Skip to main content

Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 4 of 16

How to Do the Meeting


Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 4 of 16

How to Do the Meeting


Lesson Info

How to Do the Meeting

So you're in the meeting and you just have to remember it's really a job interview so you know, all the books and resource is that you can find about how to be in job interviews it all applies it's all you know, it's all that kind of stuff you know? You use whatever information you khun you gain in your research you and but mostly you listen to what the director says and you know, if there you know, you have to be kind of ready to think on your feet and, you know, kind of turn whatever ideas you can't be so set in your ideas about how it's going to look because ultimately what you're what you want to do is take what the director's doing and amplify them, execute them, amplify them and strengthen them so that having been said, don't be afraid to get into a discussion about why you think your idea might be better but make sure that they understand that you're going to do you know that ultimately you're there to help them. So it's, like the meeting usually starts one of two ways either yo...

u'll walk in and they'll say alright here's what I'm thinking and they'll pull out a pile of storyboards that they've been drawing for the past five years and you know and they'll pull out a pile of art books with post it notes in which case you know, some of the stuff that you brought in may or may not apply and you know, you may wanna like may want to say oh, this dark, moody stuff that I pulled in here when he's bringing out the the bright sunny stuff maybe I'll just leave that in my bag and you know and or, you know, depending on how it goes, you could say that's not what do you think about this? This is where I was going with it and you know, what's the worst case scenario is that they just throw you out and you looking for another job, but the harder one is you know, for me the more difficult one is when you come in and they say all right, great, so what did you think of the script? What what would you do without giving you any clue about about where they want to go with it? Because then it's kind of like you're, you know, it's like playing hold'em or something where you don't know what what card they've got and you know, so that's where you just you have to be honest, you have to be yourself and you have tio you know, you have to be able to show that even though you have to be confident that even though you may not be exactly on the same page with them, that they'll see that you at least did some homework that you that you walked in with an idea that that they'll have somebody who who they're working with who has an opinion and then you know when they do show you their card you have to figure out how to you know how to play along with that and how to say oh yeah that's you know howto show that you understand where they're going with it and that you know that you know and maybe even bring up you know, some some of your own because you've been you know, reading art history books and photo books and watching lots of movies you can bring up your own references teo you know, the things that are applicability and you know, maybe between the two of you you cook up some you know something you know, a new angle that neither of you have thought of before based on that conversation so the other thing that you're going to have that you should be prepared to talk about is like, why why are you the right person for the movie like where you know and you know, aside from being you know, like the price being right because you're going to pay them for your first movie you know, you you have to project that you're you know that you're passionate that you love what you're doing that cinematography is really all you know, that's what you really want to do and you know you that you've been studying it that you've been researching what you know not only for their specific project but that you have you know that you've been watching other people work learning from other people you know, if you've got some past past work they've probably seen it if you've gotten to that point they've seen your real and you know and then you can bring you know, like especially in the case of low budget movies that you can bring some equipment and and you know and experience to the project that they'll you know that they will feel safe working with you and that they feel like you can pull off what they're asking you to do so you know and very quickly in the meeting you'll realize that they're like directors sort of break down into different types they're the types that that are all about the picture you you know you think about stanley kubrick or or uh you know stanley kubrick david fincher you know, people who the image is very important that you know and then there are other directors who I could not tell you where to put the camera if you held a gun to their head and you have to you sort of have to suss out who that person is when you when you walk in and be able to speak their language if it's the images type it's the type that is that the picture is really important you have to be able to let them know it's like you're going to do the best the best version of whatever the shot that they're showing you is and if it's the verbal ist you have to let them know that you're going to help them design the best shot you know and so often the actors director's kind of don't really care about where the camera goes either so you have to be able to work with them and then there's the you know, the movie mechanics I call them they're the ones that come in it's like all right, well, here we are it's going to be a two shot too close ups and that's you know? And then we got it and you know, it's like learning howto massage them into doing some coverage that's interesting and I think that you know, you have to figure out like how tow get on the same I don't know how to explain how this works, but you have to try to figure out how to be on the same wavelength them with them and be a compliment and it doesn't mean it's not compliment with an eye like you doesn't mean you're saying they're great guy the whole time but compliment is like the other piece you know you fill in the gaps that they have and then you also you want to remember that you're trying to decide whether this is going to be a happy thing for you too because if you're unhappy when you do this project you know, especially if you're doing it for free you think about when you're doing a movie for free at the beginning you're kind of advertising yourself you're making you're making his statement for yourself and your advertising yourself if you're not happy in that project um what you're going to be advertising is that you are an unhappy person so you want to find you want to find like you want to find a way to be able to work with with this person and if you don't think you can you should you should be able to bow out at that point and you know you have to you also have to think about what you're going to get out of the project and maybe that will make you feel better about it. Um and then often in these kind of early meetings the producer will be there and you just you want to make sure that that person is that is actually the one who kind of turns the big crank that makes the makes the whole production work you know they're helping they are also there to help the director execute there vision because what makes the movie interesting is that that director has a voice so you know, you want to make sure that they understand that your you know, that you're not there to be kind of in an us and them situation but that you're you know you're you're going to be its that you are all kind of playing for the same team um, you know, the best producers don't always you know, worry solely about the money they want to make a good move because they know that that's what's going teo you know, that's what's going to bring this all success, but at the same time there is a like the budget is a reality and you have to be like you have to show that you're creative enough toa toa solve all the problems that the director wants you to solve like within the resource is that they have so can you talk briefly a little bit of how you perceive the difference between what a director of photography is in a cinematographer or they apparently the same thing that's a good question, I know I sort of feel like a cinematographer is it's a vocation it's that it's it's not a job position the cinematographer is like is a description of who you are just like you say I'm a photographer I'm a musician, you know I'm uh uh ballet, dance or whatever and that but then a director of photography I feel like it is it's just it's maybe this is semantics but I feel like a director of photography is a position on you know it's a title on a film set it's it's you know it defines where where the cinematographer is working in this specific group of people it's it's ah yeah it's a it's a job description more than a vocation that makes sense yeah perfectly and and we are have a green light if any of the students are I have something courtney yes I was just gonna ask if you had advice you had said to use what you've got and I have a camera and I intend to shy away from using it because it's not the camera which had do you have any advice on what kind of equipment for a starter would be to use? No, I think it's you it it vary so much I feel like it's the camera's not what takes the pictures if the camera's not what makes the images you know like the first film that I shot that anybody really saw was another girl another planet it was you know it made it around to film festivals and it really kind of like that was the movie it was an eight day shoot we did it and you know the director's apartment and in his friend's apartment and we shot it with a pixel two thousand camera which was a fisher price toy that recorded you know, recorded like, four minutes of video and audio on a ninety minute audio tape and, you know, it's not made a hellacious noise when you turned it on, but I, you know, unfortunately, I knew how to saw her, and I figured out how to hook it up to a beta camp back, and we recorded a clean version of the image, but still it was very grainy. It was black and white, it was, you know, it was pixilated, and that movie had, you know, like that that was the movie that started my career. And so it's, like image quality is not the end of everything. It's, you know, like, is it important for it to be not distracting? Maybe, but, you know, you look at movies like the celebration which were shot with, you know, handy cams, it's like the ideas behind that important, and, you know, you're like the skill comes from being able to take those tools, take the simplest tools and, you know, and make a compelling movie. I think that it's at the same time the same time, if you if if what you're trying to sell is the camera, then you do have to have something that's kind of competitive in the market place, but and you know that changes if I named something now by the time this comes out it would be out of date and everybody would say who wants that camera anyway? So it's I think that there's but I think the point is you don't have to spend a ton of money and buy like the biggest fanciest camera you know, people make movies with all sorts of equipment now and you know, people have been making movies with their iphones and you know, it's maybe not the most precise tool but for, you know, it's hard to control the exposure, you know, all of those kinds of things, but you can do it on you can do it within you can make almost any movie within the limitations of of some piece of equipment that you have like that shouldn't be the thing that stops you, victor, what you ask your question that we'll move on? Yes, sir, my questions a little bit kind of on the same lines how you're talking about d p versus the director and the producer so, like, my interest in fillmore is act or whatever you want genre with roles I mean is for example, law the films now have loved the cuts were like fight choreography actually sequences versus comedy how much of ah ah input do you put in to change the director's vision and or the producers style if they're doing something that doesn't kind of mesh with you, you know where you see it that I've seen the style before, you know, the photography it looks too choppy and but that's what? They're kind of pushing it right? You know, I think that it's it's kind of important to think about where you're where your roll begins and ends, like, once you shoot it and it gets turned over to post production, you really you don't have any control that way and that's so you make you get the control by saying, like, oh, this is a director whose style I respect this is a director who's, you know whose vision I can get behind who's not going to, you know, who's going in the same direction that I would want to go and no or you say, all right, I have to find a way to get around my own prejudices, my own, you know, narrow thinking about this and be able to understand what this director is going to do and what they're trying to do and how do I make my work fit in? You know, instead of working against what their vision is that you know that you make your work, you know, push their vision forward and make it stronger so that and, you know, you, hopefully and when you're meeting, the director that's, the those are the kinds of things that you're thinking about, you know, again, it's, like, you know, even though you, you may really want to just do something, sometimes, just doing something is not the right thing. You have to do something that you know, that you can get behind. And that will. You know, that will help you grow in the direction you want to grow and you know, and that will use whatever you know. You're creative skills. Teo, you know, to the best advantage.

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.