Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Notes for a new DP...

Geoff Boyle, September 2021

Basic starting advice

  1. You have to be in the business to be in the business.
  2. Eyes open, ears open, mouth shut.
  3. Grab any opportunity.
  4. Be Helpful, go out of your way.
  5. Put the work in: “ya don’t get owt for nowt”.

Moving on

  1. Don’t plan, just keep your eyes open and lunge when the chance appears.
  2. Be wary, there are a lot of sharks out there.
  3. Try and find a director that you think has a future...
  4. Doing a job for a cut-rate only establishes your future rate, don’t do it.
  5. If you really want to do a job that has no budget for your normal rate, do it for free and make it clear the huge favour you are doing them.
  6. Make sure that you get obscene expenses for that freebie job.
  7. The next time they call you your rate is intact and you never know, you may have established a precedent on expenses...

Relationship with crew

  1. Hire the best you can, don’t be scared that they know more than you do, put their knowledge to use. This is a lesson that most new DPs fail.
  2. Look after your crew. Don’t let production treat them badly. This can cause you all kinds of problems but it will be of huge benefit in the long run.
  3. A lot of DPs say they do that but will throw their crew under the bus at the first opportunity, don’t be one of those!
  4. Be prepared to sack people, do it fast and hard. It’s a really difficult lesson to learn, you want to give people another chance.
  5. Don’t! A crew is an organic unit and one bad influence can sour a whole shoot. Cut cancer out, fast!

Relationship with production & directors

  1. It’s the director’s vision, not yours.
  2. Of course, they can be wrong and it’s your job to try and get them going in the right direction but ultimately...
  3. If you reach an impasse, try and shoot it both ways if it’s just one scene. “You’ll thank me in the edit,” said with a big smile tends to work.
  4. It’s not as hard as you think to get what you want from a producer.
  5. They want to make a good film/commercial as well but they have to bring it in on budget so show them a way to save money.
  6. “Of course you don’t have the budget for 4 Arrimax 18K’s and 60mtr cherry pickers, but I can save you 4 hours a night for a week if you get them...”

Basic shooting advice

  1. Keep it simple. Simple is faster and tends to lead to fewer mistakes.
  2. Do what do you need to do to help tell the story, this may not be what looks best on your reel. Don’t make this mistake!
  3. Be prepared to fight if you are sure that you are right. “That’ll do” is not something I ever want to hear from a director. Fight to get it right.
  4. You can be a nice guy on the shoot and everyone walks away loving you. Of course later in the edit and the grade when the pictures aren’t what they expected/wanted they will forget how nice you were and remember you as the guy who doesn’t get results.
  5. Be a bastard on set, defend your pictures, make sure everything is right. They’ll walk away hating you and swearing never to work with you again but after edit and post, they will forget what a twat you were and just be looking at great pictures that they’re happy with.
  6. Actually, they’ll remember what a twat you were but will be willing to tolerate it to get the pictures next time.

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