Hi guys! I’m working on a project where we need to find a DP because we don’t really have friends who do camera work. I was wondering…What questions do you ask DPs to determine if they’re a good fit for a project? Especially since none of us are great with cameras or what good things look like, how do we figure out who knows what they’re doing, who has the best look from their reel, and who will fit in best with the rest of us? It’s probably gonna be VERY low pay if any pay at all since it’s our first project so that’s not helpful to us either.
I got lucky with my DP- I met him on a friend’s set and then poached him. So I’m gonna see what everyone else has to say and think on this a bit before answering
- What kind of camera do you have and how long have you used it?
- What kinds of genres do you tend to shoot/ enjoy shooting the most?
- What are your favorite movies from a cinematography perspective?
Things like that are good barometers, even if you don’t have a ton of experience yourself. Other than that, definitely meet them in person! You can tell a lot about how a person will fit in by just being in the same room with them for a little while.
Thanks! This is really helpful! We will definitely meet them in person before hiring them
Yup I second @AnnaBanana’s meet them in person thing. Have been burned before. Especially without a budget, genuinely liking them as a person is SO important.
Both people I’ve asked to DP were friends. It’s more important to me to have someone who sees things the same way I do than to work with someone who’s technically excellent but doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me. Skills are easier to improve than relationships.
If I were looking for someone new, I would go through an exercise of a few scenes with candidates, working them out as if we were actually going to shoot them. I’d look for:
- someone who can understand how I envision scenes
- someone who can figure out the technical problems that sometimes arise
- initiative to suggest different approaches on occasion
- someone who doesn’t get huffy if I turn down some of those suggestions
So do like a test shoot? Should it be from our project we’re hiring for or a different random thing?
I wasn’t thinking an actual shoot, more just all the discussion that leads up to it. The idea is to gauge the relationship and the creative back-and-forth. So any reasonably complex random scene would do.
So maybe come to the meeting with a scene and talk through it with the director, writer, and potential DP? That kind of thing?
I also have the luxury of DP friends. However, meeting in person is good. During the interview, ask why they’re passionate about films, what their style is, and what their favorite movies are. This will help you see if they’re a good fit.
It’s what I would do, your mileage may vary
So we had to do this before we went into production with “Golden Rule.” It was our first season hiring a DP outside of us shooting it ourselves on our DSLR. The goal was to up our production value with a professional DP and a nice camera.
We posted an ad on the usual sites (Production Hub, Backstage, Mandy and a few others) with exactly what we were looking for and were sure to be VERY transparent about our budget, what we were looking for, etc. After that we weeded through responses and found a few people we wanted to meet in person. We could tell (almost) instantly wether they were someone we were going to be able to work with as far as “vibe” goes. When we met our guy- we knew it right away. He was already invested, 100% understood where we were coming from and was willing to work with what we had. The rate he gave us was phenomenal for what he was offering and while still more than we had ever spent before, well worth it! We are going to meet soon, going into the new season and hope to do everything we can to raise the money to use him for the upcoming season. If we can’t, we have to go back to the drawing board and do it all over again. lol.
Here are some questions/concerns we were sure to ask.
- See samples of their work.
- “What did you think of the script? Was there anything off the bat you thought of visually?”
- “What is your rate? Day rate or flat rate?”
- “Will you provide the camera? If so, what is the camera?”
- “Will you require any equipment rentals?”
- “Will you be providing your own insurance?”
- “Do you require any additional crew? Assistant camera, etc?”
We also had the additional task of finding someone that was willing to work with kids/teens in the cast & crew. And the additional task of background checks, etc to make sure they were safe to be around said kids/teens.