Over at Pro Video Coalition, Art Adams has a great piece about advice for those just starting out trying to be cinematographers or directors of photography in the industry. In it, the experienced DP himself covers topics ranging from politeness to arrogance to working for free in 13 digestible sections. Some excerpts after the jump…
Adams also covers the topic of how to treat a crew and, as a camera assistant myself, I can say that these two points could ring no truer:
(4) Find good crew who can support you. Gaffers, camera assistants and key grips generally work more often than DP’s do and see a wide variety of situations sooner in their careers. Surround yourself with good people, tell them what you need and let them tell you how they would do it. There are times when you’ll know better than they how achieve a specific effect, but that won’t happen immediately.
I don’t want to tell my gaffer exactly how to hang what light where; I want to tell them that I need a certain amount of light from a certain angle that’s a certain color and quality and let them figure out how to get the light there and which one to use. Sometimes I’ll make suggestions because I want something very specific but otherwise I’ll let them do their job, because they do nothing but electrical work and they’ve done more than I have. (And then I watch what they do and learn.)
This is a great way to keep a crew engaged. We all get into this business to be creative, so the more creativity you allow your crew the happier they will be.
The corollary to that is that you must have a crew that listens to you and doesn’t have their own agenda. A gaffer who thinks they can do your job better than you can is no good to you. You must have crew that follow your lead, and you must have the confidence to allow them to contribute as long as they are moving the project in the right direction.
It takes a lot of confidence to allow your crew to take your ideas and make them better, but that’s the way the film business works. (Or should work.) You’re doing that for a director, so you might as well let your crew help you as well.
Another way to think of it is this: I don’t have to have EVERY lighting idea, but I do have to decide which ones are appropriate. And those are the only ones that reach the director’s ears.
(5) Thank your crew often and sincerely. This goes a long way.
Part of being a cinematographer is having the right mindset to direct the crew that supports the shoot. I think Adams touches on the major points of doing that right: humbleness and a certain level of freedom. A good crew takes a task and finds the solution.
I strongly suggest you head over to Pro Video Coalition and read the rest of the list/tips there. While some of the tips are not anything revelatory or new, it never hurts to read the same advice over again – at least that way you know there’s got to be something to it! Or if you’re hungry for some list style wisdom check out my posts on Helpful Advice for a Film Set, 10 Things Every Camera Assistant Should Know About the RED One and the Top 5 Directors Doing Digital Cinema Filmmaking the Right Way.
P.s. – I’ve been knocked off my daily posting schedule the past couple of days because I’ve been working hard on another website I maintain. I will also be dayplaying a shoot tomorrow. Regular posts will resume Wednesday with some great material – look forward to it. Thanks!