I recently completed shooting an extremely well-funded, hour-long pilot for one of the major networks. Now, after a short rest, I’m about to shoot a small, labor-of-love independent feature for a talented young director.
The feature has a fifteen-day schedule, which ironically, is one more than what the pilot had. However, the challenges presented by each are exactly the same. This can be a surprise to fledgling cinematographers, but it has played out that way through the entirety of my career. Regardless of what resources are allocated or denied, scale is never a mitigating factor. In terms of using money as a problem-solver, more doesn’t automatically mean better or easier. In many cases, it creates new problems no one can anticipate.
Time. Equipment. Manpower. How wisely you balance each factor will directly affect the quality of your work, independent of budget.
Locations and sets: good, bad, indifferent.
Personalities. Temperaments. Artistic visions. Dreams. Hopes. Expectations.
Decisions: smart, indeterminate, terrible.
And then…reality. Somehow, you must get it done! Not with the people or tools you wish you had, but with the ones you actually have.
This is the environment we function in. The formula is the same, everywhere, every time…across the board.
For those of you holding fantasies of “…one day, when I have a real budget, crew, time, etc.,” don’t be seduced by that fool’s paradise. Just as work expands to fill the period allotted, the challenges you face are proportionate to the level at which you’re working.
Approach each one in the moment while striving to improve within your means, not your dreams.