November 18, 2016 at 6:22AM, Edited November 18, 6:22AM


Don’t Only Hire a DP because they own a RED Camera!

Now before I get a bunch of hate mail please let me explain. I love cinematographers. You can't make a movie without one and I don't take their craft lightly. This is one of the reasons I wanted to do this podcast. Being a DP is by far one of the toughest positions on set. The pressure is immense.

With that said the explosion of low-cost cameras (RED Camera, Blackmagic, Canon 5D, Nikon, iPhones, etc) and lighting gear has thrown a huge amount of "cinematographers" into the marketplace.

This podcast is a warning to young and inexperienced filmmakers not to hire, not only a director of photography, but any top level crew member solely because they own some of the latest cool gear.

This advice also goes for sound department, editorial, lighting, visual effects and definitely color grading. When hiring any top level positions on a film production it should be based on resume, demo reel, credits and/or reputation.

Take a listen to podcast here:


This article came out 6 months ago didn't it?

November 18, 2016 at 7:11AM

Clark McCauley

Also, your title should be "Don’t Only Hire a DP, JUST because they own a RED Camera"

November 18, 2016 at 7:11AM

Clark McCauley

I agree 100% with what you said. I am reminded of a production on which I was almost hired to be gaffer. I say "almost" because the contract they gave said nothing about compensating me for my time but they wanted the right to fine me if I wasn't there at their every beck and call. Any way, before I was presented with my deal-breaker, the crew were all introduced to each other at a training session (they were largely rookies). Their DP was actually the second one they got. The first one bowed out of the project before the training session (first red flag). The replacement DP was hired simply because he was the only other person they knew at the time with an HD camera (red flag two). Neither him nor the photographer have ever seen a light meter (#3, though this is shockingly common now). I went through showing the new crew how to handle the equipment, safety precautions etc. and proceeded to set up a basic outdoor night shot, since much of the movie would take place at night. After dusk, the camera crew were complaining that they couldn't get a decent image. I walked over to the stand-in, clicked the button on my meter and said "F2.8" or whatever it was. They didn't understand, so I showed them how to take control over the camera and they were amazed at the perfect image.
"How'd you do that?!" which I explained.

I'm glad I wound up not doing that production. It's my understanding that the producer blew the entire budget on wardrobe so the movie never got beyond a few days of shooting. I heard lots of complaints from crew saying the "above the line" people had this attitude like everybody should be glad that they're allowed to be part of this masterpiece. Never the less, my backing out of that production burned some bridges with the few on that production who I did know were good.

More recently, I lit a set for a commercial and told the director/photographer what settings to use and he had no idea what I was saying, so I showed him. He then proceeded to tell me that he just opens the lens as wide as he can. When I saw it on-air a few days later, it was a full-stop over-exposed.

Two pieces of constructive criticism on your podcast? I'd avoid promotions at the beginning, it puts off people. Also, you sit a little too close to your mic.

November 18, 2016 at 6:37PM, Edited November 18, 6:37PM


Hire a DP based on this

1 - How well can they run a crew and do they have the people skills to delegate tasks and work through problems. Also, are they actually nice people who you want to work with for an extended period of time.

2 - A really good DP does their homework and planning on the front end, aka pre-production. Showing up and hoping it works out because you have camera X is a terrible plan. It's kinda like building a house without the blueprints. A good DP selects the right crew, camera, gear, etc based on the job in the prep. They need to be practical while at the same time holding true to a creative vision.

3 - People make movies, not equipment. Sounds cliche, but i'll take a skilled team of experienced people over equipment any day. A skilled gaffer and key grip can make your movie better then any camera. I don't just mean the actual image, I mean the process. When things roll along smoothly, on time and on budget, everyone is happier. That is a real tangible thing. Put the money into people, not equipment.

November 21, 2016 at 6:15AM

Lauchlan Ough
C.S.C Associate Member

Thanks for info shared. I agree with you

November 14, 2019 at 9:36AM

Jai Shukla
CEO of Burning Desires Motivation

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