Are Cinematographers only “executors”

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    Max A.

      Hello Mr. Deakins and all the cinematographers over this fantastic forum. I hope you Mr. Deakins and Mrs. James are well.
      It’s a long time no writing a post (it’s a weird period of my life) but every day I check the forum and the website to find interesting things to learn from you.

      Today I would like to ask you, if it is possible, something different and in specific your thought about a situation (I don’t know if you had one in your career) where production or a director calls for an interview to hire a cinematographer for a project, but when you are there the director has already a very detailed script treatment (with visual strategies, colors, mood and lighting, camera movements, shot-list, and even storyboard with angles) and he or she wants to stick with it.

      In that case, should we be pure “employees” and executors? I mean, I love doing this role (and maybe I’m too ambitious for my real level) and there are long periods when my phone doesn’t ring, but it seems a bit “reductive” and not so much stimulating going to the set and setting light and camera for shots where I don’t give a minimum of myself as a person and as a human being.

      I know that we are collaborators and that a motion picture product (a short film or a feature or a commercial etc.) is a result of collaboration, I know that there is only one director, but this mode of seeing a cinematographer seems to me a bit “disposable” and also a bit “underestimate”

      I’m not in this kind of situation, but I saw a similar one and then I felt like talking about it and asking you and your thought about it.

      As usual, I want to thank you for your time and your availability. I know you are very busy so I will of course understand if you can’t reply.

      I apologize for my bad English.

      I wish you a peaceful day.

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    • #214791

        Ultimately the director has the last say so what you describe is possible and ‘technically’ ok. Of course it’s not fulfilling as you’re more of a camera operator. So other factors decide whether to take the job (pay, gather experience, make connections ect). But even a job like this should present situations where you can bring yourself in.

        Max A.

          Hello Stip, thank you for your reply. I think you are right, and sometimes it is “needed” to consider every factor (like those you wrote) and try to find a way to bring ourselves to the project with our creative ideas during the dialogue with the director.

          Have a nice day.

          The Byre

            I’ll put it this way – if I had someone on set who had Roger’s talent and experience, I would be bone-crushingly stupid to not listen carefully to what he has to say.  (In German “Dümmer als die Polizei zulässt!”)

            In my whole life, I have always followed the best method of managing a team is to find people who are better at their jobs than I could ever be and then let them get on with it!


              I agree with you but how do you ascertain if they are more knowledgeable than you.

              I have employed many people male and female with a list of credentials and although initially seem to be eager at first turn out to be very disappointing in the long run.

              I find it’s sometimes best to take on the mediocre types and nurture them as the go along,   Also they are cheaper to feed water than the ones who claim to know everything but in the end know nothing.  Train them up on the job is my philosophy.

              Roger Deakins

                There are directors who are very controlling of the image, specify camera placement to the millimeter and the lens length etc.. It is a personal decision whether, as a cinematographer, a purely technical contribution is enough.

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