PDA

View Full Version : Director Vs. DP in my Doc film



valdez
07-31-2005, 09:49 PM
OK, heres my situation; just curious to hear what others might think.
I was brought on to a very low budget Doc as the DP by a Producer (i.e. a guy with money who wants to tell this great story but doesn't know the first thing about film/docs) Before me, he had already "Hired" this Bone head as a "Director" who also has little/ no real film experience, but he swears that said "director" is such a good story teller as someone who wrote some great fiction Theatre shows. He insists that since he is a writer he'll be able to piece together a good story better than most. Anyway, I've been shooting for almost 5 months now and going way beyond call of duty to get to know and follow around the many people involved in the story (building rapport, trust, shooting thier lives on the fly, etc). I have lots of previous experience doing this and usualy shoot and direct myself for docs to keep things moving since usually my own things are unfunded anyway.
So this "Director" is only around MAYBE half the time, is openly unwilling to get to know the people, and now I'm teaching him how to log footage into a computer the producer bought for it. Essentially he's only willing to do sit down interviews with people and hasn't been getting them together since none of the 'subjects' trust him anyway. It's pretty much broken down, since I recently insisted that I recieve at least co-director credit. I think with 2 people doing a budget feature doc you should simply split duties and do what needs to be done to get inside trusting boundaries and get something shot. He recently quit, saying he wouldn't continue if I was working on it, but the Producer is hell bent on getting him back as a "good writer" to help direct but doesn't want to lose me either since I've been doing everything so far. We can't work together, because now we just don't like each other, but the Producer wants to try to get him back somehow and expects my support. I've been getting more done without him around and I don't want him back, but I don't know what to tell the Producer. Neither understands how directing for documentary works and they've both concluded through random guesswork that since it's not fiction that the director doesn't need to do much during shooting and doesn't always need to be around; just piece a story together in editing and look academic while asking questions in a lit interview. Besides the 3 or 4 interviews I've shot with him asking questions theres over 100 hours of great footage of verite happenings in the 'subjects' lives. "Director" wants to give me "2nd Director" credit or "2nd Unit" or something ignorant like that that he dreamed up, because he insists that there must be a heirarchy to follow even with 2 people doing everything. I'm at the end of my rope, but I've already dedicated so much good work to it and shot some amazing stuff for them because I built up trust and respect for the people in it. Anyone out there have real doc experience that can vouch for my expectation that to be called 'Director' you need to be more involved with the subjects than the DP? (not Reality, TV, I've done that, and it ain't the same; it's poop I say) Sorry I can't say what it's about here, yet, since it's all a little shaky.

David G. Smith
07-31-2005, 10:13 PM
Dude, I feel for you. I have found that obtaining the title of "Director" has very little to do with actual skill or mastery of the craft of filmmaking. It seems to me that most "Directors" have only the ability to be percieved as having an abitrary level of "cool" or other such personallity strengths. In most of the projects that I have worked on as DP, I have had to step up and do many of the tasks that a director should be doing. Get used to it.

My advice would be to take it on the chin, get the project done and move on. You know what really happened, that is all that you can hope for. Look at it as a learning experience. It will make you stronger.

Good Luck.

MattC
07-31-2005, 10:47 PM
In my younger days as a bassist, I had a gig for playing for Frank Gorshin (great impressionist - best I ever heard). He had a musical director, who was the producer's brother in law. Rehearsals went fine, come the show the MD gets "sick". He had fucking stage fright. I had to put down my string bass, pick up my electric and conduct the show while playing. The MD wasn't even on the fucking stage. He kept the title for the duration of the run. I was pissed, but I kept it to myself (I was a youngun then). A month later I got a call from Frank, who said he was impressed by how I handled the situation and asked me to go on the road with him as his Musical Director (and bassist). I took the gig and it was a great experience. Sometimes you just gotta suck it up and do what you have to to make the gig - show must go on and all that jazz. Unfortunately, in your case it doesn't look like there is anyone to appreciate what you're doing, but you never know. Down the line, someone may realize or see what's taken place and how you've handled it and give you a break.

But understand, even if you are completely right, if you bail and word gets out - you will be wrong in the eyes of everyone who hears their story. No matter what the truth is.

Finish the gig, not for them, but for yourself, for your own integrity and for the people who's trust you've established.

Matt

Jay Rodriguez
08-01-2005, 03:55 AM
ah, lol... sticky situation. things like "who does what" should always be discussed before hand so that accountability can be in place. sucks that you're going throught the crapper right now.

pmark23
08-01-2005, 05:33 AM
A lot of us have been there.

Remain pleasant, easy to work with, and make this project the best it can be. Don't be afraid to let your complaints be known to the producer and ONLY the producer.

This is only one gig and there will be more afterwards. If you get a reputation as being a guy who gets things done no matter what AND isn't an asshole, everyone will want to work with you.

After you've done a few more projects, people will be able to look upon this one and see the level of your involvement.

ericyoung
08-03-2005, 08:01 PM
Agree with everyone you should stay in there to the end.

But would definitely advise you make copies of all the rushes, AS YOU GO, for your own showreel use. Otherwise, the producer and/or "director" may disappear with them at the end of the shoot and either because they never get round to finishing an edit or because they have fallen out with you in a terminal way, you will have nothing to show for all your efforts. Don't put this off! At least then it's been of SOME use to you.

Working as a DP, you don't need the likely poorly edited finished film these amateurs will come up with. Just use the good stuff on the rushes you've shot to get a better job next time!

David G. Smith
08-03-2005, 10:19 PM
Agree with everyone you should stay in there to the end.

But would definitely advise you make copies of all the rushes, AS YOU GO, for your own showreel use. Otherwise, the producer and/or "director" may disappear with them at the end of the shoot and either because they never get round to finishing an edit or because they have fallen out with you in a terminal way, you will have nothing to show for all your efforts. Don't put this off! At least then it's been of SOME use to you.

Working as a DP, you don't need the likely poorly edited finished film these amateurs will come up with. Just use the good stuff on the rushes you've shot to get a better job next time!

I agree totally. Can be tricky from some producers, but I have been burnt quite a few times by this. It is either not getting any footage or ending up with a bullshit VHS dub, that is useless on your reel.

Jarred Land
08-04-2005, 01:24 AM
i had that trait early in my career.. doing way to much and finishing everyone's job, without extra pay or extra credit. It started pissing me off so I just stoped doing other people's jobs. I appreciate the experience though, as I learned most of my producing experience on shows that I was a DP or even a camera operator, because I just had the experience or business sense to do it better than other people that should be doing it so the producers put the trust in me.

If one word of advice i could give is, The producer is the only person on the top of the chain that actually matters, because he or she is the person that is actually spending money to make movies. So dont worry about pissing off any one above the line except the producer.. because if your in bed with them the next project they will remember you. The Producer hires everyone. The producer fires everyone. The producer can change credits.

So dont worry about the crap you had to deal with, thats pretty much how it works in the film business, become a camera trainee for the union and you will witness how messed up the politics really are.

DC
08-04-2005, 09:13 AM
Yup, these are certainly the trials of the business. I pretty much agree with the general comments thus far.

I'm currently working on a film as a DP where I'm basically co-directing. I turned down a director's credit because he's my friend and I want him to have that exclusively. Between 2 or 3 of us, we're wearing multiple hats and it's all good because we're dedicated to the finished product. We're all comfortable with how we're working it out and that is the important thing.

A few years ago, I worked on a different film as a 1st AD. Our sound guy was a complete disaster as he was so careless with boom positioning. Having operated a boom before, I could see how badly he was performing his job.

During one particular scene, I had to monitor sound for whatever reason. And it was horrible! So I told the sound guy that he needed to actually hold the boom over his head and get in closer. He eventually came up to me on a break and told me to do my own job and to stop bothering him about doing his. I wanted to punch him in his g.d. face for being such an arrogant and lazy b@stard! But I didn't. I just told him that I was dedicated to the complete success of the project and that if I see something wrong I'm going to do what it takes to make it right. He didn't want to listen and just walked away.

So, I approached the producer (who was also directing) and told him that the sound guy was not doing his job properly. He was like, "Dude, are you telling me that this guy is ruining my movie?!" I confirmed his fears. The producer didn't end up doing too much about it because of some of the politics involved (which I won't get into here).

Anyway, when it was all over and edited . . . sure enough, the sound was GARBAGE! And everyone who saw the movie complained about that the most! Fortunately (and unfortunately), that film is now available on DVD in stores and mail order. I only like to show people the trailer, which is actually pretty cool.

So, the bottom line is that working on movies can be and usually is crazy. Do the best you can to build a reel. The longer you're at it, the more selective you can be about projects presented to you. Eventually, you'll be working mostly on projects where the b.s. is at a minimum. Hang in there - it will all be over soon. :)

-DC-