The reality of becoming a DoP in hollywood. (12 replies and 24 comments)
To kick off my very first post on the forums I wanted to get a better sense of how you made it to the big screen and working on high budget productions. Was it as simple as getting a referral from someone that was impressed with your work, and ended up getting lucky in that regard? Or did it take many years of just grinding as PA or grip and and your way up to a director of photography? I'm very curious as to the many different ways a different director's of photography may have been successful in the industry. Was it a being lucky to get the right connection, or has it always just started with decades of grinding. I'd really love to get your advice and even just a reality check on what it really takes to make it as a director of photagraphy in Hollywood. Is it smarter just the spend next 10 years working on my craft or the next 10 years just grinding and working my way up the ladder on sets. A dream of mine is to one day get to a level where I could be considered to become an ASC.
A huge thank you for creating these forms and giving us Other aspiring filmmakers the chance to communicate with who has really made it out there.
I look forward to seeing what kind of knowledge and insight you maybe able to provide.
A simple question - why Hollywood?
China produces more films than the whole of the US, Europe produces at least twice as many movies as the US and India produces most of all!
Make the World your oyster first (as Roger Deakins did!)
That is a really good point. Why Hollywood? There was little work in the UK in the 80s so the USA and Hollywood was an obvious choice for me. I found work there and now I happen to live in the US but then I am in the UK working on a film right now. I really don't see why Hollywood should be a goal of every cinematographer.
My career path was via Film School and documentaries. For 7 years I shot all kinds of documentaries, cinema shorts, music videos and a TV drama series before making the move into feature film work.
its indeed an interesting question, of "why hollywood", but i guess its what most of us outsiders think when we fantasize about our ideal set, or maybe even just being able to make a living out of this, Chile, my home country, its one that just now its sort of starting to spawn a "film industry", over the last years a couple of "our" films have been nominated for oscars, a couple have won best animated short and best foreign film respectively, despite this the government is further removing the few monetary backings for film projects, so even when our "industry" seems to be at its brightest, its still indeed a grim picture for any of us who wish to work in film, right now getting any gig of any sort, film, documentary, corporate its nigh-impossible unless you got the right contact, this whole year i`ve been called for just 1 day in a set for a corporate video, so i find myself constantly dreaming about not necessarily hollywood but a proper industry, at this point it may even be escapism, and while i know that places like hollywood are far away form being the Utopic place many think it is, many of us cant help but wish we could have a shot there, or in any place with a proper film industry and unions and proper rates and such, and all the things we don't have, i hope i didn't sound too bitter or envious just trying to share my view on these things.
All sorts of important points to make to that last post from Nicolas. I'll start with the obvious one - is Hollywood the 'Mountain Top'?
Well, probably not anymore. Hollywood has moved to Vancouver, Budapest, Pinewood, Berlin, Rome, Prague and, well, just about anywhere that is cheaper and/or garners the largest subsidies and/or tax breaks.
My next point (speaking as one who began in TV in the days of 405-line B&W) is that it is better to come in at the ground floor of a revolution than to try to break into an established and mature industry. In other words, I'd rather be making zero-budget movies in Chile than grinding away in the tired soap and reality factories of Hollywood.
As for unions and rates - back in the 60s, union rates were amazing and the studios and TV stations were happy to pay them. I remember getting £90 for one day at Granada in Manchester UK back in about 1967 or 8. That was two weeks' wages for a working man back then. You won't get much more than that today - except that today it is about one day's wages. I looked at the scale rates today for the UK and the US and they are rotten. Expressed in purchasing power parity and compared to the 60s, they are a tiny fraction of what they once were!
Back then, it seemed as if the TV and film game was like having a license to print money. Today, anybody can start their own TV station or film studio. YouTube has given everybody and their mothers-in-law the ability to reach out to everybody else on Planet Earth! Everybody is shouting - nobody is listening.
My last point is that the movie industry is about to go through enormous changes in the way the product reaches the market. Even fairly modest homes are buying 65" TV sets and sound-bars with a sub. Last night I watched Blade Runner 2049 in our projection room (2.5m screen and Genelec sound system) and it was a great deal better than watching it in a local movie theatre. The sound was light-years better, the image was brighter and sharper, the seating was more comfortable and the beers were cheaper!
My point being that a family father wanting to give his wife and kids a night out, is looking down the barrel of a $100 expense and probably more like $200 if they want a very modest meal. In an age where you can get a 65" 4K TV set for well under $1,000 and a 50" for under $500 and all the other bits and bobs are falling in price almost by the day - and at the same time, the image and sound quality is improving enormously - a $200 night out to see a movie is a totally unsustainable business model. Something has to give!
Amazon, Netflix, etc. think they are the answer, but I am far from sure that is the case - more likely a pay-per-view directly from the studio-distributor is the real answer. The fact that the theatres have been able to trouser 50-60% of the box-office has been bugging those who Annie-up the dough to make the movies in the first place has been bugging them since the dawn of time (and since the 1948 ruling preventing them from owning theatres).
My guess is that with the advent of fiber-to-the-home, combined with ever-cheaper home viewing equipment, most (though not all) of the theatre-release market will vanish.
All the more reason for young and adventurous film-makers to pick up a camera, get together with others and make that killer movie!
I find this idea of streaming services completely replacing the theater experience depressing frankly, and im also not sure about it vanishing, radio didn't die after television was invented, more people now listen to radio now than in any other time in history, theater releases didn't perish with the advent of TV either, and i don't think video on demand will kill it either, sure it will undergo some transformations, it must, but the comunal experience of watching something with a bunch of strangers, its something no artist should want to go away, i mean off course there are things i would rather watch at home, i binged through "Chernobyl" at my house and i loved it, but it would depress me to have to watch a Chris Nolan film, for the first time on a blu ray ( let alone on an inferior streaming platform) its a dream of mine to have my work projected in a big screen sometime, i truly appreciate modern platforms like Netflix, Prime, Hulu etc etc, but its not like those platforms are helping us as developing industries, specially when applying a project to one of those platforms you find that they require a lot of technical stuff any normal chilean production can't afford, i relish the idea of being part of this breakthrough generation of filmmakers in my country, setting things right like in fair payments, equal opportunities and such, but its looking more like a fantasy than a real possibility.
OK, let's go through why I have to disagree with you at almost every step!
Radio - Radio is a very special and very different medium. It is the only medium that we consume whilst doing other things, such as driving, working machinery, mowing the lawn or even just lying in bed in the morning, listening to the news. It is not for nothing that every car comes fitted with a radio!
Chris Nolan and Blu-Ray. I'll start with Chris Nolan - he began the way I am suggesting you begin. At the bottom! His first movie was shot on Super-16 and cost him £3,000 which was all spent on film and developing the film. The camera and other equipment was borrowed and catering was his mother making sandwiches for the cast and crew. If you want to hear about the nuts and bolts of making that movie - look here -
You live in Chile which is one of the most photogenic places on Earth! Miles and miles of unspoiled coastline, beautiful countryside, sprawling urban streets with mile-upon-mile of flat-roofed houses and modern city centers. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty live side-by-side. And as for proper studio space - Google Earth shows me mile after mile of empty factory buildings and warehouses - it hardly gets better than that! Fertile ground for any movie maker and especially for one wanting to make a budget movie with friends!
Right now should be a golden era for new and exciting movies. The big studios have all-but-completely vacated the middle and lower ground of artistic and worthwhile drama, comedy and film-noir and instead are putting all their efforts into CGI-laden goofball films about teenagers flying through the air in pantyhose. That and elderly men rescuing Planet Earth by blowing everything up.
But instead of occupying all that empty space vacated by 'The Big Boys', too many aspirant movie makers are complaining that nobody gives them money to make a movie. They forget (or rather don't want to hear) that it is not money that they lack, but the gumption to write a script, map-out a shooting schedule, get a 4K camera and some lights (old PAR cans will do!) round up a few friends and get going!
Once your great epic is in the can, download DaVinci-Resolve or Hit-Film (or both) and box the whole thing into shape. And if you want to see it being shown in a movie theatre, hire a movie theatre and tell all your friends!
I have never heard of anybody being unable to make a movie because they don't have access to an Arri Alexa6 and a set of Angénieux primes, dollies and a motion control jib and are not being paid Hollywood scale!
So step one - get a copy of 'Save the Cat' by Blake Snyder, write that killer script and get going!
Great discussion, I do second what NicolasLabra said. In my case, and this is personally a matter of taste, I do not find Indian films entertaining, and I could go on about that whole industry. I figured the easier thing for me to do would be to leave the country. I am in Canada right now. I feel the same way as NicolasLabra's first post, or rather, I felt that way when I was in India.
Ravikantrai glad to see you are going through mate, good luck ! and mr The Brye, despite what you might think i appreciate our little discussion, thank you for sharing your viewpoint with me, i`ll do my best to take your advice.
shame that certain person turned this thread into a cestpool down there.
Don't make any films, no one will see it. Too many people are making films, and there is too much content as it is. The best thing anyone can do is to stop making films, the world doesn't need it or care for it. And quite frankly, the world would be a better place without another egotist who thinks their "art" is making the world a better place, because it isn't. The only people that make films today, are people who want your money. It's all about money. Hollywood is not what you imagine it to be, most of the American producers are Jews who hate their country of origin, they even hate America. Their new audience is now abroad, mainly China. And the Chinese are stealing most of their ideas and making it much better. Hollywood is dead, it has been since the studio system was broken up.
If you are going to make a film, don't spend any real money and screen it to your cat in your living room. That would be a more REALISTIC approach.
I am NOT antisemitic! How can someone like Natalie Portman, who is a Jew, side with Palestine? And there are countless other Hollywood Jews who are against Israel. Democratic leaders have even defended hateful rhetoric against Israel like Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and AOC, the so-called “Squad”. Pelosi even demanded an apology from Trump for speaking out against their hate speech. Liberal Hollywood is no different. They are anti-American, anti-Israel globalists like Clooney! Clintons were funded by people like Epstein, Weinstein, notorious pedophiles. You ask me why I am bitter? It is because these liberal elite have weaponized cinema and turned it into something unbearable. They are greedy parasites who should be swallowed by the earth. Encouraging success is not a good thing; the chances of anyone being able to be in a position like Roger’s is incredibly rare. Like 1 in a billion. I think it’s best for someone to be grounded in reality and work with what they have now, as opposed to chasing a pipe dream. It’s best to make small films with your phone, and if they are any good, step it up a notch little by little. The new generation of filmmakers shouldn’t even think of Hollywood, I think now is the time to explore other avenues, the way the French New Wave made films inexpensive and artful. American films need that, let these other idiots make their super hero crap, and let all those sellouts drown with them, when people get tired of watching that garbage.
The reams of spam postings are bad enough, but now this racist nonsense!
Roger - anybody - please, if you can't find the time to moderate this forum, either close it (pity!) or give the task to someone who can find the time - I would gladly do this!
I’m the racist? You liberal pussy. What is happening in USA is invasion through infiltration. Migrants from all over the world are crossing through our border ILLEGALLY, making false asylum claims so they can ruin our country. Dems and celebrities are working together to convince people they are RACISTS for supporting Trump. Same thing in Europe, countries are RACIST if they turn away Muslim refugees. They use IDENTITY POLITICS to thwart the truth.
Please do not close this forum. The spam and negative comments are no reason to shut the whole forum (yes there should be forum moderation if possible). This forum is incredibly valuable and should keep going.
I don’t think Roger and James have any intention of closing the forum, they may after some consideration decide to use the Members ‘Delete’ button and remove some “dead wood” from the forum. They have to comply to US strict rules and regulations regarding members behaviour that have a racial or political content.
It is not easy setting up a forum and monitoring the site on a regular basis but despite heavy work schedules, they both read and take notice of what is said, albeit maybe late. It would be really sad ‘if’ the forum was terminated but it is up to the members to keep it going so if you find that someone is out of order then try and deal with it yourselves by debate or persuasion but keep it “clean”. Personal attacks on members characters and even their country only highlights that member has already reached their level of competence and cannot be taken seriously.
Respect, Respect, Respect is the way to go.
Well said indeed. I think the best course of action in the case of anyone like this is to completely ignore the person (I admit I made the mistake of replying to him once), but it's best to go over his comments as if he is not even there, his comments are just not there. How long will one keep posting after all? I guess it goes back to the strategy of not feeding the trolls.
When I think of the word “Hollywood” it is basically the definition of elite globalists, who think the rest of us ordinary citizens are dumb. Idiots like DeNiro and other celebs who are still trying to convince uninformed sheep that the Mueller report is legitimate and that Trump colluded with Russia; even though insufficient evidence was found by the DOJ and the report itself was INCONCLUSIVE. It is a conspiracy to impeach Trump, because they fear what will be uncovered against the Clintons and their close ties with Hollywood juggernauts. Epstein has agreed to release names, and Dems are desperate to further their agenda to make America into an impoverished, crime-riddled shithole, like the UK.
London is overrun by Muslim migrants who are raping women, citizens have been disarmed and can’t bear arms to defend themselves. Refugees are taking over UK, so much that natural born citizens are now the minority and have a Muslim mayor in London who defends refugee criminals and rapists. This is what your celebrities want for America, because they want to reign over us.
It wasn’t like this before, in the 1940s Hollywood served our military! John Ford and many other directors made documentaries in support of our country. They stood against Democratic racists who founded the KKK and Jim Crow laws. Hollywood meant something in those days. Now it’s just a crumbling empire of evil conspirators who hate America and Israel.
I have read some of your previous posts on cinematography, you really do have some well thought out insights when it comes to the topic of filmmaking. After all that is why we are here, to learn and share ideas on filmmaking, not on political or religious beliefs.
Though I cant say that I agree with your ideologies, I am sure we can find common ground on relevant topics that pertain to this forum that Roger and James so generously put together.
Some of the best arguments against glue-sniffing I have ever seen assembled in one place!
I’m watching ‘The More the Merrier’ on TCM, and it’s better than any film that came out this year. Jean Arthur was incredibly beautiful. It’s b&w no fancy stuff, and incredibly fun. Nobody alive today could make anything this good.
" their agenda to make America into an impoverished, crime-riddled shithole, like the UK."
The US has five times the crime rate of the UK - or indeed nearly all EU countries (though at least now I know why Australians refer to the US as 'Retardistan').
TheByre, and that’s why countries like Australia and UK have weak military and need the US to save their asses, because you’re all a bunch of pussies. And UK filmmakers are among the worst alive.
That’s not saying much for Rogers films is it. How many U.K. film makers have you actually met? Can you explain why so many US owned production companies have invested millions of dollars in U.K. film studios over the last 20 years. The answer is quite simply, ‘Profit’ it’s a win, win situation for everyone. Even Disney is thinking of transferring its HQ to London. Hollywood is not dead but does need urgent cash injection for it to modernise and become attractive again as a movie making hub. Investors like London and it’s film making facilities but also like the idea that they can cross the channel and use other studios, it’s all a matter of competition and
common sense even Mr Trump has bought Real Estate here in addition to golf clubs and building plots. Perhaps you to would would like sink in a few million dollars of your hard earned cash but ofcourse the movie industry is not a good investment as far as you are concerned. Movie business is booming here, thanks partly to U.K. tax incentives and also to Uncle Sam for knowing a good deal when you see one!
also when i said that i "dreamed about hollywood" i may have expressed myself wrongly, i would never want to be in an industry with some many skeletons in the closet, and out of it, i didn't want to sound like i was crying because i couldn't shoot my stuff on alexa either.
also jthomsg, pack it in mate, its a sad scene you are making.
You’re all pathetic if you want to follow the “tradition “ or have dreams of “making it big”! Life is not about awards or having a bank full of money. Sure it buys you nice things, your life is full of comfort, but what I am angry about, is that films have become purely a profit business. It’s best for smaller, inexpensive films to be made. Nothing exciting is being done, no new narratives being explored. Why do we have to continue to make “traditional American” films.
When the French New Wave took over, we were introduced to actors no one knew about, filmmakers used actors like Anna Karina. Why follow the same model of paying actors MILLIONS of dollars?? Why should we care about American directors who are total sellouts?? Why can’t films be cheap and rely more on creativity?? Look at Citizen Kane, how low budget it was and the creativity bloomed like nothing anyone had ever seen!
REMEMBER, cinema is an art first and foremost! And it is up for the future to take it back and make real art! Why can’t the masses still make films in black and white??? Why does everything have to be wide screen?? Who made up all these bullshit rules how films should be written in screenwriting books?
Nobody thinks freely, it’s all controlled and moderated by money hungry bastards. We should go back to the way films were made, because they were truly beautiful.
i was watching ‘The More the Merrier’ a few days ago, I had never seen it. And for those 2 hours I had so much fun, I forgot everything about my life and politics, and I laughed and enjoyed every minute. All done in academy ratio, black and white, no fancy stuff, just powerful actors with great charisma! The world is missing out on the greatest art of them all! But it seems everyone has forgotten about the past, and they think Avengers which Rotten Tomatoes calls a masterpiece with 100% fresh rating is where great cinema begins! They think JJ Abrams is god, and know nothing of the true greats.
This is why I don’t believe American cinema will ever be as creative as it used to be; what happened to all the great stories of the past? It’s terribly sad!
I too love the old black and white movies (many were shot with colour film).
They had a special charm, great scripts and superbly acted. No SFX but carefully thought out photography, you always remember these films because they delivered a strong message. These films were written by people who had ‘real’ life experiences, they understood life’s complexities and chose actors who really understood the role. They reached the top of their game by shear hard work treading the boards. The problem today is that scriptwriters have no experience of hardship so how can they write about it! May I suggest that you log all your grievencies about the movie industry or personal life and set about writing a script. Release all your tensions through your finger tips and onto that keyboard, it should make interesting reading. Start today!
Furthermore, what bothers me about all of you, is how you tend to IGNORE the world, and simply talk about the “technical” aspects of cinematography. Yes, it is a cinematography discussion board, but there are horrific things happening all around us, and many LIES being spread by evil people.
As storytellers, you all know that if you can control how a person FEELS, you control the WAY THEY THINK. And that is exactly what the mass media is doing, even films that promote WHITE GUILT! How many “white American people are racist” films have they made? How do you think black people FEEL, after they leave a movie when they are reminded their ancestors were slaves in chains working on plantation fields? And seeing all those white people whipping them? There were abolitionists who FOUGHT this evil! HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS DIED! To end slavery! Where is their story?
Even someone like JO Mankiewicz who made ‘No Way Out’ created a hero in Sidney Poitier by making him a peaceful black man who FOUGHT racism with good deeds. In the end he saves the life of a white man who tried to kill him and called him the N-word. Nowadays you have Django Unchained, which is violent and hateful!
This is systematic brainwashing! If people can’t see that, then they are blind!
I get that perhaps your intentions are good, but your superiority complex and elitism are showing badly, first you asume that we all worship the system and are happy being cogs in this evil monstrous machine, that we all believe in some twisted rags to riches story about ourselves, we do not, i for one, and im sure the others in this forum do aswell, want to be a filmmaker because i want to make stuff that make people feel complex, intense emotions, bring visibility to things i consider important and full of value, make people question things about their lives, about society etc etc, just like the filmmakers i admire do, also may i ask, what are you doing about this? what are you doing to change what you so openly criticize, other than writing walls of bitterness in forums online, your arguments are reductionist, all i get from you is "older cinema good", "current cinema evil and bad"
if you could elaborate, calmly, im listening.
This stood out -
"I want to be a filmmaker because I want to make stuff that makes people feel complex, intense emotions, bring visibility to things I consider important and full of value, make people question things about their lives, about society, etc, etc, just like the filmmakers I admire do, also may I ask, what are you doing about this? what are you doing to change what you so openly criticize, other than writing walls of bitterness in forums online?"
As did this -
"The problem today is that scriptwriters have no experience of hardship so how can they write about it! May I suggest that you log all your grievances about the movie industry or personal life and set about writing a script. Release all your tensions through your fingertips and onto that keyboard, it should make interesting reading. Start today!"
And if I may go back to the original topic, why specifically 'Hollywood'?
Right now, Mr. Deakins is making a big-budget movie in the UK and is on location a few miles down the road from us - all very far away from Hollywood and the lifestyle that it engenders.
Very few people think of Russia’s far-eastern Republic of Sakha and movies being made in the local Yakut language. Today the film industry is booming in Sakha, which is five times the size of France or twice the size of Alaska but has only 1m people. Half of all Russian movies made outside Moscow and St Petersburg are from there. At cinemas in the capital, Yakutsk, local productions often outgross Hollywood blockbusters. In recent years, Yakut directors have been featured at festivals from Berlin to Seoul.
Yakut identity holds clues to the films’ success. Many are shot in the Yakut language, a Turkic tongue with little resemblance to Russian. Scripts draw heavily on Yakut folklore, a tradition-rich with fantasy, mysticism and otherworldly realms.
Beat that, Hollywood!
I am an American but I would not say that 'we' saved any British 'asses' ... but I am British as well. We could argue that but let's not!
I do agree that we should think more about what we are making and less about the technicalities. The French New Wave or the Italian Neo Realists are very good examples of 'artists' (and I hate to use that word) who did not ignore what was happening in the world around them and cared more about content than technique. For me the Russian director Alex Zvyagintev manages to perfect content with technique and his films, to me at least, seem to face the world head on. Maybe, these few offer some proof that film can make a difference? Not often enough, it's true.
For reference - see here -
I've now put 'Loveless' on my 'To Buy' list.
Ah! A fellow Aquarian and kindred spirit, lives on Mars and orbits the earth once in a while to touch base. I will procure some of his films.