4 Tips to Help Cinematographers Choose Their Next Film & Director

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

My name is Eli Hershko and I am a photographer turned cinematographer turned director. It was a natural progression for me. I always was drawn to the moving images. I love being involved in the making of movies but I do not tend to shoot my own films. I just can't focus on both the actors and the image at the same time and since they both are equally important in my eyes I tend to look to a cinematographer that can take on the heavy toll of putting my story on film... or digital film in my case.

The most important trio on a movie set is the Director, DP(director of photography) and main actors. This bond is sacred and at times it looks like those folks will get to have a sort of a secret society on set where they will gel in such harmonious way that the rest of the crew would just be envious.

But without this relationship I believe that every film is doomed.

I find myself on both sides of this relationship and as such I know what to look for in a DP when I am directing and I know that the director is looking for when I am DP'ing.

As a director my style is a total collaborative process between the DP and I. I usually sketch my storyboard just as a reference point but I do encourage the DP to challenge me on a camera angle, lighting, creating a mood and such. I welcome this challenge. I often tell my DP what I want/think is the best for the particular scene we are about to shoot and ask him what he thinks and if there is a better way to get what we want that will be as artistic and less sophisticated to execute. The DP and I becomes like siblings on set. We trust each other fully with the creative aspect of the film knowing that all we care about is to tell a story in the most artistic and beautiful way. There are times where we will conflict with each other and then I just take on the director's role and make a decision. I found that when you put the good of the film ahead of any ego out there, more often than not these decisions are usually right on the money. 

The things I look for in a DP when I choose one for a film I am directing are:

1. Be cool, calm and collected

What does that mean? All good pre prodcutions are thoroughly planned. when you preproduce you try to think of all the possibilities that might occur that need solving, you think about locations in context of sound issues, lighting, power sources, permits, sun placement at a curtain hour in the day etc. But no matter how well thought your planning was, once production commences Murphy's law kicks in and all usually that means obsiticals you didn't plan on arises and now these obstacles need solving while running and gunning a production live. This is a key element when choosing a good DP that is a quick on his feet and can pull tricks of his sleeve in terms of executing shots while solving production problems. Clam heads always will prevail.

2. Have an artistic vision

Yes, its the director's job to say where he wants the camera. No doubt about that but sometimes the director is overwhelmed and busy solving other scenarios or just hit a road block mentally and can't see that there is a better way to execute a shot artistically that could be done in a quicker manner and is less complicated. an artistic director of photography focuses only on making the film as visually artistic as possible and doesn't have to deal with the personalities on set, set design etc so when choosing a DP that your trust 100% visually you can rest a sure that the collaboration between you as the director and your DP will mean that the goals of the film visually speaking will be achieved.

3. Have the technical knowledge needed to make a great film

Aside from artistic vision the DP need to know his craft which is framing, lighting, and most important operating the specific camera that was chosen for the project.

4. Be a team player

Making a film is a group effort. Period. and as such you have to play nice in the sandbox with all of the other personals. there is no room for huge egos on set. period.Making a movie is a lot like going to war and in order to win one you need all of your soldiers to care for one another and count on one another to get the job done. I feel bad for the productions that have personality problems on set due to ego. 

About the Writer - Eli Hershko 

Originally from Israel, HERSHKO who graduated from Haifa school of the arts had joined the Israeli Defense Force where he served as a photographer and later as a teacher for photography. After his Honorable discharge as a Sargent he studied at WIZO Art College in Haifa, and is a graduate of the New York Film Academy Digital Film Program.  In addition to filmmaking pursuits, Eli has worked as a professional photographer, shooting album and magazine covers for popular artists including: Biggie Smalls, Bjork, Public Enemy, naughty by nature, SpaceHog, The Backstreet Boys, Cake, Garbage and Tony Bennett (to name a few). In 2012 hershko finished post production on his first feature film titled “carla” starring 2012 EMMY nominated actor Mark Margolis and 2013 EMMY nominated actor Lavern Cox of “orange is the new black” netflix original series. The film has  entered the 2013  film festival circuits. and has been winning awards. The film was theatrically released on DEC 2015 and currently it is being distributed on various VOD platform. Working under the banner of CONJURED VISIONS FILMS company, Hershko continues to write, produce, direct and shoot TV spots as well as viral films and web content for various clients and ad agencies. As of April 2016, Mr. Hershko’s new feature film, “The Closer” is having it’s world premiere at the Palm Beach International Film Festival and will be making the rounds on the Film Festival circuit throughout the country and world. 

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  • Erik Angra said…
    Friday, November 4, 2016 10:59 PM
    Good stuff man!
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