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Not seeing eye-to-eye with the DP for a shot


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#1 William Demeritt

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 09:54 PM

I'm eager to hear some advice from the seasoned operators, as it seems on every shoot I operate, I run into this problem.

You start a job, and you haven't worked with the DP before. Or, perhaps you have, but the situation still comes up. You're giving input, they're taking it and giving feedback. You're really collaborating, getting excited about the shots, adrenaline starts to spike.

Eventually, though, you reach a new shot, and the DP talks you through it... and you're just not into it. You understand the story, the moment, the camera logic and intuition, but something about the shot the DP is telling you... just... doesn't feel right?

Perhaps you know exactly the change you think you should offer, but it's dismissed in favor of the shot you don't particularly connect with. What you're being asked isnt' necessarily "bad", but you just don't connect with the shot, and perhaps you just can't offer an idea as an alternative.

I can think of a few situations in the past where that exact problem arose, and I still operated the shot and they got what they wanted. You don't want to be the guy who just refuses to operate if he doesn't understand the shot, or why, or do you?

Perhaps this question goes together with the typical diplomacy you learn on set, or feeds the personality by which you're known. I'm sure some people are known as the "I'll get your shot no matter what" types, and others "won't budge unless they completely agree with the shot" type.

What's worked for you?
Did you regret just giving in and performing the requested shot? Were you surprised, or happy you did?
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#2 thomas-english

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 10:30 PM

Well if you want to be the one that decides; you need to become a DP. There is nothing more that DPs hate is when they have to justify their decisions to an operator. They might be thinking 3 steps ahead; a lighting issue, a budget issue or even a political issue that is frankly not really any of your business if you have not been informed about it. Your there to create their work and hopefully add to it. Its not a democracy or art school its a very expensive set and as the clock ticks its someones money going.
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#3 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 10:34 PM

simple piece of advice here....

look at the order of names on the call sheet.

If the DP wants the shot a particular way you better give it to him if you want to be asked back...

when you gain his or her's trust then you can try to drive the boat....
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#4 William Coss

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 10:44 PM

Many, many years ago, Bob Ulland and I were day playing on a show and they asked him to climb up a ladder to do a high and wide shot.

He didn't say a thing and climbed the ladder.

Won't tell you what I said.

Bill
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#5 Alan Mehlbrech

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 11:15 PM

I always find this short essay from TJ Willaims helpful....

http://www.camera-pe...philosophy.html



the other one that has helped me is-

"When you get 40 million will do the movie your way."


Happy New Year.


Alan
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#6 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 12:13 AM

This goes to a point I like to make. Some operators are great because of their technical ability. Some are great because of their artistic ability. Some are great because of their diplomatic ability and some are great because of their abilities in all of those areas.

I have worked with operators that were fantastic in one of those areas and horrible in the other two.

I would suggest that you are discussing the diplomacy skill set. It is probable that you could almost totally eliminate the problem your are talking about if you could have perfect diplomatic skills. Nobody does so you have to do your level best to figure out the correct diplomatic path for each job, DP, director, shot, situation. It's not always possible to hit the nail on the head and when you fall short in that endeavor you should do what's mentioned above and suck it up until your name is on the slate.

Over the years I have definitely got better at being a diplomat but I have also improved my Gandhi skill set. When it doesn't go my way, I just smile and do what I'm asked. I have found that more often than not, I am vindicated and my suggestion is either re-visited or it is at least obvious that my suggestion would have worked better.

In the words of Lennon, "let it be"...
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#7 Ari Gertler

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 02:20 AM

Along these same lines: how many of you have been on a shoot where is seems the DP and Director are shooting two totally different movies. Many years ago when I was very new to the world of Steadicam I was in the following situation while shooting a MOW. Example: the Director would tell me after rehearsal that he liked my shot but could I start the move a little earlier, The Dp would pull me aside and say I should start the move a little later. New shot: Director " Try to catch the high window in the background when the actor crosses the frame", DP: " Don't catch that window". Director: "Change your pace as you lead the actors across the street" DP: "keep the same pace". Director: "start on the dress" DP: start on the shoulder" ETC. Etc. etc..... It was my first time working with both the Director and DP, and since I was inexperienced I was feeling a lot of pressure being pulled in two totally different directions. Luckily I have not had to deal with a situation like this in years but wanted to know how more experienced operators may have handled this situation. Lets just say that I worked with the DP again, but have never seen the Director.
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#8 chris fawcett

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 04:17 AM

If you have a suggestion, quietly make it, then do what you are told. Someone that's been thinking about the shot longer than you is probably right about how it fits into the story (though not always). The more politely you suggest something, the more likely is the DP or director to take it onboard—maybe not this shot, but perhaps the next.

Channel your imagination away from your ego and into your craft. Moviemaking is fractal. There's always a way to stick to what you are asked to do, and make it better.

Speak softly and carry a big rig,

Chris
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#9 Jerry Franck

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 04:54 AM

Along these same lines: how many of you have been on a shoot where is seems the DP and Director are shooting two totally different movies. Many years ago when I was very new to the world of Steadicam I was in the following situation while shooting a MOW. Example: the Director would tell me after rehearsal that he liked my shot but could I start the move a little earlier, The Dp would pull me aside and say I should start the move a little later. New shot: Director " Try to catch the high window in the background when the actor crosses the frame", DP: " Don't catch that window". Director: "Change your pace as you lead the actors across the street" DP: "keep the same pace". Director: "start on the dress" DP: start on the shoulder" ETC. Etc. etc..... It was my first time working with both the Director and DP, and since I was inexperienced I was feeling a lot of pressure being pulled in two totally different directions. Luckily I have not had to deal with a situation like this in years but wanted to know how more experienced operators may have handled this situation. Lets just say that I worked with the DP again, but have never seen the Director. Actually come to think of it, I don't think the Director worked much after the shoot (something about an actress and inappropriate behavior)!



Ari,

thanks for bringing this up. Been in this exact situation a few times. I bet a lot of people have been.
My question though, how did you go about that issue on set at the moment of it happening.
Do you tell one of them that the other person suggested something different or do you just do it one way and not please one of them...?
Would be interesting to know how more experienced operators than me handle that pressure...?

Thanks,
Jerry
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#10 thomas-english

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 05:57 AM

The DP / Director conflict!

Yes, this is definitely an interesting one. The true test of your diplomatic skillet. At this point I have no problems siding with the one I know better or is likely to give me better work. The point is that there has been a major fundamental breakdown of communications at this point. Try and bring this out into the open so they are agreeing as to what they want. I.e. go back to the director to watch the monitor but talk to the DP in clear earshot of the director. I think fundamentally you are the DP's tool so you answer to him as he is your superior. If you have suggestions you make them to him. If he wants to take a risk against the Directors advice you should take that risk for him. He is your immediate superior. Your his tool but if he is a tool; stuff him.

The Director is the ultimate boss. If you like him more, know him better or just think he is more right. You are quite entitled to ignore the DP (especially if you don't like him). If you can't bring the conflict out in the open you are going to make enemies. Shit happens on set making enemies. Make the right friends.

The best thing to discuss here is techniques to bring the conversation out into the open. I stay near the director and talk to the DP, keep the AD close to the conversation/action and let them know whats going on (they won't tolerate this kind of thing). But if the DP is whispering to you on your way to the shot well.... its entirely up to you mate. Do what you want. Carte Blanche. Creative control in a time of war.
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#11 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 03:36 PM

Along these same lines: how many of you have been on a shoot where is seems the DP and Director are shooting two totally different movies. Many years ago when I was very new to the world of Steadicam I was in the following situation while shooting a MOW. Example: the Director would tell me after rehearsal that he liked my shot but could I start the move a little earlier, The Dp would pull me aside and say I should start the move a little later. New shot: Director " Try to catch the high window in the background when the actor crosses the frame", DP: " Don't catch that window". Director: "Change your pace as you lead the actors across the street" DP: "keep the same pace". Director: "start on the dress" DP: start on the shoulder" ETC. Etc. etc..... It was my first time working with both the Director and DP, and since I was inexperienced I was feeling a lot of pressure being pulled in two totally different directions. Luckily I have not had to deal with a situation like this in years but wanted to know how more experienced operators may have handled this situation. Lets just say that I worked with the DP again, but have never seen the Director.



Depends is it a TV show or a feature? The director is a guest on a TV show, on a feature the DP is chosen by the director.
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#12 RonBaldwin

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 05:33 PM

I only do what the cutest extra tells me to do...she'll be running the place or a famous actress in a few years anyways.

rb
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#13 William Demeritt

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Posted 06 January 2010 - 07:06 PM

Thank you for the replies so far. I think the diplomatic approach is a skill everyone learns over time. As someone who's suffered from a lifelong "no brain-mouth filter" affliction, learning diplomacy has been a tough lesson. Many of you are right, I do think it comes from a place founded in humility first and foremost.

Anyone make any memorable mistakes you were able to recover from on the diplomatic front? Or weren't able to recover from?

I only do what the cutest extra tells me to do...she'll be running the place or a famous actress in a few years anyways.

rb


Go big or go home! You like betting the longshot, don't you?
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#14 Lars Erik

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 01:45 AM

When hired on a feature or tv drama, I always just shut the f**k up, but I usually ask simple questions if I don't understand what the shot is about, or unsure about the mood of the scene. I listen to the director and the DP for what they want and have little suggestions before the shot (unless the shot is somehow dangerous for me or the rig, then I come up with alternatives). As Chris stated, they've been planning this for a long time and probably know more than you (I hope). :blink:

After the shot, I always focus my attention at the DP after the shot. If he/she seems a bit unhappy in any way, I usually just ask "was the shot fine, or do you want something a little bit different?" I don't shout this out, but calmly walk over to the DP and ask it with a low and confident voice. I don't involve the director at this point, if the DP considers doing it differently, he'll/she'll tell the director. This way you don't break the chain of command and the DP also acts a quality filter for the director. Then I feel safe coming up with suggestions about a slightly different shot, if they want something changed. (they usually never want something completely different, stay in the same ball park.)

If you start to discuss every shot you disagree with the DP, you'll waste a lot of valuable time, and you'll have a tough time getting hired again. In my experience you have to be good at operating, fast in set-up and know when to speak and when to shut the hell up!


My 2 cents

LE
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#15 Matteo Quagliano

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 04:10 AM

DP is my boss, if something is not clear I'll talk to him/her, if problem arises I always look at him/her, I never make a step without the approval of the DP... I mean, with directors I relate at the same level (we discuss the shot, I suggest, he request, we end up with something) but the Dp is the one that has the authority to let me go or the one I need the approval to go on... and mainly most of the time Dp knows what they're talking about, not always directors... in my very little experience...

maqu
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