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Shadowing a DOP

Hi all
I received some good advice last time posted on here, so I'm hoping I'll find some again. I am a solo filmmaker (ie, I pretty much do everything myself, with all the pro's and cons that come with that) and in the last year I've produced two short films (one film & one music video) I was fairly happy with both but the more ambitious my projects become, the more I can see my own limitations.
With the last two films I was struggling with certain aspects of cinematography, specifically, lighting.

I have a natural eye for framing a good shot but combining that with good lighting is proving a little more than I'm capable of on my own.
This is an area that I'm becoming increasingly interested in developing and I'm interested in speaking with, and potentially shadowing an experienced DOP / Crew to learn from and network with.

Can anybody offer advice on the best way to move forward with this?

For an example of my current skillset, this is the last film I made - shootingpeople.org/watch/139869/oxbow-a-...

Thanks in advance

  • I think what you are beginning to realise is that, as it says on the Shooting People home page, you can't make a film on your own. It's a team effort and it's a team effort for a reason. You can try to be a jack of all trades but, if you do, you will be the master of none. That saying, I think, is so true.

    Do you want to be a DOP or just want to learn more about lighting so you know what the DOP is up to and understand what he/she needs to do the job so that you can better work with a DOP?

    There are many good Youtube channels now being run by DOPs where they talk about lighting etc. Maybe watch those. Those will help.

    I would suggest, rather than shadowing, it would be more productive to work on other people's shorts etc where you can then observe the DOP in action. Then you are a productive member of the crew rather than a spare body.

    7 months ago
  • As Mark says, shadowing is of limited value and anyway production will be unimpressed for all kinds of reasons from security to insurance to getting in the way to being another damn mouth to feed and transport and park. Instead, get work on a shoot as a runner or camera trainee. You could try Skillset and see if they have any placements.

    Point is it gets you real experience, gets you on set with the whole camera department, and you're a part of the project, not someone getting in the way (and I don't mean that personally, as producer I don't even hang round video village/shop floor unnecessarily as it's busy and space often limited.

    7 months ago
  • Mark - Your words ring true "master of none" is a cloud that I'm increasingly aware of and it's my main inspiration for developing a more specific skill. I've always directed from behind my own camera and while that works for me on my own (to a point) if I'm working with others I'd much rather have control over the camera & image before directing somebody else to. That, ultimately, if why I started doing this in the first place and it's where my strength's lie.

    Paddy - I've often been overlooked for Runner positions because of my age (34) and that I don't have a drivers license. I'm sure if I try harder I can break down those barriers but it's a hefty roadblock all the same and it stifles momentum.
    I'll try Skillset, that's a resource I'd not heard of before. Thank you.

    6 months ago
    • From what you say, my advice would be to find a DOP you can work with (may mean working with several until you find the right fit). Many directors like to operate, particularly in Promos and Commercials. Doesn't take anything away from the DOP. When I work with a director who wants to operate, or operate some of the time; that's fine. It's their vision after all. Its quite common. Let the DOP light and make other creative DOP type decisions while you operate. The DOP won't be offended. :)

      So keep plugging away as a director, join Directors UK if you are not a member (They have a joint networking event about once a year with the BSC where you can meet DOPs). Hook up with a DOP and carry on shooting stuff. Don't worry about the lighting; let the DOP do that. Just direct and operate.

      6 months ago
    • I've had runners older than I am (and that's somewhat older than you are!), it shouldn't be a big deal if you're any good - but a driving license is a real plus. If you're serious and hardworking PM me and I'll pass your details to a line producer on a feature I know is filming next month for a director with several distributed films. It's the bottom rung, but would get you in circulation.

      6 months ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin - that's very kind Paddy, I'll send you a PM now with my details.

      6 months ago
    • @Mark Wiggins - thanks for the encouragement, Mark. I'm checking out Director's UK now. Meeting and collaborating with other skilled people is essential so thank you for pointing me in the right direction.

      6 months ago
  • It's amazing just how much multitasking skill can be picked up over a relatively short period of time if the aptitude, opportunity and enthusiasm fits. It's not a one size fits all scenerio. It often depends on just how technically demanding a specific project is. Whilst there's definitely truth in the saying 'a jack of all trades is master of none' it's not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    Thirty years ago or more I needed to develop viable skills across the entire production process, and my partners and I did so with some success. Over the last decade or so as we've been able to work with bigger crews I've not had to do as much and I'm aware of getting rusty in some areas. Masters of a trade do need to keep focused and working in order to maintain that higher level of skill. Nevertheless the jack of all trades can also offer some perfectly viable and valuable skills in terms of oversight and joined up management of a production in addition to aquiring good quality audio visual rushes for high end projects. They're multitaskers and that's how they are able to get exactly where they're aiming for; for examples look at the people who actually get a production off the ground and to a completion. Rarely does that duty fall to a DOP, an editor or even very often a director. The days of the creative producer are very much upon us. The increasingly user friendly tools available and instant confidence referencing has made the learning curves much more experiential and much less theoretical. It really does take all sorts. 'One ought not take ones own case for a generality' is a pretty fair observation.

    6 months ago