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Typical Day

Shooter McCameraman is up before dawn because the Director just has to catch the sunrise on film. He would have liked to sleep in—especially after a late shoot the night before—but he agrees that the shot is everything. A cup of coffee and a hot shower will help snap him out of his bleary-eyed funk.

He beats the director to the set. The first thing he does is review the storyboards for today's scene. The Director is used to directing on Broadway and doesn't know the first thing about cinematography. Shooter's going to have to discuss a few changes.

First things first. He gathers the lighting design team and the lighting crew together and reviews the set-up for today's shoot. There are quite a few things that need to be changed. The types of lights being used are wrong. The bounce boards are at the wrong angles. There also needs to be additional lights added to the setup to offset the lights of the city in the background. The crew roll their eyes and groan, but they know Shooter is great at what he does and so they do what he says.

Next he gets with the camera crew. They review the lenses that they had originally planned to use but now, looking at the new lighting setup, Shooter feels that some changes should be made. Once the lenses have been discussed, as well as the filters being used, the type of film and camera speed are reviewed for the slow-motion shot at the end of the scene. Happy that all of the gear has been squared away, Shooter has his crew practice the camera movements that the scene requires. By the time the director arrives he feels like he's already done a day's work. Oh, if only it were that quick and painless….

Now he has to review the plans for the scene with the director, a process he hasn't been looking forward to. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who only speaks Hindi? Trying to discuss the nuts and bolts of cinematography with the director is an incomparable experience. Shooter tries to explain why what the Director is trying to do won't work. The director disagrees and they argue about—okay, discuss maturely—how the scene should be approached. Ultimately, Shooter convinces him that there is absolutely no way they can get the shot that the director wants and offers up an alternative. The director doesn't like it but also doesn't understand all of the technical details that Shooter's trying to explain to him, so he finally just agrees and gets on with it. And thank goodness, because they're already behind schedule.

After the shot (which goes exactly like he wanted), Shooter coordinates his crew while they are packing up their gear and moving to the next location. He gets there early enough to take his time setting up for the next few scenes and makes sure that everything is perfect. The location requires some tweaking to make sure he can get the type of lighting and camera angles he wants. One of these tweaks requires taking a door off of its hinges. Another means taking a window out of its frame. The crew snaps pictures of everything on their phone to make sure that they put everything back exactly as it was. They're renting someone's house for this scene and the homeowner may not understand the construction projects that had to take place just to lay some dolly track.

A few more shots are in the can (so knock first before barging in on them) and it's lunch time. Shooter uses the time to review the script for the next film that he's working on—a horror movie that starts shooting in Vancouver a week after this movie wraps. As a cinematographer, he has to work job after job after job to keep his career moving. If he takes too much time off, people forget about him, and then finding consistent (and lucrative) work would be about as difficult as not throttling the director.

He makes notes on the script and sketches a few rudimentary storyboards. Of course, he'll have to see what the director of the next film has in mind before he can plan things out too much, but he at least wants to go into the next project with a strong plan. He has a vision for what the film should look like and knows how to execute the vision from a technical standpoint. Hopefully the director has a similar vision. If not, he'll have to use some of his Jedi mind tricks on him….

After lunch, the day moves on and Shooter pushes his crew hard to get all of the shots planned for the day executed properly. Things get rushed but he refuses to compromise his creative vision or the quality of his crew's work, which causes another, ahem, discussion with the Director. They've fallen pretty behind schedule and the Director wants to try to make up that time. For Shooter, however, it means doing subpar work. Shooter knows this isn't ideal, as he doesn't want to get a reputation for being difficult or moving slowly, but he also doesn't want to get a reputation for doing shoddy work. He's in a bit of a no-win situation and decides to hedge his bets by erring on the side of quality, and hope it doesn’t come back to bite him in the derriere.

Only a dog can look that happy just before an attack.

Finally, the day's wrapped and everyone gets to go back to the hotel. Shooter would like nothing more than to rest, but he's been emailed a copy of the last commercial he shot. He watches through the commercial a dozen times, making notes on the editing and the color correction. He spends about the same amount of time figuring out a persuasive way to give the notes to the editor to ensure that they're listened to. After all, no matter how good of a job he did, the entire thing can be destroyed in post-production.

After sending off his notes, he falls asleep reading the script for his next film. And good thing, too. He has to be up in six hours to start the whole process all over again. Hooray for Hollywood!