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Advice for a director - effective collaboration with a DP (2 replies)

lukemckenzie
2 weeks ago
lukemckenzie 2 weeks ago

Dear Roger,

First of all, thank you for providing this resource... "Sending the elevator back down" is a greatly appreciated, especially by those of us that adore your work.

I'm an actor-turned-writer who has just sold a script, and while I did envision directing eventually I've been fast-tracked to directing this feature by the producer due to my vision and personal connection with the material. I will be relying on my heads of department quite heavily, and while I am researching, honing and articulating my visual preferences (creating my lookbook etc), and I do have an amatuer stills background, I definitely could not talk framing, shot selection or technical aspects of the pricess to the degree my DP-to-be could. My intention is to bring them on during storyboarding and involve them as early as possible, so, with that context, could you give any advice regarding collaborating and communicating with the DP? Is there anything you really LOVE or HATE from a director? And any other words of advice given the circumstances? I'm open to all other's opinions on this too -- I'm a sponge! 

For reference, mine is a prison drama set in 1960s Australia: the redemptive true story of a group of uneducated prisoners who, guided by a visionary parole officer, took on the state debating championship.

Thank you once again for your time, and for all your beautiful work.

Sincerely,

Luke

Roger Deakins
2 weeks ago
Roger Deakins 2 weeks ago

That sounds like an interesting project and I wish you well on it.

Every director that I have worked with has had slightly different skills and a slightly different way of working as well. What they all have in common is a passion for what they do and a respect for the people around them. To me collaboration is key. You don't need the technical know how but I would say that you do need to know what you like and what you don't like. Decision making is important as there really is never enough time in the day. Trust your cinematographer but don't be afraid to say what you think.

Personally, I like being there for storyboarding and for initial location scouts. If I am going to do a film I want to do it the best I can and that means being involved early. The last thing I want to do is turn up only for the Director and Production Designer to say "These are the locations that we are using and here are the storyboards". Of course, some cinematographers might like that!

The Byre
2 weeks ago
The Byre 2 weeks ago

Quote "mine is a prison drama set in 1960s Australia: the redemptive true story of a group of uneducated prisoners who, guided by a visionary parole officer, took on the state debating championship."

That premise sounds fantastic and seems at first hearing to have everything a solid feel-good drama could have - even down to the bad guys and hope and inspiration.  Or as one prison guard once told me "We've got the whole World in here, from lawyers and doctors who cry every night because they killed their wives to hardened career criminals and all the way through to dangerous psychotic animals addicted to physical violence and pain.  

Just knowing the premise, my uninformed guess would be that everything will stand and fall with the quality of the acting.  Enjoy the ride!

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