What is a“DOP”?
It starts with a story. A good story. That is what drives Pasha Patriki, the Director of Photography (D.O.P.).
The day of a DOP is far from your typical 9 to 5. There is the “Call Time” , and then there is the 12-hour standard “shooting day” schedule. Pasha, who has been working in the industry for 15 years, uses his own camera on many shoots. This means that he has to arrive early to make sure the camera equipment is offloaded from his truck and carried to the set.
The next step is to talk to the director and once again go over the plan for the day and discuss the potential challenges ahead. The scenes and setups are listed in the “Callsheet” – a result of careful preparation of many people – from director to production manager to locations manager, to assistant director and DOP. However things can change at any point, and you have to be prepared for anything. “A day on set is essentially a day of problem solving. Challenges are part of the business, and solving them is part of the fun” – says Pasha.
From the age of 4, Pasha Patriki knew he wanted to become a filmmaker. He stumbled upon a film set while taking a walk with his parents and immediately fell in love with the hustle and bustle of it. Working in film for Pasha is a dream come true that took a lot of hard work and perseverance to achieve. “I get inspired by so many great films, in fact I always have a hard time answering a question about my three most favorite films”.
Back on the set – the DOP and the Director had a chance to have a chat. It’s calltime. The first task is “blocking”. The actors walk through the scene with key crew present, which now enables everyone to start setting up the lighting, place props, position dolly track, while actors go to their hair and makeup process.
This usually takes at least an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the scene.
Once the actors, lighting, and set dressing are fully ready – there is a final rehearsal with camera. If everyone is happy – “Picture Is Up!”
As the day goes on, Pasha is often talking to the director about how complicated the coverage (the amount of various camera angles) needs to be for any scene. Although this is usually planned ahead of time, often something doesn’t quite work out as originally envisioned: so you need to be ready to adjust your plan, or go to plan “B”.
A lot of filmmaking is about problem solving and finding ways to make your day happen. This requires compromise to allow as much coverage on the scene as needed but not jeopardizing with the schedule. Steven Spielberg once said : “It’s [about] how good a film you can make under the circumstances”
Once lunch comes, Pasha re-groups with his team and checks how much has been achieved and how much there is still to do. “On a good day 2/3 of what you need done is completed before lunch. This means you are most likely going to finish on schedule” – says Pasha. “Anything less than that means that the afternoon is going to be a REAL challenge”.
The day continues after lunch just like the morning. One of the ways Pasha tries to stay ahead of the game is using any opportunity (like a small break in the shooting) to talk to the director and crew about the next setup and prep the equipment so that the change of the lighting for the next shot is quicker.
“At the end of the day, it is not about just making the schedule. It’s about everyone’s passion for the storytelling and the moving image. I am very lucky to have a very passionate crew – grip, lighting, and camera – who are all in this business because they enjoy the process and genuinely love being part of the process of telling good stories. They are the best crew I could ever wish for”.
Tomorrow is a , new location, probably completely different part of town, a new set of challenges, more fun. More stories.