Things DPs Don't Talk About

by Sean Porter

  • You Are Not A Unique Snowflake: Sean Porter on How to Get Ahead in Filmmaking

    I don’t think I’d be out of line if I said the DP job market is heavily saturated. IATSE wouldn’t tell me the actual number of jobs available last year, but according to the internet there were 157 TV shows in production and roughly 250 features released (both union and non-union). Currently, there are more than 2,000 Local 600 members on the active DP roster, and while some of them are retiring this number doesn’t include the many operators stepping up and shooting on their way to re-rating. Add to that a small number of in-demand cinematographers who take up…  Read more

    On Jun 11, 2018
    By on Jun 11, 2018Columns
  • The Art of (Not) Compromising: DP Sean Porter on When and How to Hold Your Ground

    For those of you following along, I had intended to continue my interview series on parenting — and had some cool interviews with people like Rachel Morrison (before she was nominated, OK?) — but Filmmaker, with its abundance of (truly) great interview features, politely requested I stay with my format, so you’re stuck with yours truly. Now, where was I? Oh yeah. Speaking of compromises! That’s yet another topic I’d love to hear other DPs talk about, but they don’t. So, instead, one of my favorite pastimes is getting my DITs to tell their stories. (Hint: they have good stories.)…  Read more

    On Mar 8, 2018
    By on Mar 8, 2018Columns
  • Legacy

    storyteller stôrē tel  r noun 1. a person who tells stories 2. a liar I thought we’d take a quick detour into something that came up during Bradford Young’s interview last issue. I feel like so many of the ideas he talked about warranted their own dedicated roundtable conversations, but one thing that really struck me was the notion of legacy: the idea that what we do, here and now, has a far greater shelf life than any of us may want to accept. And this doesn’t just apply to people with kids. We all are constantly weaving the very…  Read more

    On Dec 14, 2017
    By on Dec 14, 2017Columns
  • Our Family

    There’s a wealth of taboo subjects in our industry, but family life especially manages to stay pretty deep in the shadows, even more so than the rare public discourses on sexism, racism and ageism. It’s a topic most filmmakers don’t venture into for a variety of reasons, but maybe most of all because the success rate of keeping a family together in this industry is scarily low. Sometimes it seems like families and filmmaking are at direct odds with each other. Coming up on two years of this column, I thought maybe it was time to get other DPs to…  Read more

    On Sep 14, 2017
    By on Sep 14, 2017Columns
  • Commercials: Acting School for the Rest of Us

    I didn’t work in the ad world for a long time. I remember always being a bit jealous of my DP friends who somehow found their way on that path early on, usually through music videos. I dabbled in music videos but kept coming back to to narrative shorts and crewing on features instead. Years later I was shooting features of my own. Meanwhile those DPs had really gained ground in commercials, shooting for Mercedes, Nike, Adidas. Anytime we’d catch up, the grass was always greener: “I want to shoot ads!” I’d say. “I want to shoot movies!” they’d say.…  Read more

    On Jun 16, 2017
    By on Jun 16, 2017Cinematography
  • The F Word: Five Reasons Film Is Still Relevant in a Digital World

    I’ll be honest. I’d all but written film off, except for the few rolls that live in my Pen-F and my Mamiya RB67. In the days of the original RED, the Viper and VariCam, sure, video was a compromise. Those Kodak ads made sense. But now shooting a movie or a commercial on an ALEXA Mini shooting in ARRIRAW — I don’t feel that way anymore. The images are great. Better than great — they’re hard to break, and they grade well. And as film has faded from the independent-moviemaking scene, I can’t emphatically say I feel like I’ve lost something…  Read more

    On Apr 13, 2017
    By on Apr 13, 2017Filmmaking
  • Dispatches from the Frontlines of a Studio Picture, Part 2

    This is my second and final installment detailing a few of the experiences I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned while working on my first studio picture. We wrapped principal photography back in October, so I’ve had a couple months to digest the massive meal that was. Luckily, everyone seems happy with our efforts — which is a big deal, because it’s not just about you and the director feeling good about yourselves at the end of each day. On a studio film as a DP, I have been employed by a pretty major corporation to perform a job in an effort to…  Read more

    On Jan 18, 2017
    By on Jan 18, 2017Columns
  • Dispatches from the Frontlines of a Studio Picture, Part 1

    Not that long ago, and certainly on my last feature, I would often find myself joking with the gaffer or the key grip: “So if this was a $20 million film, what would we do differently?” Most of the time the answer involved big lighting cranes, custom lightboxes, technocranes and time. Lots and lots of time. On an indie, we are constantly pushed to produce more with less. Thirty-five-day schedules are becoming 28-day schedules. Eight million dollar films are being produced for five. The bar miraculously remains the same — you simply need to squeeze more juice from a smaller fruit. If you…  Read more

    On Oct 20, 2016
    By on Oct 20, 2016Columns
  • Because Breaking Up is Hard to Do

    As a cinematographer, I’m always looking for the perfect marriage: the director I can lock eyes with to communicate volumes without uttering a word. Someone who knows how to use my work to its best potential, who can challenge my ideas about filmmaking and push me to reach places I didn’t think I could — and then keep going. In my dreams, it never starts and ends with one film. It’s a lifelong journey to seek out something greater. All my heroes have these sorts of relationships: the Coens and Deakins, Allen and Willis, Iñárritu and Prieto (maybe now Lubezki?!). When meeting with directors,…  Read more

    On Jul 25, 2016
    By on Jul 25, 2016Cinematography
  • Pregnant Pauses: Connecting the Dots Between Giving Birth and Film Production

    You probably hear stuff like this all the time: “Focus on the journey, not the destination.” Or, “It’s not where you go but how you get there.” And better yet: “Don’t get attached to outcome.” Many philosophical and motivational figures throughout the ages have identified the way or how as being arguably more significant than the what or where. These ideas are immensely applicable to filmmaking, and they have guided my philosophies about life more broadly for a long time, leading to some challenging and surprising points along the way. But is it always that simple? Does outcome not matter, at least as…  Read more

    On Apr 21, 2016
    By on Apr 21, 2016Columns
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