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Jaap Ruurd Feitsma

Directing and shooting as DP simualtaniously

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Hi everyone,

I am just wondering if there are any people out there who are both directing and filming (as cinematographer) their work.

And if so, what type of projects are those (short films, documentaries, etc.)? And what is your reason to do so (e.g. budget, more creative freedom, etc.)?

 

Please note that I am not asking for a specific reason, just kind of curious.
Feel free to share some examples, could be fun!

 

Kind regards,

Jaap

 

P.s. meant to write simultaneously in the topic :P

Edited by Jaap Ruurd Feitsma

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Hey Jaap,

 

I'm Directing/DPing a short in January. It was never the original plan and I wanted to use a DP I've worked with on shorts before. But they're busy and this is such a low budget shoot that I've ended up DPing as well.

This is not a problem for me as I've done it before. From the pre production/storyboarding/shot listing there is not much lighting. There are only a small bit of Interiors and the rest are Exteriors with natural light.

 

I've also DP'd a doc I directed this year. Its not necessarily the way I want to work but it seems to be how its happening at the moment. I think it is just the low budgets haha...

 

I'll happily share the experience if this topic is still hot in January. But that seems unlikely. So you can PM me if you're really interested.

 

Dan

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I've done both jobs on a couple of drama films. How well you can do both jobs depends on the schedule, on one with a very small crew there was less time pressures, although they existed, because the filming was spread out in one week blocks, The other was a short with a full crew, but the time pressures were larger.

 

On the latter, I felt that both jobs were being compromised to a certain extent, with the small crew production the pressures came more from the environment because once the lighting was set, it didn't change too much.

 

You need a good gaffer if doing both jobs.

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Hey Jaap,

 

I'm Directing/DPing a short in January. It was never the original plan and I wanted to use a DP I've worked with on shorts before. But they're busy and this is such a low budget shoot that I've ended up DPing as well.

This is not a problem for me as I've done it before. From the pre production/storyboarding/shot listing there is not much lighting. There are only a small bit of Interiors and the rest are Exteriors with natural light.

 

I've also DP'd a doc I directed this year. Its not necessarily the way I want to work but it seems to be how its happening at the moment. I think it is just the low budgets haha...

 

I'll happily share the experience if this topic is still hot in January. But that seems unlikely. So you can PM me if you're really interested.

 

Dan

 

Hi Dan, thanks for your insight :) For me, it is quite similar. Interesting thing is, I see more and more directors DP'ing themselves, and not just on low-budget shoots. For me, it is always better to have a dedicated director and a dedicated DP, but I have done both as well, on occasion (mainly for some small TV/online commercials, etc, that still had to look 'filmic'.

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I've done both jobs on a couple of drama films. How well you can do both jobs depends on the schedule, on one with a very small crew there was less time pressures, although they existed, because the filming was spread out in one week blocks, The other was a short with a full crew, but the time pressures were larger.

 

On the latter, I felt that both jobs were being compromised to a certain extent, with the small crew production the pressures came more from the environment because once the lighting was set, it didn't change too much.

 

You need a good gaffer if doing both jobs.

Hi Brian, would love to watch themes drama films, if possible? :) And I agree, you can definitely do both jobs, but when a project gets complicated e.g. in terms of directing actors and the lighting/cinematography, it can get extremely stressful and it is very easy to get lost in all the things that are happening. When I direct, on some shoots dozens of people are asking me questions that need 'yes' or 'no' answers, and some questions you need to wrap your brain around for a longer period of time. When I'm also DP'ing on such a project, and in charge of the camera and G&E departments, one of the two can ends up getting buried under the other one, more or less. In my case, it is usually a budget thing when I end up doing both, which is kind of sad :P So many things come down to money!

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On Drama shoots if your operating as well you can end up spreading yourself a bit thin.

 

I find when I'm operating a tricky shot my mental focus is mostly on the frame and the movement. You don't spot the nuance of the performance. Yes you can watch the take back, but then you slow the shoot pace down further and risk the actors possibly watching themselves back - which I find is never a good idea.

 

But if you've got a good operator, directing/dop from the production monitor position works ok and you can do both tasks at the same time.

 

Set ups are a bit slower because you might have to alternate between setting up lights and giving actors notes... but if you able to prelight the set before the actors come, then that element can be streamlined.

 

I'm developing a short at the moment and while I have a clear vision about how I want it too look and could self shoot. The actors performance will have to be carefully judged or it could look cheesy. So think I will have to find a DOP that has a similar take on the material

 

But on the documentary front I vastly prefer to self shoot. Particularly when you've got to work fast - you can just grab the shot rather then explain it to the dop/op. I normally do interviews with a locked off camera - so you can focus on the content rather then the framing. Shooting a bit wide on 4K for post tweeks makes life even easier on this front.

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Are there directors who, if they could spread themselves thin enough, would ideally take over the cinematography as well? Though not a pro I once planned to be, and could never figure out how I could direct without being behind the camera, or be the DP and also direct. I think cinematography is so intimately associated with the creation of a movie that for some directors it must be a frustration. But that's the reality of working in big features, that one person can't do both - in most cases.

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Are there directors who, if they could spread themselves thin enough, would ideally take over the cinematography as well? Though not a pro I once planned to be, and could never figure out how I could direct without being behind the camera, or be the DP and also direct. I think cinematography is so intimately associated with the creation of a movie that for some directors it must be a frustration. But that's the reality of working in big features, that one person can't do both - in most cases.

 

There are (some) directors who do this. James Cameron sometimes does, just to name one. It seems it is either a low budget choice, or quite the opposite and when you have hugely impressive track record haha. Interesting though!

 

I always wanted to be cameraman (back when I saw Jurassic Park, JAWS and Blade Runner as a kid). It is only now, years later, that I am sort of switching more and more towards directing. It mainly has to do with the 'stories' I want to tell, that I could no be telling as a DP/cinematographer. Who knows, perhaps on some of them I can both direct and DP?

 

As a director I love the collaboration with a Director of Photography, though... Perhaps that's an important thing as well. The thing that makes you most comfortable to shoot.

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I have no idea how Fukunaga (on Beasts Of No Nation and he also had malaria for a good chunk of it, shooting in Africa) and Cuaron (Roma) did it. I can't imagine how you can be truly at 100% on either level but then again, it worked superbly for them

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I'm a DP/Editor/Director. I love the combination of the three jobs for many reasons. I will bring in a producer and I generally like to bring in writers to help as well. My business is more documentary style however, so you're really the only crew outside of an audio guy and a lot of times, I don't even have that. For narrative, I do like to work with assistants, gaffer, grip's, etc. For documentary, I generally only have one assistant who can do everything. Wish I had some demo stuff to show, but sadly I'm a bit low on that right now, but I can post some stuff in the coming days. :)

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Most people who direct and dp at the same time hire a camera operator. It makes it way easier.

 

True! :)

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I'm a DP/Editor/Director. I love the combination of the three jobs for many reasons. I will bring in a producer and I generally like to bring in writers to help as well. My business is more documentary style however, so you're really the only crew outside of an audio guy and a lot of times, I don't even have that. For narrative, I do like to work with assistants, gaffer, grip's, etc. For documentary, I generally only have one assistant who can do everything. Wish I had some demo stuff to show, but sadly I'm a bit low on that right now, but I can post some stuff in the coming days. :)

Would love to see some of your work, Tyler! :) I enjoy doing lots of it myself as well (I also edit, on occasion). But it really depends on the project. I'm doing a commercial soon and will direct and edit it, and possibly shoot it too. It is such a small thing (two internal locations) which I can light creatively on my own and camera movements, etc. are not going to be very complicated :)

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What you gain from "control" you risk losing input /idea,s /experience from your Dp, Camera OP.. Editor.. they aren't there just to follow orders .. mostly they know alot more than the director to be blunt.... in the doc world as Dan points out.. its purely to save money.. and will nearly always have a very negative effect on the finished product .. I vote against it :)

Edited by Robin R Probyn

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What you gain from "control" you risk losing input /idea,s /experience from your Dp, Camera OP.. Editor.. they aren't there just to follow orders .. mostly they know alot more than the director to be blunt.... in the doc world as Dan points out.. its purely to save money.. and will nearly always have a very negative effect on the finished product .. I vote against it :)

 

Agreed! :)

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What you gain from "control" you risk losing input /idea,s /experience from your Dp, Camera OP.. Editor.. they aren't there just to follow orders .. mostly they know alot more than the director to be blunt.... in the doc world as Dan points out.. its purely to save money.. and will nearly always have a very negative effect on the finished product .. I vote against it :)

 

Well yes, that's why on a narrative film with lighting and crew, you would for sure bring in a great lighting team and AC's, Focus puller and potentially a camera operator, though I think most directors who do this, still operate the camera. With documentary, a director knows what they want and can achieve it if they have excellent camera skills as well. Sure for interviews things are different, but over-all it's pretty common to have the filmmaker themselves going out and shooting the bulk of the footage.

 

Editing is where the story is told where I agree, it's great to have a story specialist involved in that process, it could just be a friend or two, doesn't need to be a top professional union person. In fact, most of the artistic filmmakers, generally don't bring in an editor until the very end to fine tune the cut and go "uncredited".

 

It's not only a budgetary thing either. I think a lot of filmmakers have come to the realization that for them to tell their story, they need to be involved in every aspect. Stanley Kubrick was heavily involved in every aspect and arguably did everything on set at one point or another from makeup to operating the camera. Yes he surrounded himself with an excellent crew and phenomenal DP's, but I'm sure it was mandated by the studio AND most directors don't wanna deal with the exposure or technical parts of the camera. I for one have no problem with it, but having a few people on set to help is nice.

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Would love to see some of your work, Tyler! :) I enjoy doing lots of it myself as well (I also edit, on occasion). But it really depends on the project. I'm doing a commercial soon and will direct and edit it, and possibly shoot it too. It is such a small thing (two internal locations) which I can light creatively on my own and camera movements, etc. are not going to be very complicated :)

 

Here is something I did a few years ago as a single day project on 35mm. It was a challenge my friends and I wanted to see if we could do. Take a 7 page, multiple location script and shoot it in less than 24hrs.

 

Unfortunately, there was an issue with the processing and we lost 600ft of our story and we couldn't re-shoot it due to the actors schedules. So this is a heavily cut-down version of the final and sadly missing the lead actors VO. I gotta get the VO, but this is just a basic cut. However, it was just me and my actors. :)

 

https://vimeo.com/304963555

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Well yes, that's why on a narrative film with lighting and crew, you would for sure bring in a great lighting team and AC's, Focus puller and potentially a camera operator, though I think most directors who do this, still operate the camera. With documentary, a director knows what they want and can achieve it if they have excellent camera skills as well. Sure for interviews things are different, but over-all it's pretty common to have the filmmaker themselves going out and shooting the bulk of the footage.

 

Editing is where the story is told where I agree, it's great to have a story specialist involved in that process, it could just be a friend or two, doesn't need to be a top professional union person. In fact, most of the artistic filmmakers, generally don't bring in an editor until the very end to fine tune the cut and go "uncredited".

 

It's not only a budgetary thing either. I think a lot of filmmakers have come to the realization that for them to tell their story, they need to be involved in every aspect. Stanley Kubrick was heavily involved in every aspect and arguably did everything on set at one point or another from makeup to operating the camera. Yes he surrounded himself with an excellent crew and phenomenal DP's, but I'm sure it was mandated by the studio AND most directors don't wanna deal with the exposure or technical parts of the camera. I for one have no problem with it, but having a few people on set to help is nice.

 

 

Yeah I agree there are some docs.. were the "crew" are in bedded for months .. thats its not feasible or actually the best way to go to have a 3 person crew. etc. but as a whole..the unfortunate truth is most dir/shoot ..do everything yourself.. broadcast docs are 100% down to budget saving to maintain management pay levels.. for the BBC this is a hard fact..I know Dop,s who operate and can see the logic there .. just my own personal opinion. that film is totally a group endeavor .. of course the Dir is the "boss".. but good ones .. as you point out.. will surround themselves with top people for their input and experience .. and there is a alot of room for error when one person is wearing too many hats and more importantly ..not getting input from others..

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I was DOP, director, and operator, on my first feature and that was 35mm on an Arri BLIII!

 

I would do it again for sure.

 

R,

 

That's what I want to do. Pretty much down to the last detail.

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That's what I want to do. Pretty much down to the last detail.

 

That's pretty cool! :)

I wonder what your drive is to do it this way? Is it a budget choice or total (creative) freedom or both, etc.? Personally I LOVE sparring with various creatives (including art directors, DP, etc) to combine ideas, really collaborate to get things just right, you know? When I do all of it myself, sort of as a one man band, it is usually because of budget reasons :D

 

But I think it is really cool to shoot and direct a feature. Would love to hear about the progress. Do you have a blog somewhere or something? :)

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The motivation is creative freedom, but finances come into it too. I don't have connections with other filmmakers yet so I don't know any DPs who work with film - which is what I want to do. I'm very interested in operating the camera myself, framing the shots, making lighting decisions, as well as directing. Here's how I see it. If someone gets into their stride then you start to make creative partnerships, so you eventually meet someone with whom you can happily work, for instance you really like their work as a cinematographer, and they like working on your pictures, and it goes from there. The teamwork and trust for creative ability grows, and like you said input from many grows a mutual inspiration. More hands make light work. But I'm not in the biz, so if I do get into it in a bigger way it's all on my own for now. I don't have a filmmaking blog.

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Of course every project is different, some are far more complicated than others. For a narrative film, with several characters, I would not suggest directing and shooting.

 

On my latest film, I was the DP, and director, not to mention the head crew, set creator/erector, prop maker, costume person, writer, and story board creator.

While the film came out fine, there were many instances where I had planned certain actions from the actors that were simply forgotten about.

 

In a perfect world, if I could do it over, I would have a DP, a dedicated crew, and if not asking too much, shoot on film.

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Making feature movies is really much like pro orchestras in big cities. To do the job properly the government has to step in and help financially. Without help of some kind it's difficult to see big projects get off the ground unless there's an established and flourishing industry. Occasionally that does actually happen as governments realise that it injects life into communities. Directors have to keep insisting on film if they want to shoot on it. Kodak will build labs if there's a demand. Easy to say, I know.

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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