Hire a DP that’s braver than you are

When I hire a DP I have a couple of musts – they must have a terrific eye, they must have a personality, and they must be braver than I am.   I’ve found myself producing some unlikely scenarios over the years, and the brave qualification has come in very handy.

For a Discovery Channel series I had to shoot inside a factory that builds 150 feet tall wind turbines.  I found myself ducking and weaving under 10 tons of flying steel.  The crew wore steel toed boots, heavy duty helmets, and eye protection gear to keep our eye sockets from melting in the event a stray splat of molten lava hit us in the face.  I thought I was pretty brave just to walk in the place, but when I saw my DP hanging over the edge of the railing to get a shot, and then crawling inside the steel tube while they sliced it with lasers, I was thrilled. It was a beautiful shot and he made me look good.

In addition to my dislike of walking under flying objects that weigh more than my house, I’m not a big fan of heights.  When I had to shoot on top of a 75 story NYC city building with no railings on the edge it wasn’t my proudest moment.  While I stood at the doorway directing the shot, The DP was at the tip of the ledge practically hanging by his toe nails to capture the city from every conceivable angle.  Another beautiful shot in the can.

Add to my list of least favorite places to shoot and that would have to be the middle of any body of water.  Born and raised in NYC I didn’t get a lot of swimming in, unless you count playing in fire hydrants during the summer.  So, when I had to shoot some scenes at a reservoir for a PBS series I was secretly happy when the person in charge said we had to stay on shore.  However, the producer in me knew a static shot would be deathly.  I no sooner had the thought when I saw the DP hijack a boat and take it to the middle of the reservoir to capture a panoramic view – another beautiful shot.

And that is why brave matters.  The DP will get the shot you can’t.  So to all the brave and talented DP’s I’ve worked with over the years, thank you.  Here’s to more, strange and exciting adventures.

What’s your DP story? Come on spill.