Why The DP is more important than producer and director


Without a question of a doubt the most important person you hire is (A) not the Director (which is probably going to be yourself), (B) not the Line Producer (former Production Manager with a little bit of an attitude), not the (C) Production Designer (who really makes everything look right), not the (D) Editor (the person that really puts the puzzle together) but the “DP”.

The DP is the MOST IMPORTANT person you hire. Make sure, especially if you are a 1st time Director, that he/she knows what he’s doing and he/she is not someone who is 1-2 years out of some 4-year, ridiculously expensive, theory laden program.

Hire a DP who is a DP! Do not hire a DP who is actually an AC “saying he/she is a DP” and absolutely DO NOT hire some kid out of, again, those ridiculous 2-4 year film programs.

Hire a DP who is a DP!

Let me explain. First off a “DP” is an abbreviation for a “Director of Photography”, sometimes called a “D-O-P” or the “Cinematographer”.

Now allow me to permit the pecking-order in a camera crew.

A camera-crew, in a Hollywood shoot, has 4, maybe 5, people attached.

They are the (1) Cinematographer (called a “DP” or “DOP”), a (2) Camera Operator (called an “Operator”), a (3) 1st Assistant Cameraman (called a 1st AC or a “Focus-Puller”), a (4) 2nd Assistant Cameraman (called a “Clapper-Loader”) and, today, now that we have so many electronic/digital/HD cameras there is another person called a Digital Intermediary Technician (called a “DIT”)… Oh yeah and if you’re shooting 3D (a forthcoming Hot Tip) you’ll need a “Stereographer”.

Sounds pretty complicated. Well, it isn’t.

Allow me to make it simple.

The 4 people of a camera crew are….
1) DP (Director of Photography)
2) CO (Camera Operator)
3) 1st AC (Focus Puller)
4) 2nd AC (Clapper Loader)

Sometimes just called a “DP” an “Operator”, a “1st AC” and a “2nd AC”.

Voilla! Now, who’s who and what’s the pecking order?

When someone graduates a 2-4 year $100,000 film school and want to be a Cinematographer (aka: DP or DOP) they usually move to either NY or LA and get a job at a camera rental facility sweeping up, inventorying and driving replacement parts out to shoots.

He/she does this for about 2 years. Now, in the 35mm/4K camera rental facility the real Hollywood DPs come in to pick up their camera packages, for the next shoot, to test. This kid, the driver-janitor of the facility, goes up to the Hollywood DP and says “Hi. I love your work. If you ever need an AC I’d love to be your “AC”. Then the kid gives the Hollywood DP his/her bullsh*t business card.

Again, when you have little to no money (which you do) do not think you’re going to be intelligent by hiring some kids out of these theory laden film schools, for they still don’t know what to do.

Plus, the most important person you hire is going to be your “DP”. Only DPs know how to make anything. Everyone else fakes it. DPs know it.

Thus, Please, Please, Please “Hire a DP who is a DP”. Do not hire a kid fresh out of film school. Do not hire someone, with a business card, who says they’re a DP but in reality they’re only an AC.

“Hire a DP who is a DP”.

Happy Filmmaking, The Filmbay Team,
*Produce *Finance *Write *Direct *Distribute *Profit

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