Shooter McCameraman is up before dawn because the director just has to catch the sunrise on film. Shooter would've 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, arriving at 5:30AM when the sun still hasn't come up. First things first. He gathers the lighting design team and the lighting crew together and reviews the setup for the day'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. They only get one shot at sunrise today, so everything needs to be perfect. Shooter shouts his orders to the team. They groan, but do as they're told.
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 all that has been squared away, he has his crew practice the camera movements 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. The director wants a shot that moves around very quickly, almost in full circles, but all in one continuous take.
The cameras just aren't made to move with that kind of precision, but 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 the director that there's absolutely no way they can get the shot he wants. The director doesn't like it, but also doesn't understand all of the technical details 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 as Shooter had hoped, he coordinates his crew while they're packing up their gear and moving to the next location, about twenty miles down the highway. He hops in his car and gets there earlier than the rest of the crew. He wants to take his time setting up the next few scenes—again, in the movies, you have to prepare well unless you want to be working on the same shot over and over again all day.
The rest of the crew shows up and, after some bounce board adjustments, they manage to get two more scenes filmed. Once those few more shots are in the can (so knock first before barging in on them), 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.
Back to work at 1:00PM, the day moves on and Shooter pushes his crew hard to do their part in getting all the shots executed properly. Some details end up being a bit rushed—things are always moving quickly on a movie set—but he refuses to compromise his creative vision or the quality of his crew's work. This 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, that would mean 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, so he has to just let the director win this one and hope it doesn't come back to bite him in the derrière.
At long last, they finish the final shot for the day. Shooter would like nothing more than to rest, but he's been emailed a copy of the last commercial he shot. He orders room service and watches through the commercial a dozen times, making notes on the editing and the color correction. Then he has to think carefully about how he wants to present the notes to the editor, because no matter how good a job he did, the entire thing can be destroyed in post-production. So it goes.
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. Another day of livin' the dream. Or living without dreaming, because he doesn't sleep long enough to let his mind wander.