Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

The Ethics Of Replacing Another DP

>Recently, I was asked to replace a DP on a national commercial (the ad agency, one of the biggest in the U.S., said the "DP had quit, due to creative differences", and when I asked who the DP was, I was told "nobody I would know").

>The reality was, that the DP had been fired, and although I do not list the DP as a "close personal friend", he is someone I know and respect, and has been awarded more than one AMPAS award for cinematography.

>Now in Italy, I DO expect the ad agencies to lie about a lot of things, but they NEVER lie about anything that would be considered as being (or causing) a "Faccia Brutta" ("ugly face", the Italian equivalent of the American term "loosing face").

>Had I known WHO the DP was, or that he had been fired, I would probably not have taken the job (at least not this year, there are years I would have taken the job no matter what :).

>Now, I feel that I have somehow "stabbed" this DP in the back, and that feeling does not sit too well with me. No matter what I do as an adult, I still hear my father saying "Mio figlio, qualunque cosa che fai, lo fa con classe" (My son, whatever you do, do it with class.). I don't think this was a class thing to do.

So my question is, what IS the basic protocol for taking over for a DP in the U.S.?

Enzo Giobbé

>At the very least, can you telephone the other DP ?


Enzo, although it is now too late, that actually is a pretty good idea. Also it can clue you in to how "Production" really is. I got called to shoot a music Video, the director/prod, wanted me to show up that day, and bring a grip truck and lights. He said his first D.P. had called that morning to say he want't showing up. I said I didn't want to hear names. Well, any way. he postponed for a week, I found a Crew, and Lighting /Grip Package with a truck, drove out to shoot this thing that next weekend. Of course Production was so F**cked up that We only got off two shots, He was still mixing the Song the morning/ and into the afternoon of the shoot.

Before the nest shooting day the Gaffer pulled out with his equipment, and then the Director/Producer starts blamming me, and Cursing at me over the phone, until he realises that he needs me to shoot this, and he starts asking me again to find some lights and come shoot the next day. This is about a minute after he was cursing at me. I tell him that he owes me for the day, and the crew. If he isn't happy with me, then he should just pay the crew for their day, he says no. more curses. I say goodbye. There is more but this is too long already.

Suffice to say :

I wish now that I had found out that other D.P. and asked him for his side of the story.

>Steven Gladstone

>Best advice is don't do it.
Second best advice is don't agree to do it until the first Director of
Photography has been told.
Third Don't EVER do it without talking to the first Director of
Photography and find out what the problem was from his/her perspective.

>There have been times when the person asked to replace the Director of Photography has been able to negotiate a settlement for the first Director of Photography can stay on the picture. Believe me that has happened.

>We are all colleagues here. We should be helping each other rather than rushing in to step up on somebody else's misfortune. If you have ever been fired most likely you know that these things are rarely justified.

>And if you do it you MUST call the other Director of Photography immediately. You will learn alot about what happened and how to finish his/her work. Remember, unless you take over in the first few days you are finishing his work.

>And if you do take over and inherit the crew from the old regime tell them how embarrassed you are that this happened and ask for their help in making an orderly transition.

>It may feel like you are really appreciated by everybody for taking over someone else's position. But please understand that this has never helped anybody's career. Doing someone a favor in this business is a sure way to never get hired by them again.

This is all spoken from personal experience from both sides of this
problem. It's never pretty.

Steven Poster ASC

>Hi Steven,

>Great to have you back. I was going to dig up your old AOL reply and was wondering whether to post it or to paraphrase it but now...

>I was also thinking how you used to drive the board and steer everyone towards doing better photography, furthering your career, loving what you do, behaving in a gentlemanly way and, generally, inspiring people. Oh, _and_ answering technical questions!

>Was it you who told the story of Vilmos Zsigmond being fired on "Close Encounters" several times and then picking up the Oscar?

>You know, it's very difficult to turn down work when you have your stomach to feed (sometimes it's just ego and we call it by another name) and have several others depending on you also.
But that's precisely what's driving the industry standards down and down - the fear of the next person taking that job. If people stuck together a little more they will soon find (as in out tribal, village days) that the "enemy" becomes the fearful and our environment suddenly changes for the better. To put it plain English, the money that wasn't there yesterday to schedule shorter days, breaks on time, a fee that will cover your recee time, your expenses, your holiday increments, your pension, your insurance, etc. will suddenly and magically appear. However, while there's fear of that "other person in the shadows" waiting to take your job and a total lack of fraternity ...

>Shangara Singh.

>So what's new?

>Throughout history cinematographers have been replaced when, for what ever reason, the Producer or Director perceives a change is necessary.

>The number of top DP's who worked on Cleopatra is the classic case. I always remember Jack Hillyard telling me how much of the picture he had shot (and which was used in the final version) before he was let go ... and adding with a touch of sadness "and I didn't even get a credit!" (He was especially upset because after Bridge on the River Kwai" he was slated to do Lawrence of Arabia but couldn't do it because Cleopatra ran over so much. Again, as he said, "I never saw David Lean again!".

>Again, Freddy Young was not the first DP on Dr. Zhivago.

>And there was the touchy diplomatic situation when Elizabeth Taylor left Lenningrad and flew to Helsinki during the shooting of Blue Bird saying she would not be photographed any more by the famous Russian cameraman who had already photographed a large chunk of the film. It needed someone of Freddy's stature to take over and save a big international crisis. He was there for five months and at his age it was no fun.

>And then there was another very famous American DP (no names) who in his late years was taken off a picture in Europe and was quietly replaced and I'll bet very few people ever knew about it.

>It happens, both ways round, and I believe that both parties should accept that it may one day happen to them, and be graceful about it.

>David Samuelson

I could not agree more with Steven Poster regarding replacing some other cinematographer. It has happened to me on several occasions. To be replaced is extremely painful. Even as a factory worker being replaced is earth shattering. As an artist, where you have committed philosophically, emotionally, spiritually to your work can be life altering.

I have just recently had another type of experience which I'm sure many of you have experienced. When I first came to Hollywood I enjoyed hearing the "inside information" on famous cinematographers. To hear that James Wong Howe or Leon Shamroy were difficult to impossible to work with was shocking and saddening. As I stayed longer in Hollywood and began to meet all of these "difficult" cinematographers, or actors, or directors I began to discover that all of these great "sages" of information did not necessarily hold the truth about these public people. The point is this: Beware of those people who have nothing good to say about anybody. If they respond in a positive manner about those in question the conversation is over, and their momentary sense of power is lost. If they can say something negative they continue in power and the listener will be aware of how powerful a position they have within the industry since they have such "inside" information on such well known public people.

In Hollywood, where corporate policies have seemingly taken over the creative process, we continue to experience the same cruel back biting that is a carry over from old Hollywood. Last week I lost a feature, that was in the final moments of negotiations with my agent, because some "insider" phoned the producer and told him that I was a hopeless drug addict. For anyone who knows me they would know how totally impossible that is based upon my commitment to my family and my religious beliefs, and my art. The tragedy is that producers protect their sources and so this rumor can sustain itself for sometime without confrontation.

In the motion picture industry we have no professional review process.

Especially for a director of photography who is the core of all that is political on and off the set. Above the line personal demand a professional style of review and yet they gleefully continue this subterranean network of information and miss information.

Is this not a carry over to a system that continues to black list you if you are gay, the wrong political or religious persuasion, have AIDS, go to the wrong film school..... Although we cannot legislate the Industry (and I for one believe think that you cannot legislate moral conduct) I believe that we must personally legislate our comments regarding others. If you hear negative comments about colleages it would be easier to contact that person and inform him of the rumors. Oh yes, that's right...it's not socially acceptable. I have always said that Hollywood "nices" people to death. You can be standing across from your mortal enemy "Brutus" and they will smile and tell you how wonderful you are.

Oh, incidentally, on the day that I lost the feature at Tri Star I received three other offers, one of which I have taken.


Roy H. Wagner ASC

>In the total accordance with what was said before, especially by Steve Poster and Roy Wagner, I want to inject just another factor in the discussion - impunity and easiness for "power to have" to replace DP.

>Ask any producer and PM how easy is to replace even the lowest rank of DGA member in the crew and they would say they will think twice before they will be ready to stand wrath of DGA committee of some kind. Twice I have been on production when the First AD was so bad , that his inability jeopardized production and in both times they have been just demoted to the almost non-existent 2nd unit, just because producers knew that DGA will stand for its members, and after regulated inquiry would inevitably conclude that producers in both cases weren't non guilty parties, and sources of the mess and they would put those producers on S.. list.

>From another side the famous cinematographer with world-wide reputation can be replaced at whim because " Who is afraid of... (ASC?IA????). More then once I've heard remarks that everybody can shoot now and DP is becoming and will be a just a provider of the "first exposure".

>Recently Vilmosz Zsigmond, in Torun (Poland) during the Cinematographers Festival told the story about the known director who told to no less known DP, that DP can shoot everything flat and he, director, will fix everything with in post via computer .

>About two years ago I was invited to give a lecture on lighting for a very active computer animation company in North California. During the presentation I realized that audience consist from character animators who would like to know quickly how to light, and then (sic!) start to work quickly on the animated project imitating live action. We agreed that I will tell them everything about lighting in two hours, if they will tell me everything about programming in two hours.

>Then coming back to the Replacement issue, I would say that until producers will feel "untouchable" quoting producer's privileges, and DPs will stop to be the "paper tiger" en mass, and run at the first opportunity to replace the fallen comrade-in-arms, then everything will continued the same way.

>If somebody with legal inclinations can take Steve's notes and make those a basis for some kind Code of replacement,and everybody who is member of IA and/or ASC or plan in the future to be as such , must follow. And then let to know to Producers and studios that replacement will be subject of peer's committee inquiry and judgment. And then may be we will have a chance do not discuss those matters anymore and think how to move our profession in the XXI century with dignity and proud.

>Yuri Neyman, Director of Photography

>Thanks to all of you that posted (or e-mailed me) a response to my question (U.S. Protocol for replacing a DP).

>First, had I known WHAT the situation was, I WOULD have tried to contact the DP and discuss it with him BEFORE agreeing to do the shoot. But since I was not informed of what had happened before I showed up for the shoot, I could not do that (I learned from the crew that another DP was involved with the project before I was, and who the DP was). Calling him now, would just make a bigger deal out of it than what it was. I am sure that his parting was a mutual sort of thing, and far from what the agency said it was.

>My dilemma was, that once I discovered what had happened, it was not fair (or professional of me) to refuse to work. The crew was there, the equipment was there, the actors were there. Who would I have hurt? Certainly not myself (I doubt that agency will think of ME first the next time they are putting a package together, preferring I'm sure - to go with another "name" cinematographer again), and certainly not the DP that was "replaced", as I am sure it was a mutual decision, or mostly his. So, ultimately, it would have been the crew (and cast) that would have been hurt by my refusal to work.

>Once I explained to the crew that I had no prior knowledge of what had happened, they let me play on a level field, and we all worked well (and successfully) together.

>Of course, I would rather that none of this would had happened, but that's just the way life is sometimes. I'm sure the DP that I took over for understands this.

>It's never an easy thing to replace another DP (and it is something I would NEVER do to a friend - unless that friend specifically asked me to take over for them).

>It's even a harder trauma GETTING replaced! But hey, sometimes you are so busy shooting the show, you miss seeing all the politics happening around you. Would this be a much easier job without all the "politics of pressure" we all have to endure, or what?

>Which brings me to another question, to whom do YOU owe YOUR loyalty to on a show?

>Enzo (a 16BL mounted to car a hood would be the ultimate in coolness) Giobbé

Roy Wagner wrote a very interesting and "telling" post earlier today.

> I would like to add my tuppence to the discussion. From the point of view of an assistant I learn't very quickly to take the views and conversation of such people with a pinch of salt. I am always stunned when I hear what people have to say about various DP's. By believeing such people I spent a good few pointless sleepless nights in worry about the sort of person I was working with in the morning. I have always found these people to be talking a total load of rubbish. However I always listen because you sometimes pick-up some interesting information from "insiders". I heard a story once about a band member on a pop promo who had been hit by a matt box that had fallen off the camera while it was on a crane. However the "insider" although he was sure that the Focus Puller was an "arsehole" he couldn't remember his name. He could however remember that he lived in Kings Cross and had a load of his own gear. Interest was heightened at this point when the "insider" remembered that the "arsehole" had a blue Volkswagon camera truck. At this point I pointed to my VW and said "What like that one?". The look on his face was well worth any defameation I may have suffered (as I am sure you can imagine I have never dropped a mattbox and certainly not on anyones head).

>Personally I find talking positivly about people much more fun than slagging them off. I would much rather talk about how nice Ian Owles, Kate Stark, Will Henshaw, John Pardue, Veronica Harris, Katie Swain, James Welland, Max Modray, Nick Nolan (and many many more availiable now from Telstar Records from you local Woolworths at £4.99) are (or were in the case of Ian) than to slag off someone.

>There is a particular DP I work with who is always extreamly polite every request is prefaced with "Could I possibly have ?" "Would you please ?". However when we have to work fast and the "pressure is on" he will just say "5.6 1/8 black promist top of the low legs HERE". Now I don't see a problem with that. However someone once came up to me and said "That XXX is a rude bastard isn't he. I bet he's hard work". I can't believe that someone could make a judgement like that 20 seconds after meeting the guy.

Strangely enough I am working with a Cameraman with a "Reputation" tomorrow
I will bet you he a really lovely guy.

Justin Pentecost

>And then there is the rumour about how Francis Ford Coppola replaced Haskel Wexler on "The Conversation" because he shot a sequence that was scheduled to take a week (or two) in one day. Supposedly Francis wanted to finish a screenplay (which one I don't know) while Haskel shot the sequence - having done it in one day meant that Francis would have to pay attention to The Conversation, and so the DP was replaced, production shut down for a week, and everybody got what they wanted (except Mr. Wexler....)

>You never know what kind of agenda someone might have when making a choice like that.

>My previous post was made prior to reading Mr. Wagner's full post.

>Though I don't often post, I do have the utmost respect for those with a great deal of experience who do, and Roy, you are on of them. We all have been victimized to some extent in this business - it is true that although producers hold those they hire up to extremely rigorous professional scrutiny, they reserve judgement upon themselves. In some sense, I would feel better not working at all, than having to work for someone who's respect I did not have, and who looks only at what he can get from me, not what we can create together. I'm sure that whatever the truth behind that producers decision, you are better off for it.

>The difference between L.A. and New York is that in New York when you get robbed, you see the gun...

>Ted Hayash

Does it mean that DP destined forever to be disposable as used napkin?

With this kind of fatalism, why all the complains that producer, director, etc., is taking over even timing (grading) of the picture.

>I was fired once for literally "European style of lighting" after 2 1/2 weeks out of four. Director called me at night and said " I like your dailies, but nothing I can do - they decided to change style". Sure enough they stop working for a week, rewrote or/and change the script, and asked new DP to follow my style. End of story.

>Why cat is liking his paw? Because he can! . For more positive and constructive POV on the subject of discussion, I suggest to see my previous mailing.

>Regards, Yuri Neyman

>Your suggestion about a 'code of replacement' is an idea that I like - an ethical code that could help us all in deciding what to do when put in this sort of position. Unfortunately for me, I believe that I missed Steven's post to which you referred, so I cannot elaborate further.

>I think that most of us would like to pretend that this kind of thing doesn't really happen - indeed it is the pretense that we are all judged (or should be) on our artistic merit or quality that makes the reality even harsher when we are hired or fired for some reason that has really nothing to do with our abilities or who we are.

>Here's to moving into the 21st century with dignity and pride!

>Ted Hayash

>In America (as I understand it), the camera guilds had a powerful weapon in the projectionists union at one time (no bug, no show). But that time has since passed.

>In England, they had a very powerful camera trade union at one time (unfortunately it shot itself in the foot one too many times).

>In Italy, we have a common (and unwritten) fellowship that we (DPs/DFs) more or less follow - that dictates that we don't sabotage a crew (or another DP), and that we don't "walk over" another DPs job unless he/she has asked us to. It is the ONLY power we have left to determine our own overall creative and artistic destiny these days.

>Perhaps it is time for that "fellowship" to be expanded worldwide...

Roy, I am sorry (and embarrassed) for all of us in motion picture production world wide, that something like this can actually happen in this day and age - and happen to someone of your reputation and standing. And of course, if it can happen to you, it can happen to any of us. It is true that the "suits" have taken over motion picture production (including the creative end) all over the world. I am just glad that in Italy, there is still SOME honour in a handshake.

>Success is like a mountain, the higher you get, the less room there is at the top, and the harder it is to reach the height you have achieved. Some of the people at the bottom of that mountain would rather drag you down to their level than face the hardships of climbing to the height you have attained. That's why they spread the innuendos and unsubstantiated rumours they do.

>I have yet to meet one "real" DP (meaning one that actually knew what he/she was doing, and worked at it) in all my travels throughout the world that was "mean" or "hard to get along with". In fact, just the opposite has been true. Almost to a man (and woman), all the DPs I have come in contact with have been very giving with advice and of their valuable time - so that I might be a bit more knowledgeable about my craft (and in return, I have tried to do the same).

>Early on in my career, I learned that there are many people with an axe to grind, but with no justifiable reason to use that axe. Sometimes, we just don't hear the "axe grinding", we just hear the axe falling. I always look for the reason the axe was ground in the first place before taking any "story" I hear with anything more than a grain of salt. Hidden agendas are commonplace in our business - it's up to each and every one of us to make those agendas less "hidden" as we discover them.

>In America, you have an old native American saying that goes; "Never judge a person until you have walked a mile in their moccasins."

>I always try to look at judgmental opinions by others about another person in that light, and I hope that all of the CML does the same.

All the best on your new show!

Enzo Giobbé

I learned after my first feature(a fiasco at best) that the director and producer were engaged in the production equivalent of "The Battle of the Titans" I say I learned this after because I was really buzy shooting the show! The Director was a DP moving up and his Ego became "troublesome" at best. (Loyalty is earned not just Granted, I feel) The show wraped and I moved on to my next job (a time lapse job in a quiet luxury hotel in a West Palm Bch FL). The phone rang and the Director demanded to know where my loyalties where as the producer had planed to continue to shoot and pick-up some sceanes, and the director wanted me to side with him and not work for the producer. This was largly do to some Ego/Control/Bla Bla Bla thing. Well, I then realized how Stupidly Dramatic this all was and the concern was (for me) an issue of finishing the film. If the film aint finished, well you know how that goes.

Over the next six months the producer and I finished the film by shooting weekends ect. The director refused to participate and the film was released to Block Buster Video, made money and the Producer and I still enjoy a successfull relationship. After some time went by I realized (thankfully and in retrospect) that my Loyalties were to the completion of the film. In subsequent projects I have spelled out in advance that my loyalties will be
to the completion of the film, so if and when there are any issues I have already spelled out my position. Now that does not mean that the crew or safety or anything else falls to the wayside, it only means that I have signed on to the project on the project is where my loyalties lie. The Completion of the Project!

Scott(I finish what I start) Mumford

>David Samuelson wrote...

>It happens, both ways round, and I believe that both parties should accept that it >may one day happen to them, and be graceful about it.

>Very eloquently put. IMHO, far too much emphasis is being placed on a notion of some imaginary "Cinematographer's Brotherhood". DPs, like all members of other professions, do benefit mutually from an open discussion of technique & tools of the trade. This exchange also helps to advance the art in its entirety. And in many situations there is are benefits accrued from collective bargining (rates, working conditions and safety issues spring to mind).

>However, this profession, like others, also benefits from a strong competitve spirit. The notion that DPs should honor one another to the point that none should be willing to pick up a show after another leaves (or is dismissed) seems to be naive at best and could even be viewed as downright self-serving.

I agree with Steven Poster that it would be best to attempt to discuss the situation with the exiting DP, but perhaps for a different reason.

Discussing the photographic techniques applied by the exiting DP will serve to maintain a consistancy in the look of the show and, as a result, will also protect the artistic efforts and reputations of both DPs.

Michael Siegel

Yesterday, I picked up a Canadian magazine that had an extensive interview with James Cameron. I thought it would be of interest to this particular discussion.

It mentions Russell Carpenter being "sore" after learning that Cameron had been trying to get him replaced for most of the time they were making True Lies. When Caleb Deschanel left the set on the Titanic, Cameron's people went back after Russell. "He told them he would take the job, but he wouldn't be made into a human punching bag again. They agreed." Then Carpenter goes on mentioning that when he saw Cameron in his "usual butt-kicking self", " I pulled over Jon Landau, the producer, and said :

"Well, you've been through guy A. I'm guy B. Get ready to go to guy C."

>On a more personal note :

>Once, I was working on a low budget action movie when I got a call from a friend at the production office warning me that the director wanted me replaced. I fell from the skies! I thought I was doing a good job. As it turned out, the producer was not happy with the director's work who kept insisting that it was my fault. When I finished the movie, my friend told me: we knew it had nothing to do with you, we had a replacement director on stand by just in case we kicked him out...boy that felt good when I heard it!

I am hearing more and more directors saying "I am the boss here and I'll tell you exactly what to do"! Some think they are right and we're just hired hands to make sure the image is exposed and framed right! Some others have a problem with the lack of our creative contribution with such projects and find it unacceptable. The overall definition of our job is definitly changing. Apparently, the crew on the Titanic took to wearing T-shirts that quoted Cameron saying: "You either shoot it my way or you do another f...ing movie!" I am afraid replacing DPs will become more and more common. I don't think we will be able to do much about it on a collective level. May be The American Society of Cinematographers should take a central roll here and agree to a "code of ..." acceptable to all parties.

Or even better, ASC could do this along with BSC, CSC, FSC, ISC, etc., and deal with many issues facing cinematographers today. Do you believe there is such a will for change?

>Norayr (saying choosing who to work for is as important as what you work for.) Kasper

>Enzo Giobbé

>Which brings me to another question, to whom do YOU owe YOUR loyalty to on a >show?

>That's a tough one. I would say ultimately to yourself or, to put it more eloquently, "onto your own self be loyal, therefore it follows as night the day that you cannot be disloyal to any man (problem is knowing who your "self" is!).

>My philosophy for finding who that self is to run thru a quick check list of the ten states that I am capable of experiencing in any one millisecond! If I am basing my decision on one of the lower six: hell, hunger, anger, animality, tranquility or rapture then I know that decision is going to lead to a negative experience at some stage in my life. So I base it on one of the four higher states.

>If I have been brought onto a film by a friend then I owe him my fullest support but my loyalty is still to my higher states. I was once asked to do some second camera operating by a cameraman friend and on the shoot days I gave him my fullest support (even risked telling him where to stick some of the lights - after much cogitating!). For her next shoot the director asked me to shoot it and when I quized her she said simply put my operating was a lot better than his. I didn't feel bad because I had given him my full support!

>Sometime later I was taken on by another director and she sent me some of her work to look at. I saw the reel and critisized it as it went along and when I saw the credit for photography it was my friend again! The tape ran past one of her films and then the rushes came on! She had abviously taped over them. I saw one simple little action shot about 7-8 times and they looked like operator errors. What I am trying to say is that sometimes the cause for being replaced is closer to home than we would like to admit. Not always as other posts confirm but more often than not.

>My advice to anyone who feels gutted at being replaced or losing a job is to take a hard look at your philosophy. It's usually the perfect time for it as when things go smoothly, human nature being what it is, we take things and people for granted. And if you have made the right causes in the past you will be amazed at the better offers that come along to replace the ones that you thought you couldn't live without!

>Here's a quote that I occasionally dust off "...the flaws in iron come to the surface when it is forged. Put into flames a rock turns to ashes, but gold is rendered into pure gold."

>Shangara Singh.

>Almost to a man (and woman), all the DPs I have come in contact with have been >very giving with advice and of their valuable time - so that I might be a bit more >knowledgeable about my craft (and in return, I have tried to do the same).

And that's what so much nicer about film than stills, when I started in stills everyone jealously guarded every bit of knowledge they had, and still do if it comes to it.

>One of the nicest things that people say about CML is when I get messages from stills guys who can't believe how we help each other and spread info & knowledge far and wide.

>Lets keep it up

I remember that when I was fired from a commercial for the first time I was told by Barry Birne of Agfa that I could now consider myself a real cameraman because everyone that was any good had been fired! and then went on with some wonderful stories that were definitely not for publication.

Geoff Boyle

I agree with Roy and Steven on this subject, but I wish to add something too. This does not just happen to D.P's. A very good friend and Director Lost a Top Ten Television Series for a season because someone claimed he had a drug problem (not true at all). My friend was as P.O.ed as we are.

Unfortunately in our industry ethics take a back seat to greed. If we all become more ethical (even on this B.B.), maybe things will change. I don't have much hope for the agents, accountants and legal departments who tend to be the deal makers in the Biz. But, that may change as well.

>Let us hope.

>Mark Levin