Curt Apduhan is an award winning filmmaker and cinematographer with over 20 years in the film and commercial production industry. He has lensed several critically acclaimed feature documentaries, including Sundance Film Festival selection “Go Tigers!” (IFC) and Todd Robinson’s “Amargosa” (Sundance Channel), which garnered him a National Emmy for Cinematography. “Most Valuable Players” is Curt’s most recent film shot for Matthew Kallis and premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network in September 2011. Curt has shot & directed over 100 commercials and corporate branding films for national advertisers such as Anthem/Blue Cross, Toyota, Lexus, Mitsubishi Motors, M&I Bank, and John Deere.
It always amazes me how a film of any size gets made. Between finding the funding to securing distribution, there are numerous pitfalls that can derail even the most organized production. The road to your local film festival is littered with filmmakers who have fell victim to trying to do too much with too little.
However, there is one thing a first time producer or director can do to mitigate the majority of problems that may befall any production faced with limited resources. Hire an accomplished director of photography who is genuinely interested in shooting your film. A DP who is passionate about your script and wants to help you realize your vision will often times work for surprisingly low wages. I know this to be true because I have, more times than I care to mention.
What I and many of my peers look for in a producer or director is passion tempered with a dose of reality. If a filmmaker is passionate about his or her script and has realistic expectations regarding the schedule and aesthetics of the film, it tells me that the project is moving away from being a train wreck and has a good chance of seeing the light of a projector.
If you approach the casting of your cinematographer with the same amount of attention and commitment as you do your actors, you will be well on your way to making a film that not only looks great but stays on budget. An accomplished DP suited to shoot feature length films will have a working knowledge of both camera and lighting disciplines along with experience in organizing and commanding a set. The later point in my estimation is just as important as knowing how to properly compose a shot and light a scene.
Your ability to bring your film in on budget depends greatly on how fast your DP is able to work. How fast your DP works depends on three major points; technical chops, experience behind the camera, and how effectively he or she can communicate with his crew. If your cinematographer is lacking in any one of these skill sets, walk away. It is better to keep searching for the right DP than having to replace the wrong one midway through the production.
Much has been said about the importance of having an experienced director of photography on board when working with a first time filmmaker and from my experience every bit of it is true. The accomplished cinematographer will keep your schedule and budget on track, assist in making creative decisions that tend to paralyze the first time director, and be a steadying presence on set for both cast and crew.
So take comfort in knowing that DP’s are an approachable lot who will bend over backwards to help you realize your dream as long as you are passionate about your film and have realistic expectations in the way it will be made.