me what I need to get. Nothing is set in stone. So even though I (as director) may be like, these are my storyboards or whatever, it will all change on the day through input from the DP or anyone else for that matter. Sure, I have certain shots I think will be killer, but if the DP saw my boards, and even on set said 'what about this' and its better, I'll go with that.

Glad you got it sorted, but I would always approach it with a collaborative mind set.

Shot list is just a guide for me.
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Old 07-12-2016, 07:27 AM   #9
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As the Director of Photography, your job is to make the director's vision come to life, so if they come with a shot list, then you are to do your best to make those shots look great. You are not the director, but that does not mean you cannot make those shots look great. I've shot over 30 features and I love it when the director comes in prepared with a shot list or storyboards. It narrows my focus to lighting those shots to make them sing. The shot list doesn't mean I can't help suggest lenses or even say can we add a little movement to a shot.

I've worked under directors with solid vision and that means I get to design the lighting and I've worked with directors with no vision what so ever and I end up directing the movie. When that happens, usually both my photography and the direction of the movie suffers. Be happy you have a director who knows what they want.

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Old 09-06-2016, 09:54 PM   #10
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As a director, I always do a first pass of the shot list, then get input from the DP.
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Old 12-22-2017, 09:36 AM   #11
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I actually prefer directors that do this. I mean they know what they want. They have a vision. Often I come accross directors who do not know what they want, how can they direct a crew if they do not have a vision. Those are always the directors who make all decisions on set, and it might work for some, but in my case they do not. I like good preproduction, where particular looks per scene are already choosen. And we just have to set it up when we arrive to the location.

So for me it is a big plus++ Then I can give my input, and adjust where I think it needs improving. But for each their own I guess.

On the other hand, I have been asked for a music video twice by the same artist. And I sat them down with them twice for 2 different video's. Where they had the idea, and they would not budge. I was not into it, so I refused twice as their vision was limited, and would not take any input which in my opinion would massively improve the video.
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Old 12-22-2017, 04:46 PM   #12
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Before I became a DP, I worked as an editor for several years, and as an editor, I often complained that the cameraman did not shoot any "cutaways" for me. And often one little cutaway could "save" the edit. So even if the director won't budge on his choice of shots, you can often shoot one extra closeup of something that will make you a hero in the editing room...and with the director. Get a fast closeup of that gun on the floor, the broken vase, or some other detail that might be otherwise overlooked. If the director is busy working with the actors, he may not even know that you took the shot until he gets into the editing room.
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