Do names mean things? In the world of filmmaking I’m staring to think that maybe they don’t.
It’s comical how many different terms I’ve seen people in this industry use for themselves:
- Video producer
- DP (Director of Photography)
- DoP (if you’re a DP in the UK or down unda)
- Visual Artist
- Executive Producer
- Videotographer (a term usually used by clients who are so confused they don’t know what the heck we’re called).
- UPDATE: I forgot to mention the infamous… video-ographer (another term used mostly by clients).
And I’m just as guilty as anyone. Eesh! Of all the terms above, I’ve used about, oh, all of them at one time or another (many I still do use). Is it any wonder clients are confused?
Photographers for the most part have it easy. They’re just photographers. All you have to do is precede the correct descriptor (e.g. portrait photographer, wedding photographer, commercial photographer, etc.) Unless, heaven forbid, they also shoot video, then they have a worse case of identity crisis then those of us who are JUST videographers/producers/cinematographers/filmmakers/directors/DPs.
I understand that in some cases, you really ARE wearing multiple hats. As a wedding filmmaker/videographer/et.al. you really do engage in all the disciplines associated with these titles…and then some (e.g. you’re also the audio engineer, graphic designer, colorist and editor). But you can’t fit all those titles on a business card, nor should you try. So you have to use something. But what?
I know that there’s a certain marketing cache that goes along with calling yourself one thing versus another. Fewer and fewer of my colleagues are using the term videographer in favor of filmmaker or cinematographer. There seems to be an inherent understanding that the latter two terms are more appealing. In fact, the first time I was ever called a “cinematographer” was actually by one of my wedding clients about seven years ago. She loved the love story we created for her, and while at the wedding, after it premiered at the reception to thunderous applause, she made a point to introduce me like this: “This is Ron. He did our love story. He’s more than just a wedding videographer, he’s a cinematographer!”
But I wonder, what is it about the term videographer that we dislike so much? I’m sure it largely has to do with the fact that video as a format does not look as good as film. One of the reasons the HD DSLRs have become so popular is because of the film-like look you can achieve with them. The same goes for motion-picture quality cameras like the RED or Arri’s Alexa. But the truth is, those cameras are shooting VIDEO. So, technically, all you high and mighty RED “filmmakers” out there. You’re just a bunch of videotographers…just like the rest of us. Just sayin’. 😉
There are times when the terms you use do have real effects. Recently a potential client asked to get a quote for me to DP a project for a large and well-known website. Given the size of this particular company, I was under the impression she wanted me to be a traditional Director of Photography (e.g. handle lighting and camera) and that they had someone else to be the director (the vision of the piece, actor direction, etc.) But once I started to correspond with her about what she wanted me to do, I realized my role would actually be DP and director. My original quote would have been different had I known. (Make a note).
So, where does that leave us. Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest idea. I’m just exploring the topic and starting a discussion. Are the myriad of names in the filmmaking world helping the industry, or hurting? What do you call yourself and why?