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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Measure twice

2:59 PM By Franz ,

"Measure twice and cut once" goes the old, overused saying. This comes from carpentry where if you cut too little or too much, you may have to start again. Basically it narrows down to "be thorough and plan before you act."

This rationale has always made sense to me. Though whether I've always applied it or not is a different matter. Something will always go wrong and you will always feel some kind of stress. The important thing is to not let that get in the way of your work. Pressure on a production can become overwhelming and the higher up you are, the more of it you feel.


For anyone that is not familiar with how this works, say you are a grip and a month ago you promised to bring your crate of stingers to set. Somewhere along the line, your producer asked your gaffer if he had all his equipment and he probably told him how great you are for bringing a crate of stingers and that everything else was taken care of.

Now say that on the first day of shooting at a remote location you simply forget to bring them. It's not the biggest deal, cable isn't a huge expense and it's pretty easy to find. You even promise to go buy some yourself and donate it to the production.

It's never that easy.

Now that the damage is done, your gaffer needs to relay the setback to the production and everyone involved gets a little stressed out. This kind of thing is all too common on sets and the people at the top get to feel it from every single department. Sound only has a few extra batteries. Production design forgot to bring a prop. You couldn't afford to rent the exact jib your crew wanted and they don't know how to use the one you got. Your computer has been acting up. One of your PAs dropped out and now some grip forgot to bring the crate of stingers.

So please, no matter what department you are in. Try to be professional and follow through on your commitments.

Practical Application

Pressure makes you act in funny ways and you can never really know how you are gonna react when it's on. One way I've learned to deal with this is to remember that moving slower makes you work faster.

Sit down and try to think back to past solutions to similar problems. Don't be afraid to ask for help solving things and remember: if there is nothing you can do to solve something, then there's no sense in worrying about it and you should just move on if the problem can be solved then there's also no sense worrying and you should just move forward.

It's always good to keep yourself in context, back up and remember that no matter what happens, you've been through it before and you've found a way to push through. That way, I am always level-headed and can focus on the problem at hand. "Smile as the ship is sinking" as a good friend once said.

Creative Application

This is arguably the most important part of being thorough.  Some may have different opinions about this thinking but I for one believe that in order for a work to be labeled as "art," it must have intelligent thought behind its creation. This involves every aspect of said work and in film this involves too many aspects to list. Every major film we see has careful planning behind sound design, cinematography, editing, production design and performance. Not to mention screenwriting.

Even still, most films put out there are average at best. But this is never for lack of trying. I accredit this lack of  quality to the nature of art in our society. The vast majority of music, painting and sculpture throughout history has gone unnoticed by most people and moreover forgotten by everyone but historians. This is because it's simply not that good. We hold artworks that are of high quality to us in high regard and not only safeguard them but pass them on.

I must add however that some great pieces can still be ignored by society if they challenge what is accepted. Only to be "discovered" later on. This does raise the question of how many great artists with creative ideas have been lost due to having failed to gain attention.

In our age however, there are endless ways of propagation for media and I honestly believe that any quality film or piece of art will eventually be found if made available on the internet. This great opportunity to have the world as your stage is one we must take advantage of and embrace. To gain any kind of credibility it is important for all creative forces on a film to do their jobs with as much detail and care as possible so your work can stand out. Besides this hard work however, there must be an ideal to create something innovative, something true to the story or project at hand. For a film to be good, the ideas behind it have to be good.

As a cinematographer, I do my best to pay close attention to composition, color schemes, movement and lighting. Not only to do the best job I can do but to serve the story as best as I can. All of this of course congruent to the wishes of my director and the work of the production designer. With this in mind, I encourage you to be thorough and plan before you act in every aspect of your work as a filmmaker.