“It’s always good to make up for a lack of (financial) means with an increase in imagination.”
Friends who know me, know I really dislike talking about limitations. I prefer to dream big and be optimistic. I’m a “let’s put on a show! ” type optimist.
However, I will need to dip my toe into the murky pool of limitations for a second. Stay with me.
There are a lot of indie films being made with fascinating stories. Yet too many have mediocre to painful to look at visuals and poor production value. We can adjust our approach to storytelling and raise the bar of expectations regardless of budget.
I’m sure that I speak for many DPs. I’ve no delusions of shooting the next Bond film but hoped for more, given my experience, education & resources, than interviewing to shoot on a 5D in the director’s apartment. I “should” be shooting features with $3-10m budgets but US film production has lost it’s middle class. Or as DP Ryan Walters says in his post “Three Reasons Why It’s Bad Business to be a Cinematographer”, there is an “evaporation of the middle market”.
I love our Indie Film producers, even though they speak with limitations. Many are of the “we don’t have. You can’t have” variety. A film crew’s natural instinct is to problem solve & figure a way to make your film better. However, many producers hear our requests as saying they are incompetent or that crew wants to cheat them out of more money. Make too many suggestions & we can be labelled difficult and replaced. So we keep quiet. And you get what you get.
In 2012, 2% of films were shot by female DPs. When I am offered a gig, the last thing I want to do is lose it to someone who “looks more like a DP” because my inquiries and suggestions deem me “hard to work with”.
For those unaware: Cine Gear Expo is a trade show that happens once a year. There are seminars and exhibitor booths showing off the latest technology and services in film production. Sadly, the NYC expo is nowhere as extensive and diverse as the shows in LA or NAB in Las Vegas. What follows is what gear caught my eye, appeared to be an improvement over what I currently use and seems feasible given my typical budgets. You can’t really judge any equipment until “out in the field”, but this is a good start.
Favorite camera: My number reason to attend Cine Gear Expo this year was to see the new Arri Amira, a “versatile documentary style camera”. I was raised on the Arri SR at Tisch, have done some of my finest work on the Alexa and was excited to play with a lighter, built for run-and-gun digital camera. But it was a no show. I had my geek moment with the Alexa XT (see photo) and moved on. (more…)
Every shade and hue offers its own unique challenges and glorious opportunities for the Cinematographer to create art. Anyone with a basic knowledge of lighting can get a decent exposure when filming non-white skin. I want to discuss “the art”. (more…)
Cybel the DP’s List of “85 Essential Films You Must to See to Know Anything About Why She Loves Film”
Spike had a list. Scorsese had his. But when can we talk about the films that make a female filmmaker tick?!! And that’s when I remembered I’m also a writer. We’ll start with my list. (more…)
“DP Notes” is a new type of article I’m trying out for Shadow & Act. I’m in the midst of some very fun jobs and thought I could use specific examples from these shoots to show you how I approach each job.
Case Study #1 “MadCap: New York”. A musical shot in 5 days. The original concept and approach was indeed “simple”. A woman traveled from borough to borough seeking artistic inspiration. Filmed in one borough per day for a total of five shooting days. We’d ask a bunch of artist friends to participate. They’d encounter and perform for our protagonist during her journey. It would be unscripted but with definite plot points. We “knew” several musician friends would say no & we’d end up with maybe five people. Wrong. The interest exploded. Creative influences doubled and then tripled. (more…)
Its been four months since I posted “How to Shoot HD, Create Art and Not Be Overwhelmed…”. Now it’s time for you to tackle lighting. Second to poor audio, improper lighting is the surest sign of an amateur production (keep breathing, stay with me). I was hesitant at first to do a post on lighting. I like to keep my advice simple and easily digestible yet, there is nothing simple about lighting. Even when you use one light, the process by which you come to that decision (when made artistically not because you only have one light) is not a simple one. (more…)
I’m the type to discuss, ad nauseum, whether an object is aubergine, plum or violet. Not only am I fascinated by color nuances, but how their effect and interpretation can vary. I love bedrooms painted cerulean blue. Reminds me of the perfect summer sky. But others feel like they’re drowning. Imagine the power you have as a filmmaker with a solid understanding of color? (more…)
It seems like with the advent of affordable SLRs, everyone who can, will call themselves a Cinematographer. I say, claim it & do the work. There is no camera nor piece of equipment you can’t master. To quote the awesome Ira Glass “all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste”. So, even if there’s no tangible proof yet, I trust you also have an “eye” and aesthetic you are cultivating.
I’ve written enough articles on how producers and directors need to work with us. We also have responsibilities beyond showing up with crew and gear. There are basic expectations & a certain mind set that will make you easy to work with, make the job successful and lead to more work. (more…)
It’s time to stop pretending that we are in film production just for artistic expression. Yes – that is extremely important, but so is being able to say that I bought my house, paid for my children’s education or funded a charity with the money I made as an artist. (more…)
How to Shoot HD, Create Art & Not Be Overwhelmed – Tips For The Non-Professional Yet Enthusiastic Videographer”
After last month’s “epic” post, I thought I’d go for something simpler. Certainly a number of our readers received an HD video camera over the holidays. Now what to do with the darn thing?
This article is not for my professional shooters. It’s the basic technical advice I give my students on the first day of school. It’s what I share with my documentary directors who, for whatever reason, need to take the camera out when I’m not available. The purpose is provide you with enough information to feel empowered but not overwhelmed.
I tried to included some tips you may not see elsewhere. Grab your camera, read along and then shoot something. (more…)