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The Art Of The DP Back to Reports & survey Listing

Gavin Finney
The Fear, Going Postal, Hogfather, Keeping Mum, St. Trinian’s, The Guilty



To actually call yourself a DP, to persuade a producer to entrust you with a large portion of the budget, the schedule and how good their very expensive actors will look, as well as being technically excellent and consistent, takes time. I spent six years at two film schools and two years in between as a camera trainee and camera assistant before I dared call myself a DP, and even then I was probably chancing it.

The camera department is a difficult one to rise through because all the jobs are so different. A great focus puller won’t necessarily make a great operator or DP. All you can do is watch and learn as much as you can. If you have a great yearning to be a DP, shoot as much of your own material as possible. You need to build some evidence that you can actually do the job, which is where film schools can help.

A DP needs innate compositional skills, a deep understanding of light, shade and colour in all its guises, inquisitiveness and a delight in storytelling through pictures.

This Year’s Model
I’m less and less interested in what I capture the image on, so long as it’s appropriate for the project, and that it’s my choice. My favourite camera is the one that is appropriate and affordable for the job. Things move so quickly now, that if I said what my current favourite was, it would be different by the time this came to press. More and more I’m using multiple camera systems, each to do a particular job within a production. We used four different cameras on The Fear. The best camera manufacturers are the ones that listen to the people who will actually use the camera rather than impose their own (marketing-led) idea of what we should be doing. It still amazes me when someone likes something I’ve done, and then asks what camera I used; would you ask an artist what brushes they paint with?

Film vs. Digital
Digital has opened up a whole new palette that I enjoy exploring, film still possess a beauty and depth that is hard to replicate. Take your pick. People have been telling me since I left film school there would be no demand for film, but it’s still hanging in there. The BBC have finally recanted and are allowing 16mm film back on their HD channel.

Fashion Victims
I avoid trends at all costs, unless I started one! If you are fashionable, by definition you will go out of fashion pretty quickly, and the look of a project should come from the story you are trying to tell. Imposing a ‘cool’ new look can stand out like a sore thumb and is basically plagiarism. Come up with your own ideas.

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