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Lee Tamer

Directors shooting their own films

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Are they competent? Do they have a good eye? How big is the production? Is it just an ego trip? I.E. do they just take the credit and have a bunch of competent people actually do the work?

 

So many questions...

 

-Rob-

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I generally think it is a very bad idea for a director to do much more than well, direct. While some can handle more than one aspect, directing is in and of itself a big enough proposition that to divert yourself away from it into other things normally ends up in sub-par work.

That being said, there are of course examples of directors who act/shoot ect... but they are by far a minority as far as I know...

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Also a long list of advantages as well, you don't have to communicate your wishes to a DOP for one, saves time. The director gets in a lot closer to the actors, rather than sitting behind a monitor three counties over.

 

Many DOPs seems to become incredibly possessive of the camera and the job of being the DOP. But at the end of the day it's the director's movie and no one else's. As David Mullen keeps pointing out, it's not a relationship of equals.

 

James Cameron frequently operates the camera on his shoots. Is the DOP or some camera union rep going to tell him he can't do it?

 

R,

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some camera union rep going to tell him he can't do it

No. Which is another reason I find the American camera unions rather dislikable.

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I did both jobs on a Super 16 short and I rather felt I was compromising on both. However, operating and directing does often work and you do get a good sense of the performances, although if the shots become complex your eye may be more on the framing than the actors.

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I've directed and DOPed at the same time on a few jobs and sometimes its ok, on simple stuff you can work quite quickly and work on the fly. So I do like self shooting for factual and documentary type stuff.

 

But I'm not a fan of directing and DOPing drama, I've done it a few times but I always find that I have to make too many compromises and spread my self too thin. I am competent on the camera side of things and used to work as a DOP/Cam op prior to getting into directing. But doing both jobs is often too much, your just too busy and things start to slip. I guess if you have a good gaffer and crew that would make it better. I personally struggle operating and watching performances, because I get too focused on the camera side of thing: making sure the framings nice, the pans are smooth and I'm nailing the focus - I find my self concentrating less on the performance.

 

I love working with a good DOP because they bring stuff to the table and expand on my vision, usually its another person to bounce ideas off and try things out in a different way.

 

I still do bits of shooting/directing, its useful when you need a bit of B-roll or just to go out with a camera an pickup a few extra shots. On the simple corporate/promo video, I often self shoot for budgetary reasons since not everyone would pay extra for a DOP, without cutting my rate - which obviously I don't want that to happen :)

 

Ultimately, I guess its what works for you and some people are better at multi-tasking then others. But to be honest if your doing the jobs properly directing and doping and challenging enough roles on their own with adding too them.

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I'm sure it can be done, but I wouldn't suggest it the minute you introduce actors into the mix.

I've only worked on one feature so far, (as Dp) but I doubt we would have gotten anything done with a Director doing the Dp work.

It seems essential to me to have everyone focused on their particular job in order to be productive.

 

I had enough time to do my work with a few 5 minute breaks here and there in between light setups and a 30 minute lunch break.

Even then, on my breaks I'm thinking about my next setup, or explaining it to my grip so we can save 2-3 minutes when we're back on set.

I don't see how I could ever of had the time to direct as well without seriously compromising both jobs.

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Well this is my situation. Im currently in pre-production on my senior film for college. My professor is trying to advise me to find a DP. I really want to shoot my film since cinematography is the field I want to someday get a job in, and i just love shooting. I thought of the idea of having an assistant director to the bulk of the directing work, but then I would have to worry about telling he/she what to do. Even though its not the best route, i want to direct/shoot my film.

 

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

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Well this is my situation. Im currently in pre-production on my senior film for college. My professor is trying to advise me to find a DP. I really want to shoot my film since cinematography is the field I want to someday get a job in, and i just love shooting. I thought of the idea of having an assistant director to the bulk of the directing work, but then I would have to worry about telling he/she what to do. Even though its not the best route, i want to direct/shoot my film.

 

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

This may be you only opportunity to find out what it is like to shoot and direct at the same time, and you're paying for your education so you should do it.

But if you have an "assistant director" do the "bulk of the directing" than I wouldn't claim credit as the Director of the project.

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This may be you only opportunity to find out what it is like to shoot and direct at the same time, and you're paying for your education so you should do it.

But if you have an "assistant director" do the "bulk of the directing" than I wouldn't claim credit as the Director of the project.

 

Yes thats what I was thinking. Learn the pros and cons of it when it isn't costing anyone any money to make mistakes.

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Tarantino shot Death Proof, who knows, maybe that's why it was so much weaker than anything else he's done.

Edited by Joe Zakko

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I thought of the idea of having an assistant director to the bulk of the directing work, but then I would have to worry about telling he/she what to do. Even though its not the best route, i want to direct/shoot my film.

 

If the assistant director does the bulk of the directing, you're not the director they are.

 

Many of the directors who DP have extremely good gaffers, which lifts a lot of the burden. Doing both is possible, just make sure you're not under an impossibly tight shooting schedule and you've got a supportive crew. Having discussions and, if possible, rehearsals with the actors in advance will help to take some pressure off. The director side has to be in charge of your DP side, you can't do shots because they look good, but don't really add to your vision of the story.

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I can't really add much that hasn't been said. I know a few commercial directors that DP as well but they get a good operator and gaffer to alleviate some of the burden. But actors add a dynamic that needs a directors full attention. AD's aren't directors, they have their own work to do. Give it a shot if you want but something will suffer if your try to do too much.

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See I personally feel that even if I get a DP there really won't be any point in having him/her there other than to watch the monitor, because I would probably end up doing the bulk of the work.

 

Since its only a short film, I feel that if I directed and shot the film, things would get done quicker

Edited by Lee Tamer

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See I personally feel that even if I get a DP there really won't be any point in having him/her there other than to watch the monitor, because I would probably end up doing the bulk of the work.

 

Since its only a short film, I feel that if I directed and shot the film, things would get done quicker

 

Then you might find it difficult to find a DP for your short, because if you're doing all the camera work and lighting they might just think it's not worth being there.

 

Film making is a collaborative meduim and the levelof production you can work on will be limited if you can't work with a team of other people. Learning to this would be part of the experience.

 

If you're aspiring to be a DP, I assume you're doing this position on other student's films.

 

No such thing as only a short film, they're as demanding as any other film and some have the quality levels of a feature film or a commercial.

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Right now, I tend to shoot my own stuff but I shoot small-scale shorts. I can tell you that if I were working on a larger production, I would pick one over the other.

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to the initial question -

 

"Should directors always hire a dp to shoot for them? "

 

I think the answer to almost every subjective question concerning collaborative media like motion pictures is the same, another question - "what's best for the project?" It's the question EVERY dp should ask when suggesting an elaborate shot just as it's the same question a director should ask when crewing up. In the end, whether its a blockbuster, art film, reality show or news segment the goal is ALWAYS the same - tell a (hopefully good) story and tell it well. Time you take to properly DP is time away from directing your actors. If hiring a DP allows you to work closer with your actors while lighting is being tweaked or dolly tracks adjusted then it'll show in your final product. Obviously school is the best time/place to see first-hand why specialization is a good thing... and as part of the learning process it may be worthwhile to interview your AD and gaffer afterwards to try and get their truthful opinions on the experience. They will be picking up the slack so make sure to treat them nicely!

 

Last thought - If cinematography is your end goal, are you not able to hire a director?

Edited by Jaron Berman

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Even though its not the best route, i want to direct/shoot my film.

 

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

 

Is it possible for you to just DP the film? I Did not direct my thesis. I spoke with my professor, and at first he was against it. But we worked it out.

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Is it possible for you to just DP the film? I Did not direct my thesis. I spoke with my professor, and at first he was against it. But we worked it out.

 

As of right now I do have an assistant director to help out. I think i'll direct/shoot it right now and if it gets to be too much work I'll get someone else to direct it.

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Steven Soderbergh.

 

Next question?

 

I can't believe nobody on the first page mentioned Soderbergh. He's one of the few Directors-who-DP's that I know of. Sure some directors like Lars Von Trier likes to operate the camera themselves but very few who are actually DP'ing.

And did I mention Robert Rodriguez? He DP's many of his own films including Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Spy Kids. Ironically both Rodriguez and Soderbergh are indie-kind-of-filmmakers who are used to being involving in every aspect of filmmaking. I'm sure the Coen Brothers would have shot their own films if wasn't for godsend Roger Deakins.

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I'm sure the Coen Brothers would have shot their own films if wasn't for godsend Roger Deakins.

 

Not sure about that -- Barry Sonnenfeld shot their movies before Deakins, and Emmanuel Lubezki shot "Burn After Reading" when Roger wasn't available. They've never expressed an interest in shooting their movies without a cinematographer.

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What are your thoughts on this? Should directors always hire a dp to shoot for them?

It's how most of them start out, but not how they finish.

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Not sure about that -- Barry Sonnenfeld shot their movies before Deakins, and Emmanuel Lubezki shot "Burn After Reading" when Roger wasn't available. They've never expressed an interest in shooting their movies without a cinematographer.

Yes, I know. It was meant as a joke; since they're already involved in everything from writing to editing, they might as well pick up the camera.

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