Thread: Seeking advice - My freedom as a DoP?

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  1. #1 Seeking advice - My freedom as a DoP? 
    Senior Member Ruben de Boer's Avatar
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    Hi folks,

    I need advice on a collaboration I have with a directors duo.

    On a regular basis I work together with two people. They are a both scenarists / directors and have been working together for years. They have a sort of language together. On set they divide the tasks: one is directing the actors, and one is the “image director” (don’t know the official term) so is making sure all looks good as an image.

    As a friendly DoP I fit in quite well with them, for the most part. However, each shoot there is one point where responsibilities and tasks overlap too much and there’s discussion taking place. Often with actors on set. Often the discussion is between me and the “image director”. He would often say: “go wider, more to the left” and stuff like that. It feels like he is micro-managing all my shots.

    It feels like I can choose either to follow his instructions and lose my creativity - and frankly, quality wise his sense of images isn’t that good, he neglects the edges of the frame, for example - OR I “make a scene” and try to discuss or explain why it works better what I want. It seems our tasks are overlapping too much to work confortably and with some degree of freedom. Each shoot we lose a lot of time and I feel like my opinion is undervalued. I really try to keep my ego out of the equation, but with my own creativity at stake that’s really difficult.

    In a few weeks we will “discuss tasks and responsibilities”, so there is an opening to talk about the abovementioned theme. So my question is: what are your experience on directors who micro-manage shots? Does it bother you? If so, how do you mamage this? All the advice is more than welcome! And remember: I’m talking about sub € 10.000 indie productions, not Hollywood productions ;-)
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member DPStewart's Avatar
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    This "Image Director" sounds - by definition - the same as a "Director of Photography", so that's like having two Directors on the shoot. A difficult position to be in.

    If this Image Director is there for every shot, then why do they hire you? It seems another DP is just redundant.

    Now, a DIRECTOR is absolutely entitled to add as much control as they want over the DP. It's their shoot.
    I really have never before heard of this situation that you have - 2 DPs. And I really don't see how it can work.

    Personally, I don't think I would ever accept a job with these conditions. It just doesn't seem worth the hassle and risk of a bad experience.
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    Some people have different titles for positions and some take it more seriously than others, but in this case, the "Image Director" is the DP and you're the camera operator...that's really what it comes down to.

    And...like 99% of everything in life, is it worth the money? Lots of work with them? Because if it is and there is lots of work and the credit for this lower-budget work doesn't matter (like they aren't winning awards or anything), who cares, you know?

    But if you do care and it's something that will not be compromised in the future, you have your answer...
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    Senior Member DPStewart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorBro View Post
    Some people have different titles for positions and some take it more seriously than others, but in this case, the "Image Director" is the DP and you're the camera operator...that's really what it comes down to.

    And...like 99% of everything in life, is it worth the money? Lots of work with them? Because if it is and there is lots of work and the credit for this lower-budget work doesn't matter (like they aren't winning awards or anything), who cares, you know?

    But if you do care and it's something that will not be compromised in the future, you have your answer...
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    Senior Member Ruben de Boer's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses!
    When I was typing up the post I (sort of) realized the same thing: I am the operator and he is the DoP. Even when I’m more qualified for the job as a DoP.

    It seems I’m working with them for more jobs. Some low budget, some no budget. I gain a lot of expierence and - for now - that’s the most important part. BUT what I want is the experience as a DoP, not as a camera operator.

    So I will have to talk to them to have more room for experiments.

    Another question: what percentage (a rough guess) of the directors are micro-managers?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruben de Boer View Post
    Thanks for the responses!
    When I was typing up the post I (sort of) realized the same thing: I am the operator and he is the DoP. Even when I’m more qualified for the job as a DoP.

    It seems I’m working with them for more jobs. Some low budget, some no budget. I gain a lot of expierence and - for now - that’s the most important part. BUT what I want is the experience as a DoP, not as a camera operator.

    So I will have to talk to them to have more room for experiments.

    Another question: what percentage (a rough guess) of the directors are micro-managers?
    No idea, but I kinda like them to be micro managers. So I give them exactly what they want, or I get the impression they know what they are doing. But yeah on other occasions I have had directors who where clueless some that took my advice and some that didnt. Not saying my advice is correct all the time, I have had my share of misses too, but I know the feeling when you know when something is going to work better and they ignore it
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    I have worked as DoP with directors and "creative" producers, and have been directing and producing too. As a DoP and director, I have had encountered our creative producer to want to inject their "creative view" of the scene from the monitor, telling me where she thinks the image should fall into frame. There are times a second advice is helpful and I'd give it a try. Most of the times I will acknowledge what she says, tell her that I got this, and go do my thing. The most important thing as a DoP is get a relationship with the director and his confidence in you. If the director says what you shot was good for him, who cares what others have to say... in a polite way that is.
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    Sounds like you expected to be in control of the image, and these conversations should have transpired in pre-production.

    Since the film is already filming, for consistency's sake, the best thnig is to keep it in the same style range as is already shot. There's a point to argue, anyway. Good luck.
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    Ultimately, the true definition of what is an appropriate credit depends on who does the lighting. If your shows have a gaffer doing the lighting and the shots director tells him what to do rather than you, then you are just an operator. If you oversee the lighting then you are the DP. The Coen brothers is an example of a team where one deals with the actors and one is more in tune with the technical side of calling shots. In this example no one would ever dispute that Roger Deakons was DP.
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    I've worked with co-directors a fair bit, the ones who do it best and I've worked with the most are brothers who have been doing it together for a decade. So not only do they have a lot of experience together but have known each other since birth as well! Although one of them tends to be the more artistic director while the other manages all the behind the scenes operations to make everything move smoothly. So perhaps more like producer/director than co-directors.

    Anyway, I just had some truly "evil" (?) thoughts for you to try (but be careful! They might backfire):
    1) give him comteks so that he listens to the sound as well, then hope he bugs the soundie more than you! ha
    2) go multicam with a sacrificial lamb that is the other camera to distract him with! ;-) I know one DoP who did this for a feature film....
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