Director of photography


It shouldn’t come as any surprise that an industry built on the manipulation of truth and perception should be so utterly infested with bullshit artists.

And yet.

It never fails to amaze me how often and how badly so many misrepresent themselves.

It starts with little things like:

We’re looking for someone to establish a long-term relationship with

Which of course is code for:

We don’t have any contacts yet

But it ends with the bald-faced lies of such phrases as ‘Director of Photography’ and the fantasy world of showreels.

Let’s take that penultimate one, Director of Photography.

If you have bought a DSLR in the last few years, with the express intention of using it to shoot video, then no doubt it’s occurred to you to wonder what your correct job description should be. Hmm, you do what it appears that Directors of Photography like Deakins, Cronenweth et al do. You understand depth of field. You feel important and DOP sounds like an important role. One you want. Bad.

But why?

Because nowhere breeds a more impatient entitlement snatching horde of savagely talentless bullshitters than showbiz. You want to be the main event from the get go. X did it early so why can’t you?

Trade crafts have traditionally been taught through apprenticeships. You serve your time at the bootscrape end of the scullery before earning your stripes. Along the way you learn respect. You learn best practice. You learn what the job actually entails. Apprenticeships are good. There is nothing demeaning or wrong in serving one.

Some people get this, most don’t. The best people I’ve ever worked with were deeply aware of how far they still needed to go. I don’t give a shit about humility. You can be as arrogant as you like around me as long as you have the chops to back it up. I’ve been around the block many times now and you will not pull the wool over my eyes. So don’t try.

And yet, they always do.

The wonderful thing is, we do not need to police this. The ‘DOP’ who turns up and delivers unuseable shit in the edit will never be rehired. Referrals are the make all and break all of this industry and you will not be referred. Are you a DOP or are you in fact a lighting cameraman? What’s the difference I hear you ask. The fact you need to ask just proves my point.

The point is this.

Bullshit will get you nowhere in the long run. In the fierce heat of proper production there really is nowhere to hide. You will be found out and you will be sacked.

So stop kidding yourself, spend a good five or six years being a nobody, being a junior, being rubbish. There’s no dishonour in that. This shit is hard and it takes time.

And stop calling yourself a DOP because, I guarantee, you probably aren’t anything of the sort. If the supermarket sold you a can of beans and inside it was fish guts that spilled all over your carpet and ruined it, what would you do? Sue those fuckers?