First Full Length Feature

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  • #169731

      Hello everyone, and thanks to Roger and James and the team for this great opportunity for aspiring cinematographers here.

      I have a question for you all.
      Next summer, I will get to shoot my first full length feature film with a budget of 1.5mil€. It’s here in Germany. For me, having shot 2 music videos, 2 documentaries and 1 short feature film before and being 23 years old, this is huge and it feels like a dream coming true. But at the same time, I am incredibly nervous. And there is a lot of first times on this:
      – first time on a big set with a department I have to lead
      – first time with a big budget (for me it’s big)
      – first time full length feature
      – first time with a full size cinema camera

      Now my question:
      What tips do you have for a first time as DoP on a big set?
      And, imagining being in my place, how would you use the next 6 months to prepare? What would you read, what would you do?

      I never went to film school and everything I do is self taught (e.g. through the great great resources Roger provides here and in Rogers and James’ podcast). I know I can do this, I think I have a pretty good impression on how I wanna light and shoot. But the imagination of putting it into practice on a big set is a bit daunting!

      So thank you all a lot, hope you having a great day,

      (P.S. probably this will not be my last topic here with questions I have during my very own prep the next months)

    Viewing 4 replies - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
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    • #169737
      Max A.

        Hello Simon!

        If I can join in this topic and give you some of my impression, I recently ended my first feature with less budget (almost 1/3 I guess) but the first for me with a crew (4 guys per department).
        I’m self-taught too if this can make you more chill, and the first “tip” that I want to give you is: enjoy your role.
        Probably you love what you do and what you study so this is the moment where you can express yourself and learn a lot.
        For me, it was so stressful and so inspiring with a lot of challenges and “issues” but sometimes I really enjoyed those moments.

        The way you prepare the movie is basically subjective. Of course, If I can give you some “tips” based on my point of view (but here there are a lot of DP much more experienced than me and of course, there is Mr. Deakins that is a legend):

        Talk a lot with the director, and try to understand what he/she means when talking about dark scenes/bright scenes, cold/warm, etc.
        Share a lot of visual references with he/she and ask he/she to send you others so you can understand (and of course “trigger” he /she) the visual language that he/she imagines for the story.
        Of course, you are a lot of responsibility for the final “image” so try to tell the director “why” you thought about that look for the scene, etc. so he/she could understand your vision.

        Go and see each location to shoot, if some location is far away from the language you discuss with the director be sincere immediately, otherwise, you have big problems during the shooting day. Another important aspect (in my opinion) about the locations is to understand what kind of “issues” there are, in order to understand how “fight” those issues to achieve the result you want. For issues, I also mean technical issues.

        If your crew is your first crew (like me) go to meet them, talk about the project, about you, and about your vision. Believe me, they are really the extension of your arms and they can help you so much during stressful moments of the set.
        If they know what you want to achieve, they can help you with proper tips during shooting, otherwise, you could receive a lot of “incorrect” pieces of information that can distract you (and in some cases make you insecure).
        On set often there is no time to overthink, so be prepared at better you can and sometimes listen to your instinct. The set (seemed to me) has its own life and things can also happen during the day of the shoot.

        It will be a great opportunity for you, so work hard and enjoy!

        This is my cent for this topic.
        Have a nice day.

        Roger Deakins

          That is good advice. The job is stressful and it must be stressful. I find the job only becomes ever more so as you try for a perfection that is unattainable.

          Allow others to feel involved in your process even if, in the end, you make all the decisions. Create a quiet and welcoming place for the actors. Without them you have nothing.


            Roger, I will direct my first feature next year and this advice is great for me as well. Thank you and James very much for sharing your knowledge so patiently with us here.


              Thank you so much, Max and Roger, for your incredibly kind replies. I soaked all of that in and it is very helpful to me. Especially what you said about working with the actors, Roger, and about working with your crew, Max.
              And Max, it helps a lot to know that I’m not the only starting out on a full scale production without going to film school! 😀 That is a bit calming.

              I will keep you guys updated on how it went one year from now!
              (pbb I will ask more questions in the meantime though)

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