How do you approach a first meeting/ interview with the director? (2 replies)
Let's say you have received a script and read it, you have some ideas and now you are meeting the director for the first time. Would you let them take the lead and ask you questions like in a more traditional job interview? Would you present your ideas? Would you ask them what their vision is? And where do you draw the line between listening and making suggestions?
In the past I found that if I have too many ideas the director might be put off because it's not what they had in mind, but when I tried listening and asking questions I was sometimes told that I didn't get the job because I didn't offer enough ideas. How do I reach a balance here and come across as someone who understands the director's vision and makes a contribution of their own?
I kinda see these meetings as a first date with someone. You are trying to get to know each other as much as you can to see if you really want to be collaborators, but you are also trying to figure out what's in the others mind. As a cinematographer, you need to help bringing the director's vision to the screen and without listening first, you can't decide if his/her vision is truly meets with your imagination. Don't forget that you also interview him/her to see if it's really the right project for you. Without having a similar vision for the story it's going to be a difficult journey. You definitely not going to talk about all of your ideas on this first quick meet, but if you can already direct the conversation to a brainstorming talk than that's definitely a better first impression. They interview you to see if you are the right person for the story and if you can't bring enough creative inputs in it than why they would even choose you? Feel free to share ideas and give opinions after you listened them, because that's the core of a honest collaboration. Of course, you should never push away their ideas and think you are always right. It's about helping each other to be better filmmakers and if he/she will feel that then I think you will be on the right path. Feel free to bring any materials that you think will articulate your imagination of the script - such as visual references from other films or paintings. You need to prove that you can make their movie better and visually more interesting, while your cinematography will also greatly serve the story.
Your job (together with others such as the set designer) is to have ideas WITHIN the director's vision. He/she tells you what they want and you come up with ways to achieve this vision by means of lighting or whatever occurs.
For example - the film requires an older woman to look in a mirror in her childhood bedroom and sees her younger self. The camera swings round to show the other side, i.e. young girl sees her older self. The director is inspired by the dark mirror scene in 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?'
Now, do we just CGI that or do we build a double room with a framed sheet of glass instead of a mirror? What about reflections and lighting design? How do we coordinate the two actors? How closely do we reference the atmosphere in the Baby Jane scene?