CINEMATOGRAPHER AS PRODUCER

            How is it that some smart executive hasn’t recognized the benefits of offering their cinematographer a hand in producing?  Along with the Line Producer, UPM and First AD, we are acutely sensitive to the money-time-equipment-manpower conundrum.  With so many critical elements under our control – and a profound understanding of how the pieces fit together under fire – we are the greatest of undiscovered gems in this arena.  A good portion of our prep time is already spent huddling with directors and the rest of our collaborators in a producer-like role.  Officially recognizing us as such would sanctify the relationship and encourage a more refined appreciation of our varied contributions.

            Supporting this wisdom is a powerful incentive: the more focused our management skills, the more likely our photography will shine.  On the post-production side, the cinematographer’s understanding of the technology not only enables clear communication with lab and digital personnel but insures the quickest path to completion.  It also guards the director’s original intent for the look of the project.

            At some point we’ve all seen a production become victimized by some anonymous, mid-level functionary whose only purpose seems to be stepping on dollars to pick up pennies.  A Cinematographer\Producer would put an end to that nonsense and will also guarantee something that makes every executive smile – meaningful savings of time and money.

            To my knowledge this idea has never been floated within the industry.  But it warrants serious attention!

            There are many cinematographers who also direct and directors who also produce.  The step from cinematographer to producer is indeed very narrow.  So what’s the big deal?  The only downside would be one more name added to what already seems an endless list of producers on the crew sheet.

4.13.2021

6 thoughts on “CINEMATOGRAPHER AS PRODUCER”

  1. I have always viewed successful Cinematographers as possessing strong business acumen as well as being artists and technology informed : a triple threat

  2. I traveled for many years before anyone placed wheels on luggage. The first time I saw a piece of luggage rolling , I thought why did it take so long to come up with such a simple idea. This is one of those ideas. The industry should be embarrassed no one come up with it before. Run with it…

  3. That’s a really good analogy, Tim. Up to now they’ve been more likely to put wheels on skis…!

  4. I actually once asked a well-known independent producer if she knew of any cinematographer-producers, and she laughed. (Though not cruelly.)
    I work on a lot of small projects—narrative shorts, music videos—, where at least half of my work is producing: dealing with locations, generating (or at least vetting) a budget, hiring crew, putting together the entire rental package, and coordinating post. I’ve sometimes earned a co-producer or similar credit for this. So I think there’s room to combine the roles and assign credit fittingly.
    But there are a couple differences to point out, too. For starters:
    1) a full producer is answerable for the project in a different way than is a DP. Partially for that reason, a producer and a DP can often serve as “counterweights,” keeping their eyes on different metrics of success. Combining the roles can often muddy that—though I’m sure you’re right that it can enhance it as well.
    2) a DP can typically draw a line around their responsibilities by saying “from the perspective of camera,” and then leave other considerations and irrelevant tasks aside. (You’ll rarely catch us doing SAG paperwork or negotiating a book option!) It’s much easier for a DP to walk away from a project, and producers are responsible for all the stuff that doesn’t fall to a specific crew member.
    3) while the DP role is relatively well defined, a producer might have any number of responsibilities. (Or very few, in some unfortunate circumstances!) So as much as we may contribute to budget and hiring decisions, how much does the DP role overlap with the producer who shepherds a book into a script, finds the director, raises the money, and then produces on set?

  5. Matt – you make some good points. But considering all the people who nowadays get a producer credit for doing nothing, we certainly have a lot to offer – even if we just stick to our own lettuce patch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.