View Full Version : Director vs. Cinematographer... Aritstically Co-existing?

05-24-2005, 06:10 PM
Hi, just wanted to get some opinions on the director/DP relationship.

I have worked on shoots where this relationship is exremely volatile - this seems to be directly related to how creative the DP can be, and wants to infuse new ideas with or against what the director wants. If the director is stubborn and/or the shoot is pressed for time, this is going to get ugly fast. Also, if the director just likes their own idea better... same result.

From a producer's point of view, I was wondering if people think this is a decent approach:

Tell the director to be their normal over-bearing self :laugh: and let the DP know that the director has the final say in what goes in the shot, so, get what the director wants and THEN if there is time and not too much re-set up is needed, make a suggestion for something different if you have a good idea.

My goal is not to spark an auteur vs. collaborative debate. I am just wondering what others feel about this. Should the director give a loose description of the shot and just let the DP run with it? I mean, I know this depends on a lot of factors - so, maybe if people could share their experiences re: director & DP's working together, good or bad, that would help.



05-24-2005, 06:27 PM
In my experience of being told by a director how to do something in details then have been dead wrong in their approach. In other words, they would say, "I want the shot look like A and I also want you to use B toolset to get that shot" Most often the tools from group B won't achieve the desired effect they want. So, it comes down to doing exactly what you are told (use B toolset) or get the effect they actually wanted. I was asked to leave a shoot once (that, I, BTW, volunteered my services for free to help out a director/cameraman) because the director said I wasn't doing exactly what he told me to and that I wasn't helping at all. From that POV, this guy needed a camera operator, not a D.P., so I suppose that's the defining difference. If a production hires the services of a D.P. and the director is dictating what brand of lights and what film emulsion you will use, then that director would be better off with a camera operator and a gaffer and not a D.P. It seems that more often than not, to re-iterate, a director that makes decisions about lights/grip/camera either a) doesn't know enough about those things to make intelligent choices or b) is a genius who doesn't need a D.P. It's better to find out which slant the director has before beginning on a show. Hope this helps.

05-24-2005, 10:15 PM
On my last project I was fortunate enough to work with a very good DP. He was talented, committed and was always working to deliver a great looking shot. My role was producer & director so I had to know when to back off and let him do his thing. Fortunately, he's a much better DP than I am, so I stuck to telling him what I wanted but not how to do it. My only negative feedback to him was when his setups were too ambitious and thus were taking too long. At that point I had to curtail his plans but he understood the time constraints. However, I'd rather have an imaginative perfectionist that someone who doesn't care any day of the week.

The one thing that was strange for me was that I'm generally used to being the actual camera operator but I'd never worked with a real DP before. In this case I had to get used to stepping away from the camera and working through the video monitor and playback. This made me feel a little weird at first but then I discovered that it was really quite liberating. I was able to sit back and not be hunched over the camera. I was able to actually direct!

05-26-2005, 08:44 PM
It really depends on the director's approach. I've seen directors that totally concentrate on the performances and leave the lighting and basic look up to the DP. I've also seen situations where the director is more worried about the camera moves and look than he is the actors, making the Dp a glorified camera-op. Alot of it has to do with the extent of the director technical knowledge. You'd be surprised how little a lot of indie directors know. Sometimes, the more they know, the less latitude the DP has and vice versa. A less technically adept director explains what he wants shots to look like and the DP switches lenses, filters and lights to achieve this based on an ambiguous description or reference to a shot/look in another movie.

This is a great question, something I'm wrestling with right now. I've always DP'd and directed my own stuff, but now I'm at the point where I want to work with a DP so I can pay mor attention to the actors.
First of all, the director should have final say no matter what, right or wrong. Best case scenario, you want to have DP who is on the same page with you. He knows what you want and is going to do everything he can to get achieve it even if he disagrees. I'm finding that it is always better to be open minded when the DP gives ideas for shots and lighting and such. In fact, I believe that is the DP's job and right now I have the DP beside me while I do storyboards. Two heads are better than one IMHO.
Then again, I've also met directors who want to be in control of the whole thing and don't want anybody else suggestion shots and the like. I don't like this method, but it does work about 2% of the time. :)

We are however stuck in low budget indie hell and all kinds of problems confront us everyday like..... Unless you plan really well and nothing goes wrong, your storyboards don't work out so you have to improvise. You might be working with a DP who's not real creative and not on the same page as you because he's the only guy with a light kit or an extra camera. Budget doesn't permit a wireless video signal so you either have to trust the DP's eye on the steadicam or playback each take. ECT.

Those kind of things.
In a perfect situation the DP should almost be a co-director with you having the final say-so.

05-26-2005, 10:02 PM
I am gonna add that anything creative, like giving birth, is painful. The ideal Dir/DP relationship is one of give and take. Both have to be free to suggest great and stupid ideas, because with a good partner sometimes the stupid ideas lead to real greatness. They key is can they argue and maintain respect, and sometime just agree to put it aside and move on?

06-13-2005, 07:57 PM
interesting question for sure..

I am coming close to my principal photography for my short film.. the first time I will be working with a DP.. I have done my own "DP" work in the past.. and it shows.. I suck at it... or at least I am too lazy in that aspect of filmmaking to really make it look good.

I want to concentrate more with my actors this time around since the script I wrote is emotionally weighted...

my plan is to have a meeting with my DP and go through my script and explain to her exactly the type of look I want from the film and each scene in particular.

I am a very technically minded person myself... but damn.. you slowly begin to realize why a director doesn't "do it all" ... too much work.

as an aside, I always find it funny in school when many of my classmates want to "direct" but few if any of them have any idea how much work it really is.

Director has to work with the actors, think about framing, emotion, camera movement, legal issues, permits.. blah blah the list goes on .. (that list is mostly aimed at the indie director of course)..

Gonna be hard now operating the camera on my own shoot.. but it should be interesting.. my camera op gets to use the fun DvRigPro I bought.