Cinematography : What a DP looks for in a Director... by Mariano de Luca

Mariano de Luca

What a DP looks for in a Director...

Hi everyone! So, Karen "Kay" Ross suggested me to write about what a DP would look for in a Director, and I thought it's a really interest subject and would love to know what other DP's think about it. I think that for me it's crucial to have that connection with the Director where you feel that both of you are at the same level of commitment and where it's all about the movie. I believe in the triangle, where the Director, the DP and the PD are the base for all the creative process involved in the making... it is a collaboration process and team effort, at least those are my 0.02 cents!  Thanks!!! hope to hear what other DP's think about it...

Jean Buschmann

Well said, Mariano. And I completely agree - the visual trio that creates the look of the film should all have their say. Collaboration is democratic not dictatorial.

Karen "Kay" Ross

Is PD the same thing as a 1st Asst. Director? I'm used to the Director, DP, and AD being that default team. I remember a 1st AC mention that he appreciated a DP that was decisive as it gave the camera team confidence. It's interesting to hear that a DP values being a part of the creative decision-making. And why wouldn't you be?! DPs make everything better!

Mariano de Luca

Karen, the PD stands for “Production Designer”, what I believe is the other point of the creative part in that triangle of Director, DP and PD. Being a leader as a DP is critical with your own crew (cam Op, 1st AC, 2nd AC, etc) but when it comes to the creative part, I think the PD is super important in creating the ambient, the look and the mood of movie.

Karen "Kay" Ross

Oh, HA! I should have known, but I've not had the pleasure to work with a Production Designer professionally (only in film school). #CareerGoals You are absolutely right, though. Truly integral to the look of a film!

Karen "Kay" Ross

Reading over this again, I also think having a clear tone and theme communicated allows for that cohesion you were talking about, Mariano de Luca. For me, that's something that is defined by the writer/director and translated from director to DP/PD. That way everyone is finding ways to express the same theme in different ways.

Royce Allen Dudley

When a DP considers collaborating with a director it's also critically important the DP identify the director's work style and experience level, as well as what they expect from said DP. Some directors are extremely technical and fingers in the fixings; others have literally no idea how to block a scene or cover it. These are extremes, and most directors fall somewhere in between, but the DP must identify the director's approach for a healthy fit. A control freak director can be very challenging to work for if they aren't brilliant, or are far less than brilliant. A green director is fine for a working DP, and in fact, very common. This will require quiet collaboration and guidance by the DP to help the director steer the ship without detracting from the director's aura of control with cast and crew. Mariano, your comment about the golden triangle of creatives is excellent and a goal for all to remember. I have often noticed great films have a seamless execution where story and performance are melded with the design and photography so that none stands out; they "are" the movie, together.

Karen "Kay" Ross

Royce Allen Dudley You make a very good point! This is why I often suggest falling in love with the work of your DP before pursuing them so you know what they bring to the table and can invite them to flex their abilities.

Max Logan

Very well said, Royce. You covered several of my thoughts. For me, mutual cooperation and leaving an ego at the door are two very important things, no matter the level of the director. I have only worked on small productions and although I am very type A, working with directors has gone very well. However, if I were to meet a director and sense a big ego, I would rather pass. On the flip side, when I have directed, I do everything in my power to keep the set as stress free as possible.

Corey Robertson

I think all 3 roles are crucial to creating an awesome film. The vision from the director, the look of the film to give it an emotion from the audience point of view by the DP, besides the acting. The PD also plays a roll because without a location including small details to create the concept the story would be poorly told.

Karen "Kay" Ross

Corey Robertson Too true. Do you have any suggestions on how a PD and a DP work together?

Honestly, I think the PD role overlooked moreso than any other role, but that may just be a symptom of cost-conscious decision-making. All too often the responsibilities of a PD are put on a director or producer in order to save money (and I've worked on a lot of indie shoots).

Jorel Odell

What I look for in a Director, I'd say... I look for a passion for film (all film) something similar to my own, and a deep understanding of the story they are about to tell. There have been far too many situations I've been in where the Director is just half baked, and almost always simultaneously being a control freak, and or being downright abusive. This all I think is nothing more than lack of confidence and simply being in far over ones head. It happens too much these days, and many of these projects, including a feature for Blumehouse I shot will likely never be seen by anyone.

Beyond that, I really love it when we can actually collaborate, and develop a shorthand on set that allows us to stay fluid as everything changes around us, but also identify those moments when the film is actually showing itself to us, while we are in the midst of the tempest, tossing us around like rag dolls, we look at each other from across the room in a moment and know, we just got magic, and we are on the right path, regardless of the changes that are happening around us.

Also I love it when a director is adept with the language of color; its many meanings and uses. This is far more important to me, than if they know focal lengths, or camera specifics, etc. Being able to dive deep into the thematics of color and the progression of color through the story in prep, and build many specific looks that we can take with us on the day, and actually proxy out dailies with something so close to the finished look that there is no confusion on anyones part downstream just how any particular scene should look.

Karen "Kay" Ross

LOVE this response, Jorel Odell! Sometimes when you don't know what the outcome will be, it nice to know that the experience is at least enjoyable. Not to say it won't be challenging, but that you feel valued and can contribute in a safe environment. Man, I just love the teamwork aspect of it! That give and take, the back and forth, the whole being more than the sum of its parts - yeah, that's what I live for.

Kevin Deane

I know this thread has been out for awhile, but I echo all these thoughts. Working as both DP and director I’ve learned much about collaborating and have been blessed to work with amazing people. The combined efforts of a group of talented people with a common creative goal can be spectacular.

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