Skip to main content

Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 5 of 16

After You Get the Job: Talk to the Line Producer


Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 5 of 16

After You Get the Job: Talk to the Line Producer


Lesson Info

After You Get the Job: Talk to the Line Producer

So now you got the job this is at, like, at the very beginning, there's not going to be a lot that you you're not gonna have a lot of control here, you're going to say, oh, I don't have to pay you great, I'll shoot it, but there's, you know, there are a couple things that definitely help you feel better about that, and a book that I liked is called getting, too yes, by roger fisher it's a a thin little paperback book, it's about negotiating, which is, you know, like, I think that it's, you know, in terms of, in terms of figuring out how to negotiate a deal with other people, this was like, for me, this change, my, you know, it changed my whole attitude about, you know, talking toa, talking to people where we both have to come to agreement about something eso when you and when you're when you're negotiating with the producer, you just have to remember, like, the first thing is the size of the the film the size of the budget, there you're gonna have expectations about, you know, how much...

money you think you should be paid and how much money there, and they're gonna have expectations about how much money they actually have to pay you, and so you know, even if there are, even if you can say, well, I got it on this, you know, this is how much I got paid on the last job or whatever, you have to understand that they're like, each project is different, everybody has a different amount of money, and if you really want to do it, it's not going to be about the money anyway, it's going to be about the experience that you get it's going to be about, you know, it's going to be about what you have to get out of it, other than money, especially at first, and so, you know, so you have to kind of keep that in mind and, you know, it's, which is difficult because, you know, we all everybody needs money, but at the same time, you like, you think about the long term, think about where you want to go because that's, you know, really, this is it's your life and your career that you're that you're talking about more than, you know, like the, um, you know, whatever material things you get, um, one of the things that that definitely frustrated me when I was starting out, you know, before I got in the union before. You know and definitely what I was doing the early projects is that you know, if you're on a like, say, five hundred thousand and one million dollar movie you'll find that you're probably on a flat rate and the crew is probably getting overtime and so most of the crew will be making more money than you are if the hour especially if the hours go long so that welcome to, you know, becoming a cinematographer that's just you know, you just have to get used to that you know what it's like and I know there are, you know, there's like below one million there still a lot of non union movies being made out there and you know, people are doing it with, you know, with the you know, the same kind of the same same kind of level of crew and equipment that that was that I did it when I started out thie union has gotten much more active in organizing people and so the talent pool of non union crew is smaller, but you just have to remember when you're on the non union movie it's like it's, you know, like you're all there to make a movie you're not you're not there to worry about who's being treated fairly or unfairly it's like it's it's the club you're all working together, but when you do like at a certain point the union does become a factor so you know the reason to join is like you you've gotten a certain amount of success you're you're keeping busy but you you you want to have access to those bigger budget movies you know where the producers have you know have become signatories to union contract so how you get in and usually that something that takes care of itself like if you if you want to be a camera system that you know, I'm talking specifically for directors of photography if you're if you I want to be a camera assistant or, you know, work in one of the technical positions to pay the bills then you know, that's that's a whole other process that I really don't want to talk about but when you're the dp like the way I got in was I worked on the movie that that you know, it's for whatever reason the producers had made payments the union but I didn't tell any of us and the union called me up and said, you know, you've got your health plan paid up if you want to join right now and I you know, this was and this was back when the union wasn't like throwing open its doors still that people in so I said yeah, ok, here is the check you write them a big check and and I got in and usually you usually it is one of those things where either a movie starts out they as a non union movie and then they hire you and then they signed a union contract and so then you have the option to join and that's that's probably the most typical way for dps to get in like once you're they can't the union can't stop you from you know, from hiring somebody that they want or it can't stop the producers from hiring somebody that they want and you know, but they can insist that everybody that is on the you know, that that's on the chute be a member of the union so they that gives you the opportunity to join and the same the same thing like agents are the other sort of weird negotiating factor in the room and people you know, like it's probably the other question people ask do you know how do I get an agent on my advice is you know when you need one one will call you and before that you don't need one don't you know don't go where they don't find you work that you know, especially at the beginning like you're all the work comes from your connections, you know, the networking that you've done with with producers, directors, you know, other film crew people that's what that's, what will lead to you working more so it's it's something like I'd say at the beginning don't worry about it and when it's time for you to get one, you'll get a phone call and it's usually once you've shot something that gets into sundance get some you get some attention and where some agent thinks okay, here is a person who if I get them now I can you know I'll be ableto get them some work or be able to negotiate their deal really what they're what the agents are able to do is help you make sure that what the deal you're getting is is kind of comparable to other people because they know what what other people's deals are um so you know, like whatever they're offering you for the rate you want to know is it fair you know and like that's a that's a hard thing? I'm not quite sure how tio how to decide what what a fair rate is, but you know, the reality is that somebody like especially for indie movies at the beginning has either max out their credit cards or hit up their uncle or, you know, like come up with some small amount of money and the real question is like, can you make a like are you going to be the person who can make it work with whatever resources they have? And the answer is yes because telling people that they can't do things is not a marketable skill like you. What you want to be able to do is say, yes, I don't exactly know how we're going to do this yet, but I will figure it out. I know I can do it, and, you know, we're going to do the best version of this, that you know, that we can possibly do with what you've got on dh, then, you know, and then maybe it's, you know, talking, talking to the director and saying, well, look, I know you in your storyboards that you've been working on for the past five years. There's, a giant techno crane shot here, but, you know, that would be the whole budget of the movie. So what can we do that? Will, you know, that will kind of fill that need for for movement and, you know, and dynamic, you know, dynamic action in this on the screen with less equipment or less expensive equipment.

Class Description

Cinematographers need to do more than simply, “show up and shoot.” Preparing to film is a complex, considered, and artistic task and Cinematographer's Preparation with Jim Denault, ASC will teach you how to strategize and achieve the most creative, productive shoot possible.

Most filmmakers are in the dark about what cinematographic preparation truly entails. This class will give you with a step-by-step guide to preparing to shoot a whole range of narrative material – from the simplest moments to the most complex series of scenes. Jim will show how to break-down and analyze a script from an aesthetic, technical, and practical point-of-view. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Analyze a script aesthetically and technically
  • Evaluate and provide for the practical needs of a scene
  • Achieve maximum subjective effect within your shooting "strategy"
  • You’ll learn precise, effective, artistic, and technical approaches to shooting, which can be applied across all forms of filmmaking and length of material.

Working cinematographers, camera operators, and filmmakers will develop new skills for efficiently and beautifully conveying the artistic essence of their material.  


Zuhair Lokhandwala

Great class! Highly recommend to those starting out who are unclear about the process of getting the first job, meeting the director and keeping things organized so you feel more in control and have good clarity when you're at the shoot finally Thank you Jim!


This class is perfect for anyone who does not have years of experience as cinematographer ; it teaches everything a DP should do in pre-production, and is often not taught in film schools ! I'm freshly graduated and thus I don't have that much experience of pre-prod as DP, but this gave me everything I needed to know. It's also one of the few class of the genre online, and it's a fantastic one, thank you so much !

Christopher Lamb

There is nothing more valuable than learning from people that continue to work in their field. This course is priceless. To get into the processes and thoughts of a successful working Cinematographer -- there aren't words. Everyday I'm on set I think about the necessity of mentorship and this is the closest thing to that. Thank You Jim for agreeing to share your processes and techniques and to Mentor us in this digital age. Thank you CreativeLive for hosting this class and making it available.