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DP or Producer?


Frank Barrera
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I am seeking advice from experience with this type of situation. I am in development on a feature with somewhat high profile actors involved. The budget should be about $2 million. It might shoot in NYC which would invite union interest. I have partnered with the director and will act as her producer. I will assist on all things creative and also help raise the financing. This happens to be a fairly un-orthodoxed project which inspired us to take several un-orthodoxed approaches. One of which is that I plan to be the DP.

 

I realize that once we actually begin shooting I would for the most part have to take off the producer's hat and fully concentrate on the cinematography. Once we wrap I would again assume certain post production responsibilities up to and including marketing of the film.

 

I know that on ultra low budget features it is common for below the line crew to also be involved as producers. But with our cast and budget and potential union involvement I am wondering what pitfalls and/or problems I may prepare for.

 

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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Well if the show flipped union you'd have to go union as DP.. that's something to keep in mind... Aside from that I can't help you. Whenever i've been a "producer/dp" i've also been a "director" on those smaller corporate gigs, or small music videos and the like. Anything major, it would probably be better if you acted as associate producer for the beginning and for post, then had a proper producing team to supplement you.

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Two potentially helpful things...

 

I produced/DPd a short about a year and a half ago. It was a 3 day affair, $17,000. And I made the mistake of also producing while shooting and not being able to dump off those responsiblities to someone else while doing the creative aspect of DPing. If you're going to do that you should bring in a Production Manager who's comfortable with shouldering all of that during Production.

 

Also, I don't know if a 2mil budget would raise too too much interest as far as the Union would be concerned. Especially if you're shooting during a busy time of year when all hands are already working.

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Well if the show flipped union you'd have to go union as DP.. that's something to keep in mind...

Really? Never heard that one... thought the only way that could be is if the International Cinematographers Guild was involved. And if I'm not mistaken almost all unions, except SAG and the WGA, allow non-union members to work on union shows, and union members to work on non-union shows.

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Really? Never heard that one... thought the only way that could be is if the International Cinematographers Guild was involved. And if I'm not mistaken almost all unions, except SAG and the WGA, allow non-union members to work on union shows, and union members to work on non-union shows.

 

IATSE local 600 (ICG) is the camera department union in the US (and its territories) and in Canada is IATSE local 669. If a movie is union in the US, IATSE 600 will cover, and if it is in Canada IATSE 669 will:

 

http://www.cameraguild.com/

 

http://www.ia669.com/index.php?option=com_...2&Itemid=28

 

And the rules regarding unions allowing "non-union members to work on union shows, and union members to work on non-union shows" are very complicated, but for the most part unions won't allow non-union members to work on a union show unless it can be established that there are no union members available to work on the show, or if production really wants someone non union to be part of the project and a few other situations. If a non-union worker joins the movie production, the local covering the worker's craft will almost certainly offer said worker the opportunity to join the union asap and sometimes the union will require the worker joins the union then, depending on the situation.

Edited by Saul Rodgar
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I suspect you'll need a really good line producer who you can trust. All sorts of time consuming issues can arise with funders and other people during pre production and during the shoot, which can mean you trying to be physically in two places at once when you're trying to DP a feature film.. The last thing you need is to be fire fighting as a producer whilst trying to light a scene.

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I don't see any reason you couldn't DP and be a producer, as long as you have a really strong Line Producer, production co-coordinator and AD. Remember, as a DP your motivation is to make the film as good as possible which often means more time and money, so you need people to organize and to keep you in check based on the budget... otherwise you're almost fighting against yourself.

 

As for the union, I don't know New York but in LA it generally works like this:

 

$2 mil is not too small for the unions to take an interest, especially if it's slow (and it still is fairly slow) If you're noticed you may suddenly find a local 80 or a teamster wandering around set asking questions about the budget and so forth. If they decide to flip the show they usually flip most if not all departments (transpo, camera, grip, electric, etc), any union crew will be forced to walk away, and non-union crew may be offered a deal if they walk away.

 

If you do flip to union it they may make you hire union crew, or the crew already hired will continue to work until they've accrued a certain number of days (usually 30) at which point they will have to join the union in order to continue to work on a union show.

 

Whether you're noticed generally depends on how large your footprint is, and if you're shooting in a commonly used location.

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If a non-union worker joins the movie production, the local covering the worker's craft will almost certainly offer said worker the opportunity to join the union asap and sometimes the union will require the worker joins the union then, depending on the situation.

 

Gotta love forced Unionism.

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  • 3 weeks later...
I am seeking advice from experience with this type of situation. I am in development on a feature with somewhat high profile actors involved. The budget should be about $2 million.

 

Regardless of any union involvement, one consideration is that you are working in a difficult budget range for many reasons. One of those that people find unexpectedly as production and contracts loom near is that the high profile actor's representation may have input on who directs and / or who DP's the film...and resistance if they are not comfortable. Agents have been often known to discourage participation in films where the creative team is new to working in what they view as "micro budget*" but where it is actually a big jump up for the creatives; if the director is newer it may almost be a given they will want a studio DP and AD to 'insure' him.

 

As to the producer's hat, I AD'd / produced and shot/ directed, and those were challenging combos... but I would personally have a very hard time doing any creative pursuit while producing. Producing can mean many things but to be concerned with other department's concerns on the business side while trying to insure I get the scene lit and shot sounds like asking for trouble.

 

Again, $2 million may be a fast $500,000 movie with "budget extras" like higher union costs, transpo costs, and not a single extra dollar showing up on screen, all to get the film made "right" for your high profile actors. That is a very tough budget range these days.

 

*You may find lots of people terrified by a filmmaker with $1 million, as they think it's impossible to make a feature film for that little.

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*You may find lots of people terrified by a filmmaker with $1 million, as they think it's impossible to make a feature film for that little.

 

I know and it's HILARIOUS! This fear is held mainly by people who have no clue as to how the production process works and where savings can be achieved and how. It's also a fear held by people that think if people can make successful films for under 1 million then the inflated salaries that are common place in the movie industry will become a thing of the past (I doubt it of course.)

 

3-4 very decent features can be made for 1 million.

 

Looks like Oren Peli is the latest very intelligent person to prove that one can make a movie for only $15, 000.00 have it make 100 million at the box office. I wonder who will be next?

 

People that think any film budget under 1 million is impossible would be wise to review this list of flops and take a close look at the budgets of these movies.

 

Bottom line is always the same, the more you spend the more you have to make back.

 

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/091127/...us_decade_flops

 

R,

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I know and it's HILARIOUS! This fear is held mainly by people who have no clue as to how the production process works and where savings can be achieved and how. It's also a fear held by people that think if people can make successful films for under 1 million then the inflated salaries that are common place in the movie industry will become a thing of the past (I doubt it of course.)

 

3-4 very decent features can be made for 1 million.

 

Looks like Oren Peli is the latest very intelligent person to prove that one can make a movie for only $15, 000.00 have it make 100 million at the box office. I wonder who will be next?

 

People that think any film budget under 1 million is impossible would be wise to review this list of flops and take a close look at the budgets of these movies.

 

Bottom line is always the same, the more you spend the more you have to make back.

 

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/091127/...us_decade_flops

 

R,

 

Richard

 

I am with you 100% on the budget question. That is the main reason I want to make the movie I am developing. I know we can make a great film for this money as long as the right people are making the right decisions early on.

 

But I am curious to know your thoughts about what I am proposing. Keeping in mind that this is a fairly unconventional film both in subject and approach. Its an adaptation of a celebrated translation of a classic non english language play. I would work with the director to design the entire production from the ground up; above and beyond the normal DP responsibilities. I would then take that hat off during shooting and then resume Producer role during post. Makes sense, right?

 

thanks for your thoughts.

 

f

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Richard

 

I am with you 100% on the budget question. That is the main reason I want to make the movie I am developing. I know we can make a great film for this money as long as the right people are making the right decisions early on.

 

A break even will still be a challenge at this level without a pre-sale to a major releasing company. But I'm sure you know that. You have to make projects you believe in first, and hope others appreciate your vision at a later point. Hopefully if they don't believe in your vision at a later point, you didn't use your own money :blink:

 

But I am curious to know your thoughts about what I am proposing. Keeping in mind that this is a fairly unconventional film both in subject and approach. Its an adaptation of a celebrated translation of a classic non english language play. I would work with the director to design the entire production from the ground up; above and beyond the normal DP responsibilities. I would then take that hat off during shooting and then resume Producer role during post. Makes sense, right?

 

thanks for your thoughts.

 

f

 

The DOP/Producer role is fine, I did this on Dark Reprieve. So have lot's of other indie filmmakers. Your description of the project sounds a bit art house and not very main stream, which is fine of course. People said that about Slum Dog Millionaire after they read the script. But it worked out fine.

 

I think you'll find that your biggest learning curve is on the money and marketing side. But hey we all have to learn this information some how.

 

R,

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Guest Glen Alexander
I think you'll find that your biggest learning curve is on the money and marketing side. But hey we all have to learn this information some how.

 

R,

R,

 

You would probably consider my film an art film and I'm more than happy to accept that badge of honor more than many just horrible productions of today which are nothing more than numbing noise. I went into a video store and out of the literally thousands of titles there were maybe a handful I'd actually consider watching. I chose not to add to that noise. My film will NEVER appear on Youtube etc unless it's stolen and then I would take EVERY action to stop it.

 

Anyway, I'm not worried about a distro deal. The ones who are meant to see my film will. It will go out slowly by osmosis through the power of the visuals, the music, the story.

 

But I am curious to know what you made yours for, how much you've spent marketing/distrobution, what's been your return on your investment?

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But I am curious to know what you made yours for, how much you've spent marketing/distrobution, what's been your return on your investment?

 

Well I'd like to make all of that info public, but I just can't for a long list of reasons.

 

All I can say is that Dark Reprieve was very low budget, and the distribution has been great, it's in all main stream retail outlets in the USA. And has been bought by quite a few foreign TV and cable systems. For example, it aired on Show Time Arabia and that covered 16 different Arab countries. Just goes to show you never know where your work will end up.

 

That said, would I go down that road again? Probably not.

 

Dark Reprieve got me onto The Dogfather, which was a much bigger production, with a "real" budget cast and crew, etc.

 

So now I hope that The Dogfather will lead to a bigger project at some future date.

 

In the mean time I have my day job at Mc Donald's and my night job as a janitor.

 

R,

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Guest Glen Alexander
Well I'd like to make all of that info public, but I just can't for a long list of reasons.

...stuff deleted

So now I hope that The Dogfather will lead to a bigger project at some future date.

 

In the mean time I have my day job at Mc Donald's and my night job as a janitor.

 

R,

R,

Why not just use percentage? 10% ROI? 15%?

 

Thought you were deciding on colors for your ferrari? :lol:

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Thought you were deciding on colors for your ferrari? :lol:

 

Film industry humour. The ferrari is great though, except the batteries run down fast and the remote control takes some getting used to.

 

R,

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Guest Glen Alexander
Film industry humour. The ferrari is great though, except the batteries run down fast and the remote control takes some getting used to.

 

R,

 

Like the impressionists used to do. I'll trade you a DVD of my film for yours.

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Like the impressionists used to do. I'll trade you a DVD of my film for yours.

 

Why waste your time with that the #$%$#@ web pirates have stolen Dark Reprieve so many times now I hear it's the number one download in senior citizens homes :blink:

 

R,

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Why waste your time with that the #$%$#@ web pirates have stolen Dark Reprieve so many times now I hear it's the number one download in senior citizens homes :blink:

 

R,

 

They must be mistaking it for Dark Knight. Unfortunately, things like movie titles go first when the memory goes. ;)

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Hey Frank,

 

I did a DP/Producer on a promo and the thing that really saved my bacon and allowed me to concentrate on the cinematography was to have a couple of late coming co-producers onto it.

Once I'd started the ball rolling, all I had to do then was hand it over. Until after the shooting had happened.

 

Of late I've been noticing that like us, a lot of "media" based companied, be it magazines, graphic design etc....are now incorporating filming services in their repertoire.

I really believe that in the future you won't find a succesfull production company that is solely a production company. They'll publish magazines, build websites, sell cars, walk your pets, build properties etc etc.... :P

Seriously though, I really think that multi tasking will be the way in the future (if not already!) for companies and us.

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  • 1 year later...

Hi, I have sort of a related question: I am a director looking for a DP, and I encountered one who has his own equipment. Since bringing his own equipment would presumedly save the project money, he has requested that he be given producer credit. I have never encountered a request like this before and find it strange. Why would a DP even want producer credit? What advantage would that serve?

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  • 4 weeks later...

I recently co-produced and shot a project. 4 day shoot, 45k...big crew, bunch of production design, large cast.

Seems to work pretty well. Alot of the work I did as a "producer" was through scripting stages and then early on I handled locations since we couldn't really afford to hire on a LM that early....which is awesome because I worked alot with the production designer in talking about the look of the film really early on....and all 1st floor locations. As we got close to production I slowly passed the torch off to the other producer, it got a little overwhelming ....I think its really key to kinda put in place who and what you will be passing off as you get closer to production dates because I had to scramble a bit when we were about 2 weeks out to do that. by a week out I was completely done with the producing tasks.

Edited by Jake Zalutsky
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