What am I doing wrong?



Mr. Mullen-

I just wanted to write and tell you how greatful I am, and I am sure many others that you are one of the main controllers of this board.

My question, or questions are very broad so I will do my best to condense them. I admire your work and can see clearly why you were accepted into the ASC at such a young age.

I have done, I believe, everything I can to get work, but to know avail. I have DVD authored demos, VHS if that person, or company desires that format. I have Component Beta Demos, 3/4" demos. I have a generous web-site with various condensed clips of various styles of my work. I have Biz Cards, Hard Resume/CV's etc., etc., I cold call production houses. I talk to agents so they can critique my demos. I even had an ex-agent ,who now works for a reputable camera rental facility, take a look at my demo, on his lunch hour. He viewed it while he ate. The monitor was a Pioneer Plasma and my images were originated in Super16mm 1.66:1 and he strectched it with his remote to fill the entire 16x9.When he did that the image just tanked! After that he told me my music sucked, my images were ok, he had seen worse, and I need to ad more 'flash".

I sink hundreds, thousands of dollars on updates of my reels and my site. I talk to big time DP's like you, and they all say hang in their. I am 38, and I feel the window is closing.

When I first started, I worked as a second/loader and after a a dozen awful B/C films I moved up to First Camera Assistant. I became so sick with the non-caring people that I quit ACING. Now, I don't live in the LA "DIAMOND" area. I am in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. about an hours drive to and from Hollywood/LA. I have a 323 Mobile # and if that goes down, I have a 323 Voice Service. In addition, I have a Hollywood P.O. All my literature, etc. gives production people the idea that I am in the "Diamond". I look for work everyday on the INTERNET and weekly in BSW, Variety, and the Tues. Edition of The Hollywood Reporter. I cold call, and sometimes send them reels with hope of a possible call back.

I send links to my site that has clips on them and sometimes, SOMETIMES, people call, or e-mail me, and I am grateful. Then these Producers, and or Directors start asking me questions, you know Tech. stuff like what you answer on here. I am not stingy. My feeling is, is that if I can reach one person and that one person could possibly make a touching project, I am glad I could help. They say they will call back, or e-mail me, but they never do! I know everyone has to struggle for work but I always feel so many steps behind. I experiment, I ask about the production; like what is the story about, what are your possible shoot dates? What format did you have in mind for the project? What do you plan on doing with said project once all POST is completed? Lastly, I ask them the budget of the project and 98% always talk their way around it, or want me to give them a day rate right then and their. I can't do that without proper information and communication.

I just shot a TV Pilot with the Varicam with the Pro35 adapter and used CookeS4's with an 18-100mm Cooke to compliment the S4's. I study, I read, I call, I e-mail, I send demos. Please, any advice would be most helpful. I did, years ago in 1988, ask Vittorio Storaro some advice, although I was very young and he wrote back, (with a typewriter in broken english), that I should not try to be the best, I should just be myself. So, Mr. Mullen, since I have a somewhat distant relationship with one of your mentors, at CalArts, Kris Malkiewicz, I trust, that you might be able to steer me in some kind of correct direction on what I should do, or what I may be doing wrong. I am just so confused, tired, and exhausted each day. Day after day and night after night. I wish I worked more. I supplement my income by being a Camera Operator on Sports, Conferences, Concerts, and Town-Hall meetings with the occasional Model Shoot. I love the image making process. I just don't want to die before I get to collaborate on a "Twin Falls Idaho", "JackPot", or the eerie "NorthFork". I would appreciate any feed back and many apologies for my ramblings.
I understand your frustration. I spent nearly ten years only shooting low-budget features that netted me about $20,000/year income and I had to rely on the support of my full-time working wife and her health plan to get by. That's a decade of low wage shooting jobs. These features would pay about $6000 total and if I were lucky, I'd find three of them to shoot a year.

I tried to maintain some level of quality, keep my standards up, so that eventually I would be considered for higher-budgeted stuff. At some point, after doing about ten straight-to-video movies (all shot in 35mm luckily) I made a conscious decision to start shooting more film festival-bound material, indie movies, even if they paid worse than the straight-to-video stuff because the indie films would get me some attention hopefully. It paid off when I shot "Twin Falls Idaho", my thirteen feature I think. (But not financially -- three of those Polish Brothers features only paid me $1000/week to shoot them.) But doing that film got me an agent and a Spirit Award nomination. And doing "Northfork" got me into the union, another Spirit Award nomination, and into the ASC really. And doing union films really is what got my yearly income up to something more like what my wife makes, a middle-class income.

But as I work in mainly lower-budgeted union films, now I wonder what it will take to push forward to more significant projects, higher profile, with more potential to do good cinematography.

The most you can really do is shoot good work -- so you have a good reel -- and get along with the people that hire you. I'd say that 90% of my jobs still come from connections made on the previous jobs, not from cold-calling productions.

It's a long process but you really do have to keep at it, especially in terms of getting jobs as a DP. Other jobs pay the rent but they don't lead to DP jobs usually.


Continued... What am I doing wrong?

Continued... What am I doing wrong?

Mr. Mullen-

I find it somewhat soothing to find that your struggle was about the same as mine. Your wife works full-time, as does mine, and I rely on her insurance. I have so much guilt. Do you think my geographical location has anything to do with it? Like I had written before, I live outside LA in a town called Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Yet, I have 323, mobile # , 323, Voice Service in case the Mobile goes on the fritz, a Hollywood P.O. and a web-site with some samples of my work and a brief bio. I thank you for your kind writing back as i was not expecting it. I am 38 and you are now my inspiration! Which leads me to some more probing questions if you don't mind?

1.) What camera systems/lens system do you prefer?

2.) I notice you shoot a bit of Fuji, (so do I) Is their a reason for you?

3.) I operate the camera myself. I feel that this frees the director from trying to communicate his/her point more easily then explaining it to two people instead of just one. Of course, multiple cameras, that is a different story.

4.) Recently, I shot a TV Pilot, as I mentioned before in my previous post, in HD. The Varicam AJ27F with the Pro35 adapter. Well, I had a hell of a time communicationg with the crew. We worked long hard hours avg. 14-16 hours and my camera dept. began to say things on-set while the director, producer and talent all heard what this person said. The Key Grip/Dolly Grip said some un-pleasant things as well. These were not my first picks, my first picks were either too busy on other shows, or did not want accept the day rate offered by the producer. My question is is that I want to LEARN more about these un-sung heros. I want ask their advice in what they look for in a project and how I can best communicate with them without lecturing them. I want everyone to be involved, not just robots. I want their input as well. How would you advice going about this?

5.) Dalies: Do you request all circled takes to be printed in 35mm? When you are shooting? Or, do you accept BetaSP dailies, or something else? What about Super 16mm? I mean, I have done it both ways and their is ALWAYS the surprise in the answer print stage of a possible scratch, a hair, etc. I FIGHT for FILM dailies and I always get looked at strangely. Is their some tact perhaps I should take to emphasise why this issue is SO critical, or should I just keep my mouth shut?

6.) What do you recommend for trying to keep a good crew of Grippers, Electrics, Gaffers, Key-Grips and possible Camera Operators? Just trying to do good work with good passionate people.

7.) What labs/Post-Houses do you recommend?

Thank you for reading these questions and for responding so quickly. You truly are an inspiration too me and many, many more. All the best.
I have yet to shoot a TV pilot, although this year I got offered two of them (couldn't do them though.) Sounds like you are doing OK...

I prefer Panavision, mainly because they have always been supportive of me even back when I was a student. And I like shooting with their anamorphic lenses, which I have been able to do on four of my features.

I don't think your location matters.

Out of thirty features, only three of the early ones did printed dailies. I can't get them to make film dailies, other than perhaps the first day's footage (and then in that case I have them PRINT ALL to avoid having the camera rolls cut-up to assemble a printing roll of circled takes.) Since I get DVD dailies these days, VHS dailies before that, I always get a few ugly surprises in the answer print unfortunately. It's just a risk producers accept in order to avoid the expense of film dailies. It's another argument for doing a D.I. where at least some dirt, dust, and scratches can be painted out if necessary, but that doesn't really help the problem of soft shots.

All the major labs are good until they screw up, and they all screw up now and then. My favorite is probably Deluxe (mainly because of the fantastic Beverly Woods) but Technicolor and FotoKem are fine, as are many other labs. Alpha Cine in Seattle has done some nice work for me.

I've shot so many low-budget features that I've worked with a long list of crew people -- loyalty is hard to come by when the jobs pay poorly, so I don't blame them. Lately I've had a few key people that I like taking to different jobs when possible.

Operating was more something that was unavoidable on the non-union features, although it has some advantage when working on a tiny shoot in terms of keeping things simple, the lines of communication more direct. But as the shoots get more complex, it helps to have an operator working for me.


Last Questions, I promise for a while

Last Questions, I promise for a while

Mr. Mullen-

Allen Daviau, ASC reminds me of you! I mean that as a compliment! Also, I prefer Panavision because of the same reasons you explained above, except, I have not shot the most beautiful... 35mm, ANAMORPHIC!

Alright, last questions....

1.) What computer do you use or do you use both, (mac and pc) or just one?

2.) Would you recommend that I invest in an edit program computer deal so that I could edit my own demo reels on DVD and VHS? If so, what system(s) do you recommend. Or, would it be a better bet to hire an editor to do the edits?

3.) If I do the edit myself, or hire some to do it; should I just create an EDL and then do a tape 2 tape cut/finish, or stay with a "so-called", "uncompressed" digital video capture file and lay it down to, yet another question, a digital tape such as miniDV, DVCAM DIGI-BETA, D1, and oh my goodness D5. Or, just go the old BetaSP, (Component). I usually get all my dubs from producers on mostly BetaSP, (Component), one freak DIGI-BETA, that I had to convert to BetaSP, (Component), a few DVCAM dubs same procedure above, some miniDV, DVCPRO50, (burned) DVD's and ugh, 3/4"! I am just looking the best route to go. I am into consistency!

4.) For all my future dubs and masterings after the film project has had its run. What Tape Format, (Digital, or Analog), would you recommend for me to use as a edit source tapes for my demo show reels? Or, is the new thing just dumping it to a Hard Drive? I'm so confused. Sorry.

5.) Rental Houses: Ok, I love Panavision. It just works and works well with mostly everything! Everything fits and it is relatively quiet! Ok, here is my dillema, (I hope I spelled that right?), The UPM, PC, or depending on budget ask me what camera system I want and I ALWAYS say Panavision they say "ok" and come back with, we have a better deal at this place. I say ok call Panavision and negotiate. In the end, I usually ened up with another rental facility and adapters here, their, and EVERYWHERE! Image still looks good though. Any advice in this area. Should I try another tact?

6.) Why Fuji on some of your BIGGER PICTURES?

7.)How much do you test? And, what test do you do before production begins? If you do test, you must, look at your work it is so atmospheric! Well, does production pay you and your team for those test days and prep.? I find this hard to deal with because I hate talking money, but my wife is a banker and she pushes me! I just want to help make great fresh material. Any advice on this one?

8.) If you have to fire someone like a "Key", like a First Camera Asst. How would you do it, and where would you do it?

9.)Do you have "moral rights" included in your contract? Meaning, and I am not thinking you are ignorant about what that means, do you have it in your contract to be informed of and present at all post production screenings and manipulations so as to protect and ad insurance to the project for which you photographed? If you do, do this procedure, (I do), do you get compensated with money or something else? I just do not know what is proper procedure and protocol in this matter.

10.) have you ever experimented with the KLMS, (Kodak Look Management System), that works with your lap-top, and a Pro Digital Camera, like the Canon 10D, 20D, or 5D? Or, have you used a Digital Camera I.e., Canon 10D, 20D, or 5D and shot various set-ups before you roll and then at the end of the day kind of tweak the digital files in a program like Photoshop as a guide to what the dailies timer should be going for? They say that the KODAK, KLMS is much better than Photoshop. Any thoughts?

11.) Are you a "one-lite" DP, or do you welcome the input of the timer, and or colorist? You know like locking your lites, i.e., a day ext. set of lites, a night int. set of lites on a particular emulsion, etc., etc.

12.) Do you shoot Gray Scales/Chip Charts and if so when do you do this?

13.) Do you make copius notes about every shot, every set-up on each film you work on? Or, do you have the Second, or Loader do this in collaboration with the Script Super.?

14.) I see you sometimes behind the Panaflex 35mm Millenium, in photos of you in the trades. It looks beautiful! I have only been able to use a Platinum and a GII. How does the optical viewing system compare with the Platinum, GII and if you have seen or used them the ARRI 535B, or ARRICAM-ST. How much, would you say that they differ?

15.) What is your opinion of certain Panavision Lenses that have two, (2) focus witness marks... One yellow for T2.8 and above, and a blue for T2.8 and below like T2.5, etc., etc., What is your practice with these lenses and your assistants?

16.) Another Panavision Question: Do you or your Assistants take along a "Flange Focal Depth Gauge" when you are shooting in studio, location, or distant location? I have heard some DP's and AC's request them. This sounds dangerous and if not done properly could cause certain wide shots to look a bit "soft" and the poor AC may get replaced. Ever hear of such practise?

17.) When you are not working on a "gig" what do you do in your spare time? I mean, I look for work everyday. I dread the computer and the local Barnes & Noble, or Borders.

18.) HD Question: Sony 1080P/24P/16x9, or Panasonics AJ27F Varicam, 1280x720P/60P, (sampled down to 24P)? I know Sony F900 is compressed to 4:2:2 and the F950 is pure to the deck module 4:4:4.
I saw an ad and I think his name is/was Vince Pace doing an advert. for Band Pro and their new Sony F950's that he has converted. What are your thoughts on these systems? Now I know you struck a deal with SIM DIGITAL in Toronto, Canada and you used the F900 and according to their book, (which I bought!), They said it worked perfectly. Now, may I ask what lens setup did you have for the F900 on, "JackPot"? Also, did you have a DIT? Did you have scopes and what kind of monitors did you use or need? On my TV Pilot shot on the Varicam, as I said before, I had the Pro35 adapter and used Cooke S4's w/ a Cooke 18-100. BIG CAMERA and shot full rez 1280x720/60P/24p and I had a Textronic Scope and a Panasonic 17" HD TUBE Monitor and a Panasonic 17" Flat LCD HD Display as well. I had to run back and forth to the tube monitor to get acurate info. between that and the scope. Drove the director crazy! I should have had a Sony HD 8" portable by my side at all times, but I heard it is not accurate enough for critical issues like, omg! BACKFOCUS! Itjust seemed it took longer than a traditional film shoot. I had more people, more gear, more problems and heat played a major part of this camera.

19.) UNION QUESTION: Say I am on a shot with a budget that is around 2 million. We are fully staffed yet some are union brothers and sisters others are not, like myself, for instance. Say the Union comes down for a visit and meets with me in private and ask for me to get a meeting with the powers that be, meaning, of course the producer, or producer(s), Director. Say these producer/director types are old friends and their budget is already way too strectched and the union wants me to gather the camera crew, electrics and grippers, etc. etc. to go UNION. What do i do? These people could be my frriends, (the producers and director, who is also a producer) What does a DP, who is not in the UNION, but desperatley wants in. What does he/she do in that circumstance? Any thoughts?

20.) This question is partaining to Budget on a job I may be after. Should I ask what is the budget? I would only ask that question once I get other questions asked like story, location, possible format, in-town, out of town, when finished what do you plan to do with the project once completed? Should I ask what is the budget? Just curious. Ok thats it.

Mr. Mullen, I am terribly sorry for these latest barrage of questions. It's just that you came up to be a DP the hard long way and I can think of NO ONE better to answer my questions other than you. By the way, I subscribed to NetFlix and I just had to see "Twin Falls Idaho", "JackPot", and "NorthFork" AGAIN! Marvelous work from everyone involved! All the best, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. I hope you dont hate me for all my questions!
1.) I have a PC computer and now a Mac G4 laptop.

2.) Yes, it would save you money to edit your reel yourself and burn your own DVD's.

3.) The main problem with cutting your reel is getting high-quality footage from the production. If you can do that, it doesn't matter too much which technique you use to post it if all you are going to do is make DVD's. I bought a Sony DSR-11 DVCAM deck to import footage into my computer for editing. I just use a cheap $100 editing software and make simple cuts with music underneath.

4.) I doubt a production is going to put stuff onto a hard drive for you, so I would try and ask for a Digi-Beta copy, or if not that, a DVCAM copy (if you can edit that.) They sometimes deliver the footage on a DVD; I haven't tried yet to edit that stuff.

5.) If you're on a budget, it doesn't really matter if you end up at one rental house rather than another as long as the camera & lenses are good and the service is good, but truth is that Panavision often comes in as the cheapest when we bid it out anyway.

6.) I like Fuji. I like Kodak. I like variety. In 35mm, I don't think there is much of a quality difference so use what you think looks good for that project. In Super-16, I think Kodak looks a little sharper, which helps in that format.

7.) I test whatever I think it's important to test, to eliminate doubt on my part or pick between two choices. Usually it's a one-day test, not too elaborate. I'm just paid as part of my pre-production salary, but you have to pay a camera crew to work for that day. The test is usually done at the rental house so at least you don't have to rent the camera.

8.) I would talk to the person first to give them a chance to improve their work / attitude. The line producer, who does the hiring & firing on a set, would give them a warning. If that doesn't help, I'd ask the line producer to replace them, or their key supervisor.

9.) I don't have much power to get anything into my contract that isn't standard (access to footage for my reel is standard, a minimal work guarantee is standard, etc.) In the future, I may be able to get more into a contract.

10.) No, I haven't tried any of the look management systems nor sent digital stills to a colorist, etc.

11 & 12.) Since I don't get film dailies, there is no timer. I shoot a gray scale at the head of rolls or scenes, followed by a sign with some basic intent described: NOTE TO COLORIST: DEEP BLUE MOONLIGHT for example.

13.) An assistant will often make notes about f-stop, distance, etc. used on each set-up.

14.) I would say that the optical viewing system of the Millenium is on par with other high-end cameras like the Platinum or 535B. I haven't done any real comparisons. The two reasons I like to get the Millenium are that it switches quickly into Steadicam mode (it's modular) and it goes up to 50 fps.

15.) In critical focusing wide-open, I'd double check a tape focus with an eye focus.

16.) A few times an AC of mine has taken the Flange Focal Depth Gauge on location. Yes, it makes me nervous to have them trying to adjust it in the field.

17.) In my spare time, I answer questions on the internet mostly, it seems.

18.) The Varicam can shoot at 24P when set to that -- it only records everything to 60P on tape; you don't "sample" 24P from 60P, you extract the original 24 frames off of the 60P recording. I haven't used the Varicam much because I tend to shoot HD for film-outs so I prefer shooting 1080P instead of 720P.

Vice Pace's rebuilds of the F950 are very clever; I just wish the new camera didn't have to be cabled to another F950 (which the processing still is) and then further cabled to a recorder. Seems odd to rent a camera with a second camera attached to it. I wish he had been able to strip out the processing and put it in a smaller box, but I guess he feels what's the point? Either way you're cabled to something.

"Jackpot" was one of the first F900 features and we used two original HD zooms built by Canon, which were OK but not as good as what you can get today from Canon. I've shot eight features in HD but have never used a DIT, nor carry scopes & waveforms, although I'd like to try taking a portable one next time. I keep the menu set-ups simple so I don't need a lot of onset tweaking. I save that for post. Yes, you need a large HD monitor to judge problems like backfocus on, so you do a lot of running back to the monitor (which makes the case for getting an operator.)

HD shoots can be as simple or complex as you want to make them to be -- all you need to do is be willing to give up some control and take some risks, but the cameras like the F900 and Varicam are essentially ENG designs and one could reduce the package down to something that fits into a portabrace bag. Or you can make them highly complex productions with lots of cabling, multiple monitors, scopes, engineers, whatever. I did a weekend of pick-up shooting on the F900 with just me and the director (and someone to help carry stuff) on the road.

19.) If you are shooting 2-mil features in LA regularly, you should be in the union because you're going to keep running into that problem. When a film signs the IA contract with the producers, non-union folks like you can't get fired by law, but you will get the chance to join. Otherwise, if you have the hours to qualify, and you think you'll be doing more movies in this budget range, or higher, you should join. In terms of the crew, it doesn't really matter what you say (as a non-member) if the IA reps show up and asks all its members to not return to work after lunch until a contract is signed. Personally, if you hope to be shooting bigger projects in the future, I wouldn't get on the bad side of the union...

20.) Sure, you can ask what the budget is. I would do it late in the job interview so as to not sound like that's the only thing you care about. In terms of salary, don't really ask until they offer you the job, at which point it's fine to ask and turn down the job if it's too low for you. If you already know the budget, you'll be prepared for what the job offer will be like.

You should get a script and read it before the interview to know if you even want to go after this job.

If you have an agent, some of these questions can be asked by your agent in advance (budget, possible salary, who's in the movie, etc.)


Windowisclosing Last reply for a while...

Windowisclosing Last reply for a while...

Mr. Mullen-

Thank goodness for people like you! You have the patience of a saint. Well, on here anyway! I like the fact that you recieved your masters from CalArts and studied under the great Kris Malkiewicz. Funny thing is that many years ago I shot some student thesis projects for some students at Kris' urging. I love Kris, he is indelible.

On your answers to my HD portion of my barrage of questions, another DP friend of mine, who shoots alot of HD, dropped by the rental facility and said, "My goodness are you shooting a simple pilot, or a massive LucasLand Feature?" I must say, I was running back and forth to those monitors, and at the end of the first day; the Director pulled me a-side and said to me, "can you just trust your eye?" "We need to move faster!"
I replied by saying HD has less latitude then 35mm, or for that matter Super16mm, and by me looking at that monitor and having the AC, or PA pan the camera, or the dolly grip ride the rehersal with the AC acting as Operator, while I look at the "TUBE" will make a big difference. He just said, "Well, run back and forth much faster!", (Hence, I agree: Hire A OPERATOR!) Also, this was only my second HD job; the first was 1080P/24P F900 and I had about the same gear minus the Pro35 adapter.

My friend, the DP, said just go with two simple Canon HD zooms, and a small 8" HD monitor with a "HoodMan" at your side, on a rolling stand. Perhaps I should have listened. I guess when I become more familiar with HD, and in a secret way I hope I don't, (because I want to orginate in a film medium as much as possible), I will learn what I can, and can not get away with.

In regards to the Panavision Flange Focal Depth Gauge, and checking the flange, have you ever had a shot come up, that was a wide shot/ wide lens, and the lens was near max aperture, where you felt it just did not "snap" into focus? Just curious? I know the ARRI 535B, ARRICAMS and MOVIECAMS do not require a FLANGE KIT when the hire is away on distant location. ARRI claims that this is one of
Panavisions "shortcomings", and in addition, I did not get your response in regards to certain Panavision lenses that have two, (2), witness marks. One yellow for T2.8 and above16/22 and one Blue, for T2.8 and wider, like T2.5, T1.9? ARRI, also, years ago, said this was another of Panavision's "shortcomings". (And NO, I DO NOT work for ARRI!) Any thoughts? maybe you answered these questions and I read it too quickly, if you did I apologize, and I blame COFFEE BEAN & TEA LEAF! I have the SHAKES!

You must have an agent being in the ASC and the UNION, and all that?
In closing, let me just say that you truly have answered more questions about politics, technical and personal situations then any of those so-called "A" List DP's. I think that most, not all, are a bit insecure. That's why most, and again, not all, do not take the time to answer questions in the way that you do. You don't give just simple answers, you break your answers down, so that one can understand, and absorb them. I hope that your career/profession brings you much joy, happiness, cultural understanding, and personal satisfaction. You are rare, and I am greatful to have been able to communicate with you in this forum.

To all who partake in this forum, I hope you ALL realize that this man, this person, is one gifted artist, and that is not "lip-service", or me being patronizing. I am just being honest. Thanks again Mr. Mullen. All the best to you, and yours and your future projects!
I only once ran into a situation where the AC wanted to adjust the flange depth, or check it, on location. It made me nervous but nothing bad happened -- as far as I know (the movie is still in post...) If you are shooting in town, Panavision can send someone out to the set to check it.

I rarely shoot wider than f/2.8 so I don't know how I'd handle the two marks on the Primos except to trust the focus puller's opinion and just double check with an eye focus if shooting at f/2 (which one should do anyway.)

As far as running back & forth to the HD monitor, try and keep it closer to camera, and I often have the 1st AC operate a rehearsal or just pan around the set using lighting stand-ins while I look at the monitor.

I got an agent after my thirteenth feature, but before I joined the union (which was about my 24th feature.) Agents are one of those things where it's better when they come to you rather than you go to them.


Thanks again, David and darn your gonna kill me!

Thanks again, David and darn your gonna kill me!

Mr. Mullen-

Ok, just a few more questions because your computer answers opened another set of questions... man I hope I don't run into you at a rental house and you hear my name; you may starngle me!

1.) Is your PC a lap-top/Note-Book? Or, is it a tower system?

2.) Do you edit on the Mac G4 lap-top or your PC Tower, or Laptop? Whichever one you do, do your editing on; do you have seperate drives and how much memory to do the job? I am a little ignorant when it comes to computers and the like.

3.) May I ask what the name of the $100.00/edit program you use and for which system or system(s) is it for?

4.) Do you usually get DVCAM copies of projects you've worked on, or, do you get other formats? Like I had written before, Mine are usually BetaSP, (Component), Dubs, 1 DVCAM "DUB" off a MAC G5/FINAL CUT PRO-4, (The Director/Producer says it does not matter if it were a tape to tape cut because he says it was input "UNCOMPRESSED". 1 DVCPRO50. But, mostly BetaSP, (Component) "DUBS" i.e., (second generation dubs).

My question above is have you had any experience with taking BetaSP, (C), and downconverting it to DVCAM and then importing it into your system? If so how was the quality? I am thinking about taking all my BetaSP "Dubs" and just downconverting them all to DVCAM across the board, even the DVCPRO50. I have not figured out what I am going to do with the DVD screeners some have given me? Any suggestions?

5.) If I do my own editing for my "show reels" should I use a burner that is stock with a system like a MAC, or PC or should I invest in a seperate DVD BURNER. Some say "seperate burners" are faster and of "higher" quality. Also, what DVD would you recommend to burn to, and send out?

6.) Should I use EPSON, or HP "label Makers" on the DVD's? Or, just leave them clear, with a little "clear" address like sticker that you see ads for in your daily junk snail mail. I ask this because I have heard that by putting consumer type labels on your own "burned" dvd's could cause problems with a potential client that you are trying to get hired with. Any thoughts.

Darn, I ask to many questions, sorry Mr. Mullen and to the person who put up that Storaro interview, many thanks! He makes a point about electronic editing in today's Feature Film World. He makes a VERY STRONG argument of why it needs to be re-considered or re-structured for film projects sake! I know the person put up the link but I am going to put it up again! All you students, you are the future! I implore you, listen to this man, this artist, this educator of the image making process. Here is the link: http://www.theconnection.org/shows/2005/04/20050407_b_main.asp

Gee, I hope I wasn't too preachy, or pretentious. Thanks again, Mr. Mullen and have a good evening and a wonderful tomorrow! All the best!
I'm not a computer person nor an editor either, so some of your questions would be better answered by someone else. My system is not necessarily better than someone else's. I have a PC tower and a firewire drive (I'm on location so I can't look at it and tell you how much it holds) that I use to put the imported clips onto. The software is Pinnacle Studio. I doubt it is much better than i-movie though. I just put paper labels on the DVD's. I have a separate burner only because the one in my computer broke.

I get everything dubbed to DVCAM if I have it on other tapes. Digital-to-digital dubs look the best, so my Digi-Beta-to-DVCAM dubs look better than my Beta-SP-to-DVCAM dubs. I'm sure that most editing software can handle a clip coming off of a DVD (which would be mpeg I guess.)


Thanks again Mr. Mullen.

Thanks again Mr. Mullen.

Mr Mullen-

Thanks again, I appreciate all you have done for me. You have basically opened my eyes, per-say. I wish you good shooting and take care. I am looking forward to seeing your flicks again, (all from the Polish Brothers), I just hope NetFlix gets here quick! All the best!


Owning your own Gear, or Renting from reputable house?

Owning your own Gear, or Renting from reputable house?

Mr. Mullen-

Me again, I have one more question. In your opinion, do you feel it is better to own your own gear i.e., 35mm, Super16mm, PRO-HD? Or, would you advice renting from reputable rental facilities? In the budgets for which I work at the moment; most Producers/Directors almost immdiately, (spelling forgive me), ask em if I own my own gear, and if I do that would be a plus!, an advantage at getting the possible "gig". I respond by stating that FIRST let me read the script, provided it is registered with the Writer's Guild, and is Copywritten. Then I recommend, renting the gear from rental facilities. I explain my reasons, like breakdowns, especially on-location, and with time a MAJOR factor, your DP, or owner, had better have a back-up of whatever type of equipment is on the production. I usually get a moan and a groan from the Producers and Directors.

I also explain to them, subtly, that with a good rental house, YOU ARE COVERED! THEY HAVE KNOWLEDGE, SERVICE and MUCH BACK-UP! Yet, again it seems the people that do get the "gigs" seem to own their own equipment. However, one side note, I knew one DP who owned everything; Camera/Lensing and Lighting/Grip with a 3 ton truck. He was sued on one particular job for camera related problems, he had no back-up and refused to comp the production and re-shoot for free. Nightmare for EVERYONE. That is my argument for RENTING. Or, am I possibly wrong? Just wanting your opinion. All the best and happy shooting!
All I can say is that I don't personally own any equipment. I've never really had the money to buy a decent camera package anyway. And I didn't want to get a job because someone wanted my camera more than me; I'd rather get work based on the quality of my work. Plus simply I can rent better equipment than I could afford to buy.

But there are certainly good reasons to be an owner-operator if you understand your business. But the camera has to pay for itself over time or else all you are doing is donating it to cheap producers.


Color Temperature Meters

Color Temperature Meters

Mr. Mullen-

Your favourite person to "bug" you once again. My question this time is in regards to color meters. I know DP's such as Darius Khondji, AFC, ASC uses one all the time. Do you happen to use one, or do you feel it is neccessary at all in Production? Oh, and thanks for the last reply! All the best!
I don't use them much myself, but my gaffers always carry one and sometimes use it to check the HMI's or see how much green is in some ordinary fluorescents when scouting a location, etc.


Northfork Questions and some other quest as well...

Northfork Questions and some other quest as well...

Mr. Mullen-

Once again, thank you for answering all those questions, whew! Now I have a few more. I just recently recieved "Northfork"-2.35:1 via "NetFlix" and I forgot just how ell crafted that fil truly is! I noticed that you "flashed" a majority of the film, (save for some of the exteriors so that you could maintain detail in the marvelous, (spelling, sorry), Montana plains! You used Fuji as your negative stock, Alpha-Cine as your Neg. Develop and edge-prep. for dailies telecine and Technicolor for all your post, back-end work. Now if I may ask with question pertaining to "NorthFork" and some other questions. Here they are...

1.) With a Production such as "NorthFork" how much "Testing" do you do? I am sure you do, but could you explain in as much detail what your series of test are with regard to emulsion testing, flashing, ("NorthFork", & "Twin Falls Idaho"), Make-up, Production Design, (How soon do you meet with that person or persons to go over sets and blue prints?), Location Scouting, (do you video tape for "live motion" or just use stills like 35mm, Polaroids, or argghhh Digital Still cameras like a 5, or 6 megapixel camera for possible camera angles, lens heights, etc., etc.? Also, how much time do you request, or how much does production give you and your team, for a feature, ( I know every situation is different), a commercial, a music video, an experimental

2.) With HD, like "JackPot" how much testing do you do before-hand, what takes part in those test since it is digital/HD 1080P? Is it close to what was asked above? Or, is it more, or less? Just curious?

3.) Do you believe in using a "protective" filter like a "UV", or "Skylight 1A" on the taking lenses of your FILM or DIGITAL/HD Camera/Lens set-ups?

4.) Do you prefer filters, (depending on the project) in front of the taking lens, or behind the taking lens, (this of course if you are using a Panaflex Series of camera, or a ARRI 535A/B or ARRICAM ST? If so, for each, may I ask why for each answer?

5.) How much communication do you get involved with the lab/post-house, or both before a production that you are shooting begins the actual "principal photography"?

6.) How much say so do you have in choosing film, (and what brand/make/format), or Digital/NTSC/PAL/SECAM, or PRO-HD? A lab, and or post house, camera rental house, and maybe even, (depending on your Gaffer and Key Grip/Dolly Grip), Lighting and Grip equipment hire?

7.) Video Assist? What system do you prefer, or would you care not to have it at all? Do you believe in playback of a performance or a particular difficult move? If so, what playback systems do you prefer, or recommend? Maybe you don't. Maybe you use none, zilch!

8.) I know that you have used the "Panaflasher" with great success on such films as "NorthFork" and "Twin Falls Idaho", but have you ever tried ARRI's "Varicon" system. Dan Sasaki at Panavision, Woodland Hills, CA. said that they now can use it with their system and lenses. Any thoughts on your use or none use?

9.) If you were to advice a Producer/Director as to what format to "universally" master too; may I ask what would that might be and why? I was thinking HDCAM, HDCAM-SR, or Panasonic's D5. What do you think, and how much say so do you have in this part of the game?

10.) Are you present at the "mastering" stage for DIGITAL MASTERING/UNIVERSAL and DOMESTIC? If so, are you compensated for this service, or is it just part of "following through"?

11.) What about "answer printing" and "check-prints"? Are you their to supervise as well? Is this and question 10, above, part of your contract, or do you just do it regardless of pay, or no pay?

12.) You tend to use a "fluid-Head" and it appears you use the wonderful, "O'Connor"-25/75-UlTIMATE. I sthis correct? Do you like or prefer any other types of head systems?

13.) How much turn-around time do you require for your-self, and your hard-working crews?

14.) When setting and blocking out shots with the director, second team, and crew what type of viewing system so you use? I.e., Camera on a Dolly with a Lens choice? A "stick"/ or panafinder/arri-finder w/PL mount, or a simple one like a Mark-IV? Just curious?

15.) Opinion for looking for work on the internet like film job boards?

16.) Sometimes I see you wearing spectacles. Do you Operate with them on, or off? If you Operate with them off, does Panavision give you a special "diopter" to insert into the viewing recticle, (tube) of a given viewfinder?

17.) In regards to camera prep. at a rental house. How much time is alloted to you and your crew say on a feature production like, "NorthFork"?

18.) If you do video dailies, (which from your past answers to my questions; you do; may I ask what does the production company require, or the editor require for video/digital dailies to put into their non-linear edit machine? BetaSP, (Component), 3/4SP", DVCAM, DIGI-BETA, miniDV. (I know Time-Code and Key-Codes are most important!) Again, just curious.

19.) What books, other than Kris Malkiewicz and yours, Guerilla Film-Makers Guide, (You are featured!), would you recommend to me and others?

20.) lastly, what cinematographer, other than Kris Malkiewicz inspired you from the very beginning?

Mr. Mullen, thank you again for your tremendous patience with these questions. I am just trying to get it right and as best as one can do with in the given conditions and budgets. All the best!
PLEASE ask fewer questions at a time. I'm really busy these days -- I start shooting a feature in two days.

1.) I often spend a day of testing at the rental house for a feature. In the case of "Northfork", I shot a few more tests in the week before production because I had the camera on location early to shoot some landscape winter shots. I shot different flash percentage tests combined with silver retention printing. I also tested filters and lighting ratios.

I take some digital stills on location for reference more than for testing.

2.) I spent a day of HD testing for "Jackpot" but since I could only film-out sixty seconds of material, the test was simple.

3.) I only use a filter if I need to use a filter, but then, I don't own a lens that I'm worried about scratching.

4.) I prefer using ND's and 85's behind the lens for Panaflex cameras so I don't have to look through them.

5.) I talk to the lab and post house briefly before beginning a show.

6.) I usually work with the company to determine the best format to shoot on for their budget.

7.) Video assist is pretty standard these days, and now that I'm not operating on union shows, I need to see the framing too.

8.) The VariCon fits into any 6x6 mattebox. I've never used it.

9.) HDCAM-SR is so new that not too many people are mastering to it yet for home video. HD-D5 is the most common for HDTV home video mastering.

10.) I haven't been paid yet for post time. I try and be there for all the print color timing and color-correction of the video master.

11.) I supervise the answer printing if I'm available, unpaid usually, unfortunately.

12.) I'm not trained to use a geared head or else I would more often. I like the O'Connor Ultimate mainly because it can tilt straight up or down.

13.) I'm guaranteed 12 hrs. and the crew 10 hrs., which means I wave my 12-hr. turnaround usually since I have to be there when the crew is there. Sort of pointless for me to show up two hours later.

14.) Block with actors without a camera, then set-up a camera and block with the camera using stand ins. I rarely use a lens finder.

15.) No opinion.

16.) I sometimes use blackwrap around the viewfinder so I can operate with my glasses. I also have a diopter I can pop-on the end of the viewfinder but it fogs easily.

17.) Camera prep is usually one to two days.

18.) Depends on the editor. Most choose beta-SP.

19.) I recommend reading everything. That's pretty much what I did -- I don't discriminate. A favorite is "Film Style & Technology" by Barry Salt, and "Masters of Light."

20.) Storaro, Unsworth, Hall, Zsigmond, etc.


New member

May I just make a couple of internet related suggestions ?

I typed in your name in google and imdb and non of these gave me any result.

In nowadays, I think that fixing that up may help you as well.

- Make as your site be seen by google
- register in imdb and submit your films as AC, DP etc.

When a production hears a name, the first thing they do is go on imdb with that name...

Thanks for the interesting discussion you're having here with David. And Thanks again David for answering so simply and yet so pertinently

For sure he's a great man !

Sometimes I think that not so many "great DPs" give us the luck to be so generous may be only because not so many of them are at ease with internet, writting, explaining, etc.

(I only go on these forums as to improve my english, my self ! :D )