Where Cinematography • Part 1 was about the basic understandings of some of the more creative aspects in cinematography and visual storytelling in general, this second part is about a whole different aspect that comes with the job description of a cinematographer.
It’s a part of the job that is occasionally overlooked and even neglected during workshops, masterclasses and even in film schools, sometimes resulting in an incomplete job description towards students in knowing what a cinematographer is expected to do, next to the more creative and technical aspects of both craft and science of cinematography.
The good thing is that a cinematographer will usually slowly but steadily grow into working on larger sets, where these other disciplines will come into play. In my opinion though, it is good to be aware of this beforehand, simply so you know what the job really entails. It will make you look differently at what goes on and how working on a film set works.
On larger sets, the role of a cinematographer can somewhat shift towards a different focus. This is often where you become more of a 'manager', instead of a ‘cameraman/woman’. Your tasks will be to manage the camera department, often with multiple camera operators, camera assistants, et cetera. The same goes for the crew within the Grip and Electric (G&E) departments. You do all that while planning, organising, overseeing and coordinating the logistics and technical and creative aspects of these three departments within the entirety of a specific project, ensuring continuity within shots, scenes and over the long run. And more often than not, especially if business goes well, you are working on multiple projects at once, that will be in different stages of development.
Allow me give a small example: I have shot tv and online commercials in some very remote places around the planet, where several camera operators and a second and first AC and the DIT had to come from different countries because they were working on separate projects all over the world. The same thing happened with the equipment. The stuff you want to work with is not always available in the countries/locations that you are shooting in, so you have to bring that stuff in. A producer will sometimes delegate that part of the work to you. It’s your crew, and your equipment. Deal with it. 😃 Insuring that all the equipment and all the crew arrive at the airport at roughly the same time, and then at the filming locations,/studio, can be a tedious task to say the least. You need to find out who is available and who is not, arrange the equipment all while being able to stay on schedule and budget. Getting yourself acquainted with this side of the job early on in your career is something I can highly recommended. At some point, it will come in handy.
Be nice to your crew
It makes sense that being nice to people goes a long way. It makes any working place a better, more fun place, to, well... work. This is especially the case I think when you are sometimes thousands of miles from home, in unknown territory, working on someone else's project. Sure, they all get payed for their work, but working on a film set is not exactly a regular job. Appreciate your crew and the work they do (for you). They are often working crazy long hours (as are you, but that’s no reason not to be nice) and they deserve to be recognised for it.
As a cinematographer you are in charge of camera placement, lens choices, composition, camera movement, lighting, et cetera. But on some of the bigger shoots you often have people working for you, as mentioned above. And that comes with a certain responsibility. Treating your crew in the best possible way is very important. As a human being, for the entirety and successful completion of a project as well as for your personal career.
On some shoots, a cast & crew can sometimes work so many hours for days, sometimes weeks in a row, that it starts to get unhealthy. Some people get close to dehydration or are underfed or have been working in the cold or heat for way too long, for instance. There’s often a steep deadline, set by clients and producers, to cut costs so that we always have to work as efficient as possible. But working efficiently, sadly, does not always mean it happens in the most humane manner.
Making the extra mile to make the working experience as pleasant as possible for your crew and yourself will go a long way. Stand up for them when necessary, chances are high that no one else will!
As a result, they will love you for it for the rest of your life and stick by your side professionally.