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August 4, 2011 / nicotvandenberg

Let’s Talk Some Shots

Let’s talk some shots. A Director and DoP (Director of Photography) deciding to collaborate in many ways is the equivalent of a marriage proposal. A decision not made lightly and a necessary passion for each others work and style. For me, it is crucial to have a Director to DP relationship that is strong and open. The minds most fuse, inspire, challenge and even communicate without words. Everyone may take a different approach to how they work with a director or DP, but the core elements of communication still apply across the board.

Homework, were both students again, with the exception that we’ve become each others teachers as well. I found that giving each other homework of watching movies and studying photographs resembling the style you are  envisioning based off of the script, is the best way to get on the same page.

Location scout, location scout, and lastly, location scout together. I see this happen far too many times. Either the producer or director is the only one who has seen the location prior to production day. As a DP, working like this will almost guarantee  your shot list to be null and void the moment you step on set. Location scouting as a team is crucial because it allows all parties of production to devise a game plan for production day. They well have addressed any concerns they may have seen while scouting and be prepared to solve them the day of the shoot. Allowing the producer to produce, the director to direct, the Director of photography to direct photography. Rather than everyone scratching their head and ass of what to do next. Take advantage of the HDSLR, bring it along with you, shoot story board images, be bold and even shoot video story boards. If you want to be even more discrete, use an iPhone or smaller point and shoot. I always use the “PANASCOUT” iPhone app from Panavision. The app provides you with an array of aspect ratios, time-stamping, geo-tagging, and compass positioning. It will even allow you to shoot video so you can also have video storyboards.

Shot listing the film. As a DP I have worked alone and or have worked alongside the director to complete this step. I prefer working with the director, finding that they will often see the script from a new perspective. Read through the scene together, talk about character motivation, then get up and block out the scene. I find this to really help not only you as the DP, figuring out exactly what the director is thinking, but it helps the director to solidify the choreography in their head. Consider it a date because this process will take you some time.

Production begins. I am already sweating and most likely exhausted from loading in gear. This is where PA’s (Production Assistants) become water boys. After catching your breath, both you the DP and Director should meet up. If possible have a directors viewfinder on hand so that you can be looking through the same frame. I know it is tempting to use your fingers to frame a shot, but that doesn’t always translate well or get your angle across. Go through the shot list one more time, know exactly where each camera is going to be placed. So when “cut! moving on,” is yelled, you know exactly where you are moving to next.

All of these steps may seem tedious and time-consuming but after a few projects it becomes like clock work. If all of the steps are done properly you will be amazed to see how productive your shoot will become. Time is money, and you want to be efficient as possible, saving all the money you can.

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