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Advice on next steps as a DP

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You can do that, but it'll be incredibly expensive and microscopically likely to bear fruit.

 

Have to agree. Especially if you are just starting out doing narrative things. I think it's best to start much smaller.

Try to spend as little on equipment as possible. Concentrate on the lighting and how you are going to make it work for you. Then later do bigger things perhaps.

 

I've been around a couple of large scale TV production sets in the UK and was surprised what a mess they were and how poor the results were. When someone rocks up with a cherry picker, a couple of techno cranes. 2 grip trucks, a catering truck. An Arri Alexa and boxes of lenses. Steadycam equipment and steadycam operator, Full DIT setup, Audio department with wireless audio. A wevi. Huge lights/gels etc and just blocks off an entire street without any permission and spends the entire day and night filming a short 1 minute segment. I'm expecting to see something impressive.

 

I don't expect the results to looks far, far, worse than something I could have knocked up myself on no-budget equipment in a few hours without much effort.

 

That was the BBC though which is an especially weird organisation but I wasn't impressed at all by the "legit sets"

but then a ship might as well be rudderless if the captain is lost at sea.

 

Oh and I got a tiny glimpse into part of the shooting of Guy Ritchies "Rock N Rolla" and it seemed like they just had a little grip truck and were quite minimal in comparison.

 

Oh and when some low budget British thing came to the area, you always knew it because they would block off important streets and irrelevant surroundings that irritated the hell out of everyone and then trash the place and leave it that way. Like fake posters everywhere or graffiti or whatever the art deparment was doing they would abandon it.

 

I remember when Fast 6 came to the area, they didn't really lock down anything and put up signs saying "Fast 6" this way and all the security and everyone was super polite and nice to anyone who had to get by. If they didn't have giant Lee lightings cranes and stuff and signs everywhere saying "this way to the Fast 6 camp".. you would hardly know they were there. Which is funny as they were probably the biggest production to come to the area but they were totally chill about it all.

 

Freya

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Have to agree. Especially if you are just starting out doing narrative things. I think it's best to start much smaller.

Try to spend as little on equipment as possible. Concentrate on the lighting and how you are going to make it work for you. Then later do bigger things perhaps.

 

Freya

The crew and gear package should be scaled to the budget on any film. My advice was just that as a DP/Producer he should probably team up with a production staff that has more experience than him so he can learn set procedure / protocol and setiquette and avoid the "fish out of water" syndrome when you go from commercial to narrative. You don't want Christian Bale barking at you cause you're in his eyeline. That sorta thing.

 

I wasn't suggesting that every tier 1 project has their act together. Far from it. Just that there's more likelihood of meeting potential colleagues who can recommend you on bigger stuff if you hire them on your film. If you go with no production staff and just a splinter crew of set techs in an effort to "trim the fat" you lose that opportunity and create more of a headache cause you have to run the show and shoot the show at the same time. Not recommended.

Edited by Michael LaVoie
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The crew and gear package should be scaled to the budget on any film. My advice was just that as a DP/Producer he should probably team up with a production staff that has more experience than him so he can learn set procedure / protocol and setiquette and avoid the "fish out of water" syndrome when you go from commercial to narrative. You don't want Christian Bale barking at you cause you're in his eyeline. That sorta thing.

 

I wasn't suggesting that every tier 1 project has their act together. Far from it. Just that there's more likelihood of meeting potential colleagues who can recommend you on bigger stuff if you hire them on your film. If you go with no production staff and just a splinter crew of set techs in an effort to "trim the fat" you lose that opportunity and create more of a headache cause you have to run the show and shoot the show at the same time. Not recommended.

 

Christian Bale probably won't be going anywhere near the kind of thing that is made in the UK TV industry!

I don't think there is so much made in UK TV that could be considred Teir 1 either... unless you maybe work in natural history department or something of that ilk.

 

Yeah it's useful to have that kind of support from production staff, it's just that there would need to be some kind of budget to make that happen. I think the best bet for that would be to try and hook up with some other people in some way as has been suggested earlier but if he is going to make his own shorts then he should try and make them with as much donated support and as little money as possible as it's essentially throwing money away otherwise.

 

I'm not sure how much chance there is of getting production staff who are working in TV to work on some little short either. If you can then that is great but they will probably be busy working in TV and not so inclined to work on some tiny project like that but if you can make friends with someone and convince them it is an exciting project then it might work I guess! :)

 

Building up relationships with rental houses and manufacturers could be a good idea though.

Maybe that would help in getting to know some production staff people of the kind you mention.

 

Freya

Edited by Freya Black

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I don't think you can get to work on major feature films as a cinematographer in the UK by being part of someones inner circle. I'm kinda hoping you meant like the tiny Brit films that the government funds Phil.

I think to get to be a cinematographer on stuff like that you have to have been noticed for something you did.

I think you have to do that and be in someone's inner circle.

Although actually, for the really big stuff, it isn't so much about "being noticed," so much, it's about having a huge CV of big movies so they trust you. That's not unreasonable, but you still have to be someone's mate, at least in the UK.

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I think you have to do that and be in someone's inner circle.

Although actually, for the really big stuff, it isn't so much about "being noticed," so much, it's about having a huge CV of big movies so they trust you. That's not unreasonable, but you still have to be someone's mate, at least in the UK.

 

 

How can you be someones mate in the UK for that? Surely everyone making those decisions will be stateside?

How can you have a CV of big movies if you are based in the UK? That does sound unreasonable. In fact I'd go as far as to say that it doesn't make sense. It doesn't add up.

 

I think it could be possible to have a CV of really great TV work and then work on a movie that gets a lot of attention too maybe?

 

Freya

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How can you have a CV of big movies if you are based in the UK?

 

By working for Americans a lot. Quite how you do that is something of a mystery - it used to be easier, but it's become so hard to do now that I suspect even the most glittering star in the cinema firmament may struggle to do a Deakins these days.

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By working for Americans a lot. Quite how you do that is something of a mystery - it used to be easier, but it's become so hard to do now that I suspect even the most glittering star in the cinema firmament may struggle to do a Deakins these days.

 

 

Roger Deakins worked in TV and then got lucky on Sid and Nancy didn't he?

 

Freya

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He got lucky with 1984.. same director he had worked with in TV and knew from film school .Or arguably "Another time, another place" just before that..

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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I dont think there is any mystery to it.. even DOP,s die..logic dictates there will have to be new ones who are younger to take their place.. if films are still being made.. and the ones that rise to the top.. they will have to have that one lucky break through small budget film ..maybe TV series .music video..these days.. which they got to work on because the dir was their mate or they were in the right place right time.. you see this with every big name dp out there now.. and they have the talent and self confidence to pull it off.. who gets lucky.. I suppose you can help the odds.. move to LA/London/NY.. rather than life in a small town in Dorset (although I think Deakins did !)..

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I think that's sort of the thing I've always been banging on about. It's microscopically rarefied and therefore, inevitably, to a great extent luck-based. I don't think anyone can really plan on becoming the next Deakins.

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I don't think anyone can really plan on becoming the next Deakins.

Except for maybe... Roger Deakins. One thing that rubs me wrong about these kinds of conversations is we often seem to ignore sheer talent. As if we're all equal in talent and ability, but some are just luckier than others. Someone sent me a stunning reel the other day and said, "Jealous?" I said of course not. I could never dream to make something that good. He said we just need bigger budgets. As if money can buy a better imagination. Someone still has to come up with the idea before money can get it made.

 

Art is not democratic and it's not fair. You want to be a singer, but you can't hear pitch? Sorry. You want to play in the NBA, but you're only five foot two? Sorry. No amount of luck will get you there. It's a hard reality that I've grown to accept. After that, I try to excel at the abilities I'm born with and try to live a content life.

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Yes you need the talent AND the luck.. there are alot of very talented DP,s who just dont get the breaks.. most get to some sort of level that they can earn a decent income.. buy a car.. get a mortgage.. but those shooting big films and making the big bucks.. have all have one lucky break.. you can read about for any of the name DP,s.. there is always that break they had..The MadMax,the Easy rider, the Hurtlocker..the 1984.. The Conformist .. etc.. not saying luck only .. alot of work to even get the break..

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Except for maybe... Roger Deakins. One thing that rubs me wrong about these kinds of conversations is we often seem to ignore sheer talent. As if we're all equal in talent and ability, but some are just luckier than others.

 

I totally didn't. The more recent postings have not been concerned with talent as it's such a small part of the equation but further up the thread I very much addressed this issue wheh I talked about a cinematographer I know, in the UK, who is VERY talented, far and away better than my own talents... and I have watched him for years fight over and over to get somewhere basic in spite of those talents, while those with little to no talent, or at any rate ability, get top jobs in the UK television industry. There were times in the last few years that it was so obvious and in your face that I would have conversations with other cinematographers about what was going on where they would pre-empt a lot of the discussion. We were watching what was going on and we all knew what was going on. It was horrible.

 

He is finally getting somewhere in a minor way but wow did I watch him go through some crap along the way and how much did that guy struggle to get half decent jobs when everyone could see and commented on his talent, while people with little to none were getting key jobs on some of the biggest and well known "properties" in the country.

 

Sure talent helps. Especially after you get the jobs and people are like wow!

I mean I'm sure Roger Deakins work on 1984 helped him a lot because it was a film in which he had the opportunity to showcase his talent and lets not play this down... but a film that got a lot of publicity and attention too because you can have talent and showcase it in the films but if those movies don't take off big time... it may not matter as much as you might think.

 

So yeah I talked about talent.

 

Freya

 

 

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One thing that rubs me wrong about these kinds of conversations is we often seem to ignore sheer talent.

 

Well, yes and no. Lots of people aren't as good as some of the rock stars. A lot of people are probably just as good, but don't pursue the right things. It's an old truism that the best racing drive in the world might have been born in the year 1600.

 

I don't think anyone expects life to be fair, particularly. What this does do is put the lie to all the "you can do anything if you try" drivel. You might not be good enough, and you might not be lucky enough.

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I dont think there is any mystery to it.. even DOP,s die..logic dictates there will have to be new ones who are younger to take their place.. if films are still being made.. and the ones that rise to the top.. they will have to have that one lucky break through small budget film ..maybe TV series .music video..these days.. which they got to work on because the dir was their mate or they were in the right place right time.. you see this with every big name dp out there now.. and they have the talent and self confidence to pull it off.. who gets lucky.. I suppose you can help the odds.. move to LA/London/NY.. rather than life in a small town in Dorset (although I think Deakins did !)..

 

The people who die could just as eaily be replaced by people who are the same age or older.

 

I don't think music videos are enough to help people get a lucky break these days. Maybe once upon a time when there was a smaller pool that people were fishing from.

 

One place where talent very much does come into the equation is if you get that lucky break and you don't have the talent or ability or whatever. Then you probably won't get the chance to go further but instead stay where you are taking up space.

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I was purposely making an extreme point. Throwing Roger Deakins name around with the "lucky" ones really diminishes how good that guy is. Of course there are all sorts of factors that lead to a successful career.

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We also can't discount taste. I've heard my reel needs to be more contemporary, and when they say contemporary, they mean hand held and lens flares. I've tried to do that and it sucked. It's not my voice and I can't fake it. So I'll lose jobs to the guys that can do that well. Dems da breaks.

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I think in this business there are five factors for a successful career:

1. Personality

2. Family (or other) connections

3. Luck

4. Talent.

5. Perseverance

 

I went to film school many years ago. There were 90 people in the class and about 15 went on to careers in filmmaking. 2 or 3 were phenomenally successful. Most simply quit.

 

It may be that the only factor we really have control over is the last. So, never give up, never surrender!

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Sorry everyone. That set me off on one a bit.

 

Here is something that is actually quantifiable however.

Follow this link:

 

https://bscine.com/bsc-members

 

It's a list of all the Fully accredited members of the British Society of Cinematographers.

It is basically a list of the leading cinematographers in the country.

You can argue that there might be some big name cinematographers who aren't on that list but on the flip side there are an awful lot of fully accredited members who aren't even strictly British.

In any case it is a total of 96 people. Less that 100 people.

 

Now of these people you will notice that many of them have not worked on major Hollywood movies which are the only kind that tend to get made in the UK now.

 

So there really aren't that many people who get to work on that stuff. Even quite famous UK DP's may not get to work on stuff like that. I noticed that Nic Knowland BSC who I thought was quite well known and has worked on a lot of films I like (probably a bad sign) hasn't worked on big Hollywood movies at all.

 

I think by looking at this list you can see it might not be that easy for the 96 people on this list to even get work on big Hollywood movies which might put things into perspective a bit.

 

Freya

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I was purposely making an extreme point. Throwing Roger Deakins name around with the "lucky" ones really diminishes how good that guy is. Of course there are all sorts of factors that lead to a successful career.

 

No it doesn't. You can be talented AND get lucky or very talented and you might not get lucky.

I can tell you are still having trouble with this idea.

 

It isn't that people get lucky because they aren't talented. The getting lucky thing is unrelated to the talent.

It's really good if you get lucky and happen to be talented because something more might happen.

 

You are thinking that lucky is the opposite of talented and it is strange because usually the people who have less ability or are less talented... whatever... have less need to get lucky anyway, at least that is the way it tends to work in the UK.

 

Freya

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You know; one thing that hasn't been mentioned and is incredibly important is the tenacity of both the director and the producers on said project. It makes no difference how good of a job I do on a film if that project is never seen nor finished. And, perhaps this is more of a problem now (actually it probably is more of a problem now) then has been in times past. I can't even count all of the films, videos, etc etc I've worked on ,gotten paid for, which have never done anything and I'm sure are sitting on a corrupted hard drive somewhere. The point being is, yes, you have to be good, and lucky, and and patient, but beyond that you furthermore have to be working with a whole team whom are going to carry the project over the finish line. We often speak as though we as DoPs or what have you are these long-beardy wizards whose mind and talent creates the film-- but in truth we are a only a part of a grater whole. Good images with awful sound, or great everything with a director too easily discourages or a producer too scatter-brained to carry the work forward means that we can be doing great work, and be lucky to be working on big things, and then, nothing happens.

Now we can put this in the catch-all of "luck" but I think it must be said that when working it's as important to be working with directors and producers who are as committed to the project as you are and who have the same drive an ambition to move themselves forward via that work. Otherwise, sure you'll make your rent that month, but you'll only be spinning wheels in the mud of being another both unknown and lucky DoP whom no one has heard of.

 

Therefore the best advice for anyone at any point, really, who wants to move forward is to find, cherish, respect, and help those directors and producers whom are also on their way up so you can all move forward together. Of course finding them and knowing when you've found them is a major difficulty.

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YES!

 

That's a great point Adrian.

I probably am putting down to luck the work of a lot of people to make a film succesful

.

I've been chewed out a little lately too for putting down some things I even did as luck whereas maybe I did actually do things that made those things work. I'm starting to see that a little.

 

I dunno though. I feel like I could do with some luck right now! ;)

 

Freya

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I mean who couldn't use some luck

Totally unrelated, but on the 4th of july i was filming a crazy drug party for a guy running for sheriff on the platform of legalizing all drugs. He got lucky, literally, he pulled a handle of a slot machine, while on acid, in los vegas, and hit for a million dollars. Lucky, hell yeah, but luck wasted I think because while luck may give you the moment, it's up to skill and wisdom to capitalize on it. Of course, those things can't be rushed. Hence, instead of thinking in terms of "man if only i had my luck right now," i tend to think in terms of "well, when I do get lucky, i'll just be all the better equipped to capitalize on it. "

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Just want to say thanks for all the advice everyone, lots of food for thought and ideas on what to do and what not to do. It's good to hear the more realistic points of view but also the more positive. The plan is to work hard on getting a better network, finding some short film directors who might want to work with me, possibly shoot a short of my own if I can assemble and spare the time/money etc, all while continuing to do what I normally do. Hopefully getting some more narrative under my belt while still working on other things is doable, if I can keep being flexible, keep working hard and staying positive. Cheers all!

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