Our first Webcast where our host, Sarah Marince, discusses the Director of Photography role with three solid DP’s in the industry.

Discussion Topics

– Production Terms: Differences between videographers, cinematographers, camera operators and director of photographers.
– Preparing for a shoot.
– Biggest challenges experienced on set.
– Favorite cameras and gear to shoot with.
– Projects they would like to be shooting more.

Panel Participants

Sarah Marince – Host & Voice Talent
Justin McAleece – Director of Photography
Ashley Petrie – Director of Photography
Paul Olson – Director of Photography

 

Panel Discussion

Sarah Marince:

Hello everyone, and welcome to our very first Shoots.Video webcast. I am Sarah Morris. I’m a voice talent and I’m also your host for this evening. And we have three very talented DP’s with us here this evening to talk about their journey and answer some of your questions. I’ll go ahead and introduce them. We have Justin McAleece, we have Paul Olson and Ashley Petrie. I’ll let Justin go first.

Justin McAleece:

Hi, Justin McAleece, director of photography and I do some other stuff as well, but mainly do that. I’ve been with this company BLARE Media that we started around 2005 so I’ve been doing that for a long time and graduated from Fresno state a long time ago with a video production degree. So that’s my deal.

Ashley Petrie:

I’m Ashley Petrie. I’m a director of photography as well. And I actually just recently moved to Los Angeles. I’ve been here for about 10 months…and I love it. I’m coming here from Chicago. I studied cinematography at Columbia College and I also just have some general crew experience mostly in the grip department and that has lent itself to a lot of my learning more of my craft as a cinematographer, but I’m really excited to get shooting more.

Sarah Marince:

Very cool. I think we’re waiting for Paul to hop on, but until he does, we’re going to go ahead and roll into some questions, if that’s all right with the two of you. So we’re gonna start with some of the terms. So what’s the difference between videographers, cinematographers, camera operators, and director of photography and whoever wants to take this first can go ahead.

Justin McAleece:

They sort of overlap a lot, but I think that there’s some important ways to look at it. I think if you were working on a movie, if you were the DP on a movie, you probably wouldn’t want him to be called a videographer. So I think there’s a level of experience and intellectual thought behind it that probably elevates you to something a little bit different than what a videographer would be. But because everyone does video now, those are sort of interchangeable in a way. I think a camera operator doesn’t necessarily have to be in charge of lighting at all. Like they can just be there to operate the camera. And on a union giga DP is always allowed to have a cam op. And so maybe a DP doesn’t even necessarily have to run any camera and they can let that person do or you might have multiple or however that works. So there’s some gray areas there depending on what size of production you are. But on union gigs, it’s very well figured out. And if you’re on a small gig, a lot of times the grip is going to pick up the camera too. They might be a camera operator, but that’s not their main job, but they might be good at it. So that sort of thing can happen. I forgot the other one, but Ashley…

Ashley Petrie:

Yeah, I think when you’re talking about someone that is shooting narrative cinema or television, the terms director of photography and cinematographer are interchangeable. I think it’s just semantics and it’s somewhat subjective and a lot of it is going to come down to the preference of the DP or the cinematographer. They’re usually going to say, I want to be titled and credited as this “role”, that’s what I’m doing. But I think the word cinematography applies itself more to the narrative context. You know, after all the word cinema is the prefix in the word there. So there’s that. But I would say that all cinematographers, in my opinion, are DP’s, but not all DP’s are cinematographers. Like when you’re shooting something corporate or live event or something like that, or a reality show is actually a really good example. Reality TV, I would say you’re a DP. I wouldn’t say that you’re a cinematographer in that scenario. I just think that the camera work and the lighting that you do for the narrative format, it’s just more refined and like that’s really what makes it cinematography. I think that videographers, they shoot live events. They don’t have a lot of control over what is happening in front of the camera. Whereas cinematographers, they do have a ton of input. They do offer input on the blocking, on the production design on any little detail that is affecting the visuals. Whereas, you know, if you’re shooting a live event, you’re there with the camera there, you’re just there to get it. You have all this creative input when it comes to like the way you shoot with the focal length with where you put the focus, focus pulls, F stop camera movement. All those things are creative decisions that the videographer makes. But I would say it’s something that’s separate from cinematography and that’s what makes you a videographer. And camera operators are people that operate cameras, find here maid service in bergen county. A lot of the times DP’s are going to operate they’re going to be their own camera operator on their shoot. But if the budget allows for it, they’re usually gonna want to hire someone to operate.

Sarah Marince:

Okay. Awesome. And moving on, what’s the difference between DP roles on a film set and a corporate video type shoot?

Justin McAleece:

I think one thing that often happens on a corporate suit is you might not have a director. So if you only have like a three person crew or something, you got like maybe a sound guy and a DP and a grip or gaffer or something like that, then the de facto DP, the effective director B is the DP and that sort of situation, they have to sort of guide it along a lot differently than you would on a movie set or something like that where the DP would never really be doing what the director’s doing. Cause that sort of starts with the director. So I think that can be very interesting and you have to have someone that’s ready to take charge on a sort of small corporate type thing and do a lot of what the role of a director would be.

Sarah Marince:

Okay. Ashley?

Ashley Petrie:

Yeah, I definitely agree with what Justin is saying. I would also really, when I think of a corporate shoot, I think it’s, you know, there’s two things that come to mind for me, which are you’re there to serve the client and it’s really best if you stick to the plan. Like I think for corporate, you come up with these, these shot lists, these meticulous storyboards, everyone has seen them. You hang them up and it’s like, all right, this is exactly what we’re doing. You know, boom, boom, boom. You’re not really trying to throw a lot of new stuff in there on the day of the shoot, you have all this pressure. You have the client right there usually. And it’s, it’s kind of all about sticking to that form. I think on a film set. The differences, you’re there to serve the director and the director’s vision. And then what you’re also bringing is a willingness and an ability to improvise, to be able to watch a scene and say, Oh, Hey, like we planned on doing this handheld, but now that we’re here, now that we’re in the space and we’re seeing it, maybe, maybe it isn’t going to work better on sticks or Oh, I like, we have an idea for a new shot. Maybe we can change this really quick. It’s kind of risky, but creatively it can be worth it. And that environment kind of fosters that kind of creativity a little bit more I think.

Sarah Marince:

Okay. Hi Paul. Oh, no worries. So we’re gonna move on to this question. How do you plan for a shoot and I guess, Paul, since you’re joining us now, you want to take this question first?

Paul Olson:

I guess it depends on the shoot. I mean, I try to do as much planning as possible. Text locations and stuff is just super important. I think for me, I like knowing how much power is available. What are our restrictions on, you know, what can we change? What can we move? What can, you know, absolutely. You know, can’t be touched as you get into certain locations. And it’s you know, whether you’re, you’re shooting at like a national park or something like that, or somebody’s house, there’s certain things that are just like complete, no goes and it’s just, it makes the day go so much easier to go. You know, I would love a light here and to just flat out know that that’s not going to happen or let’s get creative and figure out how it is or, you know, okay, let’s make sure the generators are going to be able to run the lights all day, you know, for everything. So I mean, I, I think, I think prepping the day like that really helps out, but obviously seeing this space and, you know, getting an idea of, of, you know, how those scenes are going to come to life in the actual area you know, is just super important. So I like, I like prep work.

Justin McAleece:

I think you know, aside from all that technical type of stuff and logistics, which is a crucial, I think going in knowing from the director or the writer, if it’s like a smaller shoot or whatever it happens to be, it’s just having a theme in mind, like having an approach creatively. There’s a thing I read a long time ago about Martin Scorsese, like breaks every movie down into one word. So maybe casino is just like greed, maybe the word for that entire movie screen because you have a lot of questions to answer as a director for sure. But even as a DP of like, what’s greedy to me, how does that, how do I convey that in every, every lighting choice or angle or lens or whatever that happens to be while I’m doing it. And so just having a general theme in mind, I think answers a hundred questions that you wouldn’t be able to think of beforehand so you wouldn’t be able to answer it any other way except for you had like a heuristic, a measuring stick. I wish to do that.

Paul Olson:

Yeah. Litmus test. Yeah.

Ashley Petrie:

Yeah, I think there’s kind of like an obvious process that a lot of us go through when we get ready. It’s, you know, read the script, have the meetings talk shot lists and storyboards and location Scouts. I think those things are like a given with every single project. But for me, I think what really helps me get prepared for what I’m about to do is talking with the director and finding what the visual references are that we want to use as an example for what we are trying to achieve. Whether it’s other films or even just photographs or paintings, like just having a tangible physical example of what the goal is and what you’re trying to achieve. I think that really helps everyone get on the same page. So while all these things are really important I feel like once I can have like a few references of what we’re trying to do, that really helps me know how to continue.

Justin McAleece:

Yeah. It’s important because when directors are, especially if you haven’t worked with someone very much, they’re going to throw out a word, say organic, you know, the most generic word that we hear a lot of times. I’m like, what does that even mean? And so that might be something entirely different to that director than it was to the last person you worked with. And so like you’re saying like concrete, visual evidence of what that means to them is super important.

Sarah Marince:

Okay. So we’re going to talk about some nightmare scenario safeguards. Okay. What’s

Sarah Marince:

Your process to ensure footage is never lost.

Justin McAleece:

The key is to know who the DIT is, know how many hard drives is going to go on to be able to look at it after the, after they supposedly transfer it, that sort of thing. I mean, that’s everyone’s nightmare is doing it and then it doesn’t show up where it’s supposed to show up.

Paul Olson:

Oh yeah. For sure. Yeah, and from experience I can say you can’t just do a check sum. You can’t just go, Oh, all the bites that were here went over here. You have to look at the footage because it’s technology and sometimes it messes up and you might drop a few frames here and there. So we were shooting with the red one and yes

Paul Olson:

[Inaudible] however, that was when we were actually plugged in. Everything that was battery was fine, but when we were actually plugged in with the AC, something was causing it to drop a frame every about five minutes worth of role. And so we lost like 20% of a film because we had bad frames in it that we didn’t know until we actually got into preproduction. We were starting to do our rough edit and it was like, yeah, like all this is bad. And it was honestly, it was to have the amount where we, we couldn’t really recover it. It was too much to do reshoots with on a no budget film. And so, you know, it was dead, it killed the project.

Justin McAleece:

Wow, that’s rough man. Yeah, I mean, being able to actually look at it and there’s obviously a lot of other reasons why you want to look at your footage just to make sure you’re not like sort of under underexposing everything. Or there’s a you know, you could have a dead pixel on the camera and you’d never see that in like a small monitor or while you’re going at the other way. So yeah, that’s super important to like get a good look at it on a big monitor.

Ashley Petrie:

Yeah. And I would say to start dumping those cards before they fill up. There’s no reason to like shoot out your media like that. If you’re on a set where you have a loader, you have enough crew, you have multiple cards, hopefully just pass them off when they’re halfway full or whatever. There’s no reason to wait, you know, on the chances that the entire card might be compromised in one way or another. You can, you can keep offloading them sooner and then just backup your hard drives. Just back them up, back them up, have multiple hard drives and then don’t keep all your hard drives in the same place. Like even for me and my own personal footage, it’s, you know, I’m in LA now. My mom in Chicago has a hard drive that has all my stuff on it. That’s just a copy. It’s like, God forbid there’s a house fire, there’s some kind of an emergency, something gets stolen, whatever it might be. You just want to have another hard drive somewhere else. You know, if you have three hard drives, it’s not necessarily that great if they’re just all stacked on top of each other, you know, who knows what could happen. I would just say have them in different places.

Sarah Marince:

That’s really good advice. I like that. What’s your favorite camera to shoot with and why?

Ashley Petrie:

For me I would go with the Alexa mini LF. I would always choose a full format sensor for any narrative project that I’m doing. Someone’s Alexa is going off right now. My Alexa. Okay. I’m sorry guys. She heard me say that “A” word. She thought I was talking to her…well we all know what camera I’m talking about. The reason I liked that camera so much is really because of how ergonomic it is. Like you have all these great cameras with these great sensors. You put good lenses on it, you’re going to get beautiful images. But with Arri it’s just so ergonomic. It can sit right on your shoulder. It’s balanced. It’s friendly for the AC’s that are working with it. The menus aren’t all finicky, you know, I’ve never heard any silly, crazy stories about those cameras like heating up or you know, having these meltdowns in the middle of set. Like I’ve heard those stories about Red plenty of times. I’m sure we all have. It’s just such a full poof camera because the people that made this digital cinema camera, were making the best 35 millimeter cameras back when people were shooting on film. So they really have a perfect product in my opinion. I think.

Justin McAleece:

Yeah, I’m sort of on the other thing…I like Alexa. I like those cameras and I’ve had fun with the mini and the 60 pluses and all that…I’m a red guy just cause I’ve owned one of those since 2009 or so, 2008. And shooting on a monstro was really cool. I love being able to switch resolutions as I go, have a lot of options for over cranking and be able to go up and down the ISO’s. So that’s super useful in a real world scenario where I want to change my depth of field or be able to just like instead of going from a 21 mil to a 24 mil or something like that, if I know that we’re going to finish in 4K, I can go from 6K to 8K and as long as we’re not doing some VFX or something like that, then it’s like an easy thing to be able to change my field of view on the fly.

Justin McAleece:

So that was super useful on the feature we are doing. And aside from that, it’s fun to use new cameras. And I feel like that happens a lot on set these days is someone brings out the newest GoPro and they’re like, here, figure it out, let’s go. Or we have a cable camera of some sort or we’re doing, you know, any of this stuff in the sky, those are different cameras. So that’s part of the fun of the job. It’s a little scary, but I like using brand new technology that just came out that we get to kind of beta test sometimes, which is, I don’t know. That’s fun too.

Paul Olson:

Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I like shooting on pretty much anything as long as I could put Zeiss glass in front of it. But yeah, I like the red personally cause I like Justin, I’ve just, I filmed with it for so long. And I like the ideas of, of a lot of the little pieces of equipment that they have. Like I have this square shutter for mine, so I never get a flicker, from any light. So it really allows me to go ahead, and make whatever light source I want for the shots that I want…so, you know, I use a lot of, you know, led lights and things that I’ve designed myself…and I can do that much easier than having to make sure that they are a flicker free led with a flicker free ballast if I do any dimming that all the Damien is done using voltage to mean instead of PWM, things like that. So I mean, I just like all the little, the little toy add ons.

Sarah Marince:

So speaking of cameras and equipment, what’s one piece of gear that you cannot live without besides cameras?

Justin McAleece:

Yeah, it’s hard to say

Paul Olson:

Zeiss. Yeah. I liked the Zeiss lenses.

Ashley Petrie:

For me I would have to say a Dolly…and depending on what the budget is of the shoot, you know, that’s either going to be like a real full-size Chapman Dolly or it might be a slider or it might be a Dana Dolly, which is really cheap and accessible for almost any project, I think. But those like smooth, versatile camera movements, I just think they upped the production value of anything so much that it’s something that I would always want to have with me.

Justin McAleece:

I guess I really like my pouch, which has like a bunch of stuff in it…having a laser pointer, having, even if I’m the DP and I’m not really supposed to touch stuff, sort of that stuff. Like just having a Leatherman on me is really nice. So I use chalk occasionally. Any of that stuff that’s like in my pouch ready to go, that stuff’s super useful to me.

Sarah Marince:

Okay, cool. And what are some projects that you guys would like to be shooting more of and why?

Justin McAleece:

It’s hard to say. We do a lot of different stuff, like a big variety. We went to Kenya last year. That was awesome and got to do a bunch of wildlife stuff, looking at cheetahs and elephants and rhinos and all that for Microsoft. That was super fun. So I’m always down to travel and go to exciting places and look at exciting stuff. That’s always a good time. But then for me personally, it’s like as soon as I do that I want to go do a feature and I want to do something that’s like way more hands on. I can manipulate everything, I can make all the choices or have the crew make the choices with me. And that’s really intriguing as well. So it sort of bounces back and forth honestly.

Ashley Petrie:

I would really love to do more features and music videos. I think if I could do anything I mean really my interest in like the long form narrative is what made me want to work in the industry. So I really just like to get more experience with that. I think there’s just so much room for creativity in those types of projects and like the types of creative problem solving that you have to do on those projects…it’s just thrilling to me is like a cinematographer and an artist. Like, you know, even on something like an indie feature, you’re not really going to get the budget that you probably want or even think that you need. But then finding solutions to like jump over those logistical hurdles…it’s just fun and it just can bring out some really great results.

Ashley Petrie:

And same thing with like music videos. I think that it’s just the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can do, like the concept of a video. It can be anything. And some of my favorite videos have some of the most minimalist approaches to them. They didn’t all have like big budgets or great cameras or anything like that. There’s some that I love that were shot on phones. So I just think that like the creative environment, those types of projects foster like that really interests me. So I would love to do more of those if I could. What about you Paul?

Paul Olson:

Yeah. Features. I mean, I love shooting features…that’s definitely what I enjoy. I like features. Features. Good.

Sarah Marince:

Perfect. Okay. And in just a minute, we’re going to hop over to some of our viewers questions. If you have questions, feel free to type them in the chat box here and we’re going to get to them in just a minute. Before we do that, one last question that I have. Tell us about some of your, one of your biggest challenges on location that did not have to do with lighting.

Justin McAleece:

I think sometimes you’re pointing one direction and then, you know, a construction thing or a big truck or something that you can’t move and you have no control over whatsoever that shows up and that has happened a couple times and you’re like, you just can’t shoot that way anymore. And so you have to sort of rejigger the entire thing and find out a different way to approach the scene. And oftentimes it turns out better. It’s like more interesting and entertaining for you anyway. And so I think the great thing about filmmaking is a lot of times when you pivot, you do something creative that really turns out better in the long run. I think that’s one of my favorite parts of that. And that’s when teamwork gets to really shine to like, sorry guys, what we were planning on doing, totally gonna suck and we got to do something else and then everyone can join in and like make something better.

Sarah Marince:

I feel like that happens maybe at least like once, even in a small way on sets, like that’s pretty common that things will happen where you need to adjust. Right?

Justin McAleece:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Sarah Marince:

Okay. Cool. Ashley, what about you?

Ashley Petrie:

I think my biggest nightmare was really just a scenario that I’ve found myself in where when I was still in college, I was shooting a movie that was produced by the school and it was a short that we were doing and I had two 35 millimeter film cameras on a beach and it started to storm. So just shooting on a beach in general is really difficult. Even if it’s a beautiful day. We all know that cameras don’t like sand. Of course we had the proper protection and we’re taking the proper precautions and all that, but it being a, you know, a student short film, it was slightly understaffed and then, you know, having two cameras instead of one and then having the weather go haywire on us. It was just kind of chaotic. We got through it. The footage was okay. You know, no one got hurt or anything like that. But just being in the elements has always been one of my biggest challenges. Like coming from a Chicago work area. It’s not like LA where it’s just beautiful and sunny and nice all the time. So that has always presented a lot of difficulty, a lot of physical strain on me and my crews…but we always have gotten through it.

Paul Olson:

Beach shooting is always fun and we’ve, we’ve done that before. And the sand, you know, no matter how well you wrapped the camera, that’s great. Except then you have all the sand going into all the gears of the steadicam. So at the point it was like you could hear the steady camera grinding. There’s like, Oh, I have to take apart everything. But yeah, I mean we’ve got that, I think one of the most frustrating was because it was like death by a thousand cuts kind of thing, which was filming a feature in Northwest Arkansas during winter. So it was mostly outside. So it was like 12 to 14 hour days, pretty much outside all day. And by the 14th or 16th day on, like we had equipment just breaking like the little, little snaps here and there and little, little, you know, little bolts that were plastic or, you know, not very good metal were breaking, cause they had just been in the cold for so long that they were just fragile. And it was just, like I said, it was just like, Oh, now this broke. Okay, well we already used all the spare parts on the other one, you know, so it’s always fun, creative you know, to solve the problem and move on.

Justin McAleece:

I think I remembered one more thing, a little bit different than that cause that one sucks. But like we were shooting something where we were trying to wait for a train to pass one time and we’ve got everything set up. It was great. You’re waiting for the train and it took, we had looked at the schedule and all that and it ended up taking like a legit half an hour longer than what we thought it was going to take to get there. And then about 15-seconds before the train shows up, the sun goes away and it looks garbage and we had to take the shot and we got it. And it was, we ended up like not even using a train, passing shop isn’t just, Oh man, that was awful. And like we had to move as we got it. We’re like, dude, 15 more seconds on the sun on the clouds. We would have been saved. So sometimes stuff like that happens. We can’t do anything about it. What are you gonna do?

Sarah Marince:

Yeah. All right, so we’re going to start with some of our viewer questions here. I like this first one. Okay. Talk about some crew do’s and don’ts in terms of how they should interact with the DP.

Justin McAleece:

I mean I think it goes for anyone on set who you’re, who you’re talking to, who sort of in the chain of command is above you. Like don’t tell them what they should do. Say you know, Hey, if you want to hear an idea, I have one about what might work here. You know, just like really approach it in a way to where you’re offering ideas but really be sure that you want to give it…if you’re the gaffer that’s fine. You know, like you guys are sort of talking about everything on the same level, but if you’re a PA and you’re coming into it and just being like, Hey, you should do this or on my movies I always shoot it this way or whatever. Like really mind your toungue in those situations because, and it’s not even that, you don’t have a good idea, you might have the best idea, but for one it’s not your place to put it in, in that situation because you do that on your movie. And for two, a lot of times what I’ve encountered is the DP and the director have already got that idea like six ideas ago. They’ve already moved way past that because there’s a bunch of reasons why that won’t work. And so that’s what I’ve done when I’ve, when I was a PA, whenever I came up and I’ll say, Hey, what about this? I’m like, Oh shit. They already figured out that that was stupid a long time ago. That’s why they’re not going to use that idea.

Ashley Petrie:

Yeah. I think it really just comes down to having respect, having respect for the hierarchy and the title of the person that you’re working for, respecting that they are your boss. Like, I’ve seen a lot of people kind of talk some smack about the boss or the DP or just, you know, starting all

Ashley Petrie:

This, you know, talk behind everyone’s back about they’re doing this or they did that or they made us do this. And it’s like you’re really just bringing the morale of the whole crew down if you’re kind of engaging in that kind of behavior…and so really if there’s something about the way the DP is running the show that is making things more difficult, there’s a way to bring it to them that is respectful and that can solve the problem. You can always just say like, Hey, you know, next time I need you to give me this much heads up before we go on steady cam. Or you know, if you want me to remember to change the diffusion filter on the lens, like just tell me that, don’t yell at me if I forgot because I didn’t know. You know, it’s like, it’s just communication. There’s a way to do it respectfully.

Paul Olson:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think respect is just the number one thing. Be respectful. We’re all here to be, you know, a collaborative and do the best product that we can…and I mean sure, once in a while you’ll meet somebody who’s just not interested in anybody’s input…and again, you’ve got to respect that, you know, if they’re over your head then that’s the way it is, you know, and, you know, try to do the best you can to get the vision of that person, get what’s in their head out…and I think for me a lot of the times too, I say, you know, if you are having any issues or anything like that, don’t let it fester. Don’t let it, you know, bring the morale down. Don’t, don’t go around doing weird things. Just come in and talk to me like very rarely are you ever going to hurt my feelings on anything or you know, like I’m never going to see something and be like, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that. Like very rarely. So it is much easier to just just handle that as it comes up instead of it being like day 15 is like, I can’t believe you did this on day two. And it’s like, dude, I can guarantee you, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Sarah Marince:

Right. So another question, do you guys really think things will go back to what it was before?

Justin McAleece:

I think we’re, I think there’s going to be a run for actual production work. I think there’s going to be a ton of stuff happening. Whether people are trying to like be weird about touching people or touching things or shaking hands or any of that stuff. That’s probably going to be a little odd for a while. And just being like close proximity. I think people will be weird about that. But I think there’ll be a ton of production here because like stuff needs to happen.

Paul Olson:

Yeah, I mean you can, you can only do so much with, you know, motion graphics and still photography, stuff like that. I mean eventually you have to have a production and to do a production requires X amount of people in the same place at the same time. So yeah, I mean, things might change a little bit. There might be a lot more hand sanitizer onset, butit’s got to get done. So…

Ashley Petrie:

Yeah, for the most part, yeah. I think a lot of it will because people are hungry for content now more than ever. I know there’s a lot of producers and production companies that are brainstorming like, how do we create content without bringing people together? And they’re finding ways to do it and they’re coming up with some interesting ideas, but nothing will ever replace the quality of production that you get when you bring people physically together. So I think that as soon as we are clear to do that, we will be doing that because we all want to get back to work and people are hungry for more stories, you know, now more than ever.

Sarah Marince:

Yup. What are some subtle technique qualities that separate the greats from the amateurs?

Paul Olson:

Purpose. I mean, if you’re doing something just because you probably shouldn’t do it, there should be a reason that you’re doing everything. Everything should be thought of. I mean, sometimes things can happen by happenstance and you can go with it at the moment cause it fell right and that that could be the right call. But I mean, I think for me throughout my career that I’ve experienced for myself is don’t make a decision, just because, think of why you’re doing that. Does that shot need to move? Does the camera need to float? Don’t just use a piece of equipment just because you have it.

Justin McAleece:

Sometimes, what you leave on the truck is more important than what you take off.

Paul Olson:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Justin McAleece:

Yeah, Similar thing. I mean it’s about having an approach that you stick to throughout a production. If you’re talking about a feature or something and like really concentrating on staying consistent, which can be super hard cause over the course of three weeks or a month or even longer, like it can be easy to forget what you’ve established and then go into something else and it feels like it’s a month apart. But then when you look at it in the edit, it’s five seconds apart and suddenly you’re like, Oh, I should’ve paid a little more attention to how I was approaching that scene versus the next scene. I’ve definitely made some mistakes in that and I know that I cringe when I see it on the big screen or whatever, but you try to get better over time and just maintain that consistency throughout a production.

Ashley Petrie:

When it comes to cinematographers, I think what separates the greats from the amateurs, I would say I thought about this a lot and it’s really two things. It’s one; knowing actually how to light and two; maintaining your own sense of integrity as an artist in your craft. I think there’s a lot of people out there that they just kind of hire talented people and kind of like ride on the backs of like what the people around them can give without maybe having so much knowledge themselves. But I think the truly great DP’s, have that knowledge. They’re not just looking at a gaffer and saying like, yeah, whatever you wanna do. They know what they like…Like Paul was saying earlier, there’s a purpose behind it. There’s intention, there’s a plan there. There’s a real sense of like what the craft actually is. Cause there’s kind of a lot of people that can kind of get away without having that. But the real great ones, they really actually know what they’re doing.

Justin McAleece:

…And When I listened to a DP’s talk on podcasts or things like that, I think they’re continually finding ways to be inspired too. I think that’s super important is just approaching something with new fresh ideas because they’re outliving their lives and like breathing and feeling and thinking and pondering and stuff like that. I think that can be really important. I always hear them talking about like, Oh, I’m so into this thing and so I want to incorporate it in this next movie. And that’s always really inspiring.

Sarah Marince:

Cool. All right. Moving along. Where do you get your inspiration from and what helps you get inspired to come up with the look for the projects you are working on? Speaking of inspiration.

Ashley Petrie:

Kind of going back to what I was saying earlier, just figuring out what the references are going to be. I’m normally going to try to look for at least one or two films that have a style and a tone that I think speaks to what we’re about to do. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to copy everything that they do, but I’m definitely going to try to get a strong sense of what the approach was behind that project and then think about ways that I can apply some of those tactics into what we’re about to do. And it could come from anywhere, the obvious GoTo is to look at other films or other music videos or whatever if you’re doing a music video. But any type of art can be inspiration for what you can do or what you’re about to do.

Ashley Petrie:

Paintings are great, photographs are great, music can inspire certain visuals. So, and just everyday life kind of what Justin was just saying, he’s like, these other DP’s, they’re always trying new things, they’re not only living their lives in the film world, they’re out doing other things and they’re going to apply that to what they’re going to do. And some of my best teachers in college always said that they’re always like, guys, get out there and travel and see the world and just experience life and that’s gonna make you a better artist and give you inspiration and put intention behind what you do at work.

Sarah Marince:

Paul, do you have anything to add to that?

Sarah Marince:

Yeah, I mean, I think the mood boards and the examples of like, Ooh, I want that feel is very important. You know, we always set up like a Dropbox with everybody and you just add in like, Oh look at this photography or here I took this picture cause I was out in like, Oh man. Like, Oh yeah, that’s what we want to see. You know, that feel of it, whatever it be for whatever project. And, I’m lucky enough to work with a lot of the same people and over and over again. So you kind of have a shorthand with them anyways, but, you know, watch a few movies or listen to a few music…like those things to where you’re on set and you can go, Oh dude, you’re like, what about this thing? And like you can not even get the sentence out. And the first is like, dude, I know what you’re talking about.

Justin McAleece:

I’d say it’s really fun to be able to share common references and just like get excited about the thing because you get that idea. And that’s why watching a lot of stuff is important too. And not even just all the Oscar movies, but things outside of that because I think bringing a different genre…If you’re doing a horror movie and watching a romantic comedy might be useful because if you’re only watching horror movies, then you’re going to do the same stuff that everyone else is doing. So I think cross genre is important too.

Sarah Marince:

Cool. For producer’s and director’s who have hired you, what are the best things they can do to empower your success and best work?

Justin McAleece:

Be honest about what our sandbox is…What we have to work with, how much time we have…if we’re going to be rushed the entire day. If the crew that you’re giving me, if like if I didn’t hire my crew or something like how green they actually are, just what the criteria is and how much the client is going to be involved in like dictating what we do. I think, just understanding what we get to go do and how that scenario is, is super useful.

Paul Olson:

Yeah, I think it is just kind of being on the same page with where we’re at with, you know, budget, equipment, locations. Like, don’t falsify, don’t try to make it be bigger…we are in the same boat. Like there’s no reason for that posturing…and don’t cut me off at the knees if I need to go get something and I had that planned for months because it’s obviously in the script and you say you’re going to take care of it and then you don’t kind of thing. Like all I need to do is know that you’re not going to, it’s, it’s fine. I can take care of some stuff. It’s just the communication more than anything. It’s just be honest, be open. I mean, you’re both, everybody is trying to do the best that they can. Nobody wants to waste their time. I mean, not that I’ve seen anyways. So I mean it’s just the be honest, be open and get it done.

Sarah Marince:

What do you think Ashley?

Ashley Petrie:

Yeah, I would say one of the biggest things would be allocating the proper amount of resources for the scale of the project and the expectation of the outcome. I think the worst scenarios that I’ve been in are that we’ve all been in is where there isn’t enough money for what you’re trying to do. And if you find yourself in a scenario where you don’t have enough crew, obviously we all understand that we have to sometimes cut corners some places and that saving money is an issue, but it can become like a safety thing when you’re out in these crazy locations and you have these huge setups and things that are requesting a lot of gear and then you don’t have enough people to properly execute it. Or then you find yourself getting into these really crazy days where you’re going over 20 hours or something like that. I would say stuff like that is just like a safety concern. So you can do a lot with a little, I totally believe that, I can work with a really small budget. I think we all can, but then it’s just scaling everything down accordingly. Saying, okay, if we only have this much money, we’re only going to have this much gear and we’re only going to do this much..and when it’s appropriate.

Justin McAleece:

So sometimes, if you remember the scene from dumb and dumber, when Jim Carrey goes in and he’ll, they only have like 20 bucks to spend or whatever, and he goes in and he comes out with a big stupid hat and he’s got it’s like ball thing and he totally wasted all their money. Sometimes producers do that and they do it with good intentions, but you’re like, why do you have that big stupid phone hat that does no good right now? And so just like talking a little bit ahead of time and being like, Hey, I could spend money on A, B or C, what do you think? We’ll be like, Oh, B for sure. Don’t even waste money on A or C those things suck. I think that’s a good scenario that you can avoid if you talk it out.

Sarah Marince:

So communication is key.

Justin McAleece:

Yeah..

Sarah Marince:

Very cool. So we’re going to take one last question. What are your favorite resources for training and education? More online outlets and education sites versus films and TV.

Justin McAleece:

I mean, YouTube has a ton of so much stuff on there…society of cinematographer type stuff. Those are really good. Yeah, there’s a lot of magazines that I like, whether they’re online or not, and even looking at like videographer type stuff is useful too because a lot of times they have new little great tools that are relatively cheap that you can incorporate in your workflow. That worked really well. So I think staying on all levels of, of what’s new and what’s out there is pretty neat. A lot of times when you’re looking at American cinematographer, that’s like stuff. If you look at a five-year-old issue of that, that’s stuff that on the level that a lot of us do things, you’re almost able to do stuff at that level. So don’t be worried if something is a little old, if it’s like big movies, that stuff is still like hard to do.

Ashley Petrie:

Yeah, it’s amazing what is on YouTube these days and it’s just more and more all the time. So that is such a great resource. And honestly, even just, I mean Googling anything, you’ll be surprised what you can find. I was a couple months ago going through the manual for the Arri cameras and all the information is there and there’s just so much stuff online. Even like, I remember, I haven’t looked at it in years, but Roger Deakins’ chat board where he personally responds to people’s questions. It’s all still there and it’s all available. So with the internet, there’s very little that isn’t available to you.

Justin McAleece:

I was on RED User one time and I saw someone posted about the latest Spiderman movie and they’re like, Hey, what light do you think the DPU used in blank, blank? Like, and like the DP responded and he’s like, Oh, I used…. And like, Whoa, mind blown. That’s awesome!

Ashley Petrie:

Yeah, there’s a lot of DP’s that love to share their process and just put everything out there. So it’s awesome for people that want to learn.

Justin McAleece:

Yeah. There’s a guy named David Mullins and he has a thread on there that’s been around since day one and it’s like ask David Mullins or whatever and it’s like 5,000 pages deep because there’s so much stuff. Like he’ll just type out anything you want.

Sarah Marince:

Okay, cool. Paul, do you have anything to add?

Paul Olson:

Yeah, no, I mean it’s the internet. Google it, if you’re thinking about doing it, somebody probably has also. So there’s probably something, even if it’s just a question of somebody going, Hey, I want to do that same thing and you can at least chime and go, did you ever figure this out? Or, you know, where are you at with this? Let’s figure it out. You know? There’s a lot, for me, I also like the electrical engineering side of it…so I’m always on like out of fruit or something like that to try to figure out a tutorial. Something new is always coming out, you know, like with the Bluetooth and everything now you don’t have to even set up little wifi and then you can control your lights and you can get all these neat shots that before were just so hard to choreograph. And now you can just have it ahead and you go and it just does it.

Sarah Marince:

Very cool. Well, awesome. Well, thank you guys so much for being here, Justin, Ashley and Paul, and thank you to our viewers for tuning in this evening…and if you have any topics that you would like to discuss please share them on our blog or on any of our social media accounts. Again, thank you guys for tuning in and we will see you next time.

Leave a Reply

  1. What Camera Should I Buy? A Complete Guide - Online Movies Free to Download

    […] one likes a DP (Director of Photography) who shows up on set and can only roll for 30 minutes without having to offload […]