Today on Day 6 we filmed a pivotal scene in Assassinaut that pushes me to consider how you know if a movie is going to be worth watching. For now, the best I can do is keep things in focus and hope what’s good in front of the camera ends up good in front of the audience.
Behind the Lens
Filmmaking perspectives from the less glamorous side of the camera
Most Recent Articles in "Behind The Lens"
It’s been too long since we’ve explored what it means to be a camera assistant (AC) though the lens of the animated GIF. So here’s 30 GIFs that illustrate life as an AC below-the-line and behind-the-scenes. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll question your career choice – well, you’ll mostly laugh.
Yesterday was the 75th birthday of Batman as a character. In celebration of the milestone, Reddit user Join_You_In_The_Sun compiled 75 behind-the-scenes images from Batman’s various incarnations throughout eight live action films – from Adam West to The Dark Knight Rises:
Happy (belated) birthday Batman!
Exactly how big is a Hollywood film crew? Producer Stephen Follows proposed a similar question to some students in Malaysia he was training to be production assistants:
In order to give the students a sense of the scale of these productions I asked them to guess how many people worked on the movie ‘Avatar’. Guesses ranged from a few hundred up to a thousand. The actual figure (according to IMDb) is 2,984.
This got me thinking about what the number of crew members could tell us about a production.
The figures Follows comes up with are interesting (though include caveats such as IMDB’s dependency on self-reporting) and reiterate that crews are like one giant organism slowly lurching towards a creative goal. Like organisms have organs, there are different departments that each have their own role and Follows manages to break down each department’s numbers as well.
Because of how IMDB is setup, the camera department is lumped together with grips and electrics under the heading of “Camera and Electrical.” So the top three films between 1994 and 2013 with the biggest “Camera and Electrical” crews were Now You See Me (334), Iron Man 3 (260), and Titanic (230). Looking at those movies’ credits on IMDB, a lot of this is due to the fact that crew were sourced as locals from several locations and their shoots also demanded additional units for stunts, VFX, etc.
But even when accounting for IMDB’s misgivings and a healthy margin of error, Follows’ breakdown gives you a real sense of the scale Hollywood films operate at.
Actor Callam Rodya shares 27 tips for those in front of the camera to avoid being labeled as divas:
Don’t get me wrong, acting is extremely difficult (especially when you try to do it well), and it’s important to respect that. But when you look around at everyone else on set, you have to admit, we’ve got a pretty good gig most of the time.
Here are some of my favorite lines from Callam’s list:
3. Some actors like to hang out on set even when it’s not their scene to shoot. That’s okay, but stay the fuck out of everyone’s way.
7. Hit your marks like a precision airstrike. You’re just wasting a take if you and that focus point the camera assistant marked aren’t going to align.
18. If you’re one of those “method” or “internal” types, stay in your trailer until you’re called on set. If you can’t do that, don’t snap at the friendly boom op for “pulling you out of your zone” because he asked you if you’ve seen the “Breaking Bad” finale.
In general, I’ve had good experiences with actors and actresses. There’s been a few moments where they’ve come across as jerks, but then again, I’m sure the same could be said about me – it can happen when you work 12-hours in a pressure cooker.
I do have a bone to pick, however, with Callum’s assumption that crew automatically resent talent for their later call times or for relaxing on set or having it “easy.” Most crew understand it’s just a different gig. It has its own perks and also requires skills (and artistry) many crew don’t have.
The only time I can think of crew resenting talent is when they take these perks too far and hinder the work crew are trying do by showing up late, constantly messing up lines, or not taking things seriously. But that’s a feeling crew have towards anyone on set regardless if they’re below-the-line, above-the-line, in front of, or behind the camera – we just want everyone to work hard, be professional, and do great work.
Those of us in the camera department have known for years that we dress to impress – by being ready for cold weather, hot desert, or a really long day. Adam Carolla agrees and, on one of his podcasts turned into this video, explains why cameramen dress the best.
Each scene in a well-crafted film contains dozens of examples of how the art of cinematography can affect an audience and draw them further into a story or a character. All you have to do is study those films and be willing to learn to become a better cinematographer.
As a cinematographer, Haskell Wexler has brought to life some Hollywood classics and brought home two Oscar statues. But Wexler has also had to put up with the same strenuous working conditions that film crews are often beholden to. Specifically, long working hours that cause sleep deprivation. So he did what any filmmaker might do – he made a movie about it.
When Netflix handed David Fincher the keys to a $100-million production called “House of Cards,” nobody knew what was going to happen. Would the investment pay off? Would Fincher flounder or flourish in television? Is it still considered TV even if it never broadcasts over the cable pipes?
For those with heavy experience, this video is a nice reflection of what you encounter everyday. For those new to the film industry, this video is a brief, concise crash course in the basics of how a film crew operates.