In the commercial world, things develop at a lightning pace. Being a cinematographer in this field means you might get pitched a project and the next week you are on location shooting said project. This means from concept to creation, you are working at 10x the speed of which you might on a feature project. With this time crunch, you have to utilize as much of the pre-production period to get the project in the pocket and to make sure you are on the same page as the director.
To me, a great example of trying to get the most out of the time I had was with the Trane spots I did back in 2012 with director Mouse McCoy from Bandito Brothers. These spots were high-octane with multiple stunts that commanded a certain crew size and it’s own logistical limitations.
Most filmmakers might have shuddered at the fact that it got presented to me and we only had about 3 weeks to get all the problem areas addressed and figured out. For me, this was a challenge accepted on a project that I really thought I could showcase my technical prowess on how to get this executed to it’s fullest potential.
It was a daunting task. 4 SPOTS – 2 PREP DAYS – 2 SHOOT DAYS. We had a lot of ground to cover and most of it had to be precise to make sure that the stunts went according to plan. The thing with spots like this is that you don’t have 100 takes to get it right. If you are lucky, you might have 2 at the most. It costs a lot of money to reset these stunts, have it cleaned up, and even to find, say, duplicates of the bus we are going to run off a jump. It comes down to being aware of what’s being asked of you and if you can execute with tack-sharp focus.
Let’s back track to how all of this started and the steps to getting to this point as a cinematographer! Usually the first step is that I’ll get a phone call from my agent that a director and/or production company wants me to hop on board of this commercial as the director of photography. From there, you usually get sent over the Agency Boards and the Director’s Treatment, which is the initial concept of what this could even look like. For me, I need to immediately start conceptualizing shots, what camera, what lenses, crew size, logistics and more. Whether I have 1 week, 2 days or 1 month before the shoot kicks of, I want to make sure I milk as much out of the pre-production phase as possible. You need to make sure to create a solid foundation to build upon and this is that period to start laying the brick and mortar.
Contains over 13 minutes of extensive video content and analysis.
You will learn:
- Breaking down the step-by-step process of concept to execution for a commercial.
- The steps as a cinematographer in commercial pre-production.
- The importance of stepping into the director’s vision with the treatment provided.
- How to take what the director has given you to start creating your look.
- Understanding the boards from the director’s perspective.
- Learning how to communicate with the director to create a plan of execution.
- Knowing when you will put in time for free and how that translates to the overall job.
- Breaking down the process of conceptualizing in advance.
- How to manage expectations and plan shoot logistics as a cinematographer.
- Planning multiple shots over the course of one shoot block.
- How to work with the rest of the team and getting them up to speed with the game plan.