During Cinereach's 2010 Reach Film Fellowship (cinereach.org), Director of Photography Mike Simmonds led an advising session.
In this video (shot by Miranda Rhyne and edited by Stephan Greil) Mike shares his perspective on the director/DP relationship, drawing from his experience working with directors like Ramin Bahrani, Ira Sachs and Robert Siegel.
Some key points from the conversation include:
-When selecting a Director of Photography to work with, Mike advises meeting with candidates first in a casual setting, not necessarily discussing film or the project at-hand right away. Look for compatibility, mutual respect and the potential for a true collaboration first.
-Speak to other directors a DP has worked with to find out what their working relationship was like, or to learn of any red flags.
-While working with a DP on set, the DP and director should welcome each other's suggestions and constructive criticisms, maintaining a calm and respectful tone. Both should feel comfortable weighing in on blocking, lighting setup, etc. without being overly rigid about each others roles.
-The DP must be able to efficiently cover a scene or action in a manner that will make sense in the edit, within the time available. The DP and AD set the pace of the day, and speak up when the production is in danger of not making its day.
-Before heading into a production, Mike suggests knowing how you would shoot each of your scenes in one shot, even if you don’t end up doing so, to force yourself to decide who is most important in that scene.
- Mike advises that creating storyboards works best when preparing to shoot on a set or a constructed location. When your locations are real places, he suggests shooting stills or video (while also scouting the locations at the time of day you'll be there during production) in order to map out your shots and understand lighting needs.
- Shooting your film in a simplistic style, with as small and efficient a crew as possible, is the best way to learn from the process. It also allows you to focus on telling your story clearly and effectively.
-When you're not in production, Mike recommends watching as many films as possible, developing an inventory of images in your head. These images train your eyes and can can be used as frames of reference when you are shooting your own films.