In his 20 year career Matthew Irving has shot an eclectic slate of over 30 films, including the Top Ten box office hits Waiting (starring Ryan Reynolds and Justin Long) and Waitress (recently been adapted into a Broadway musical). Five of his movies have premiered at Sundance, including Outlaws & Angels, which was named one of Variety’s “21 Best Films of Sundance 2016”. Irving was also the DP on Lunacy’s Keep Your Distance back in 2003.
If you’re in the area and have the opportunity to attend Matt’s seminar, don’t pass it up. He has many great insights into the film industry, including the following A-B-C-Ds of success on set:
Just chill — try to be easy-going, and don’t let ego or fear place you into needless conflict with others. Everybody is in the same boat, and we’re all allies working hard toward a common goal. You’re not going to get anywhere by yelling and screaming, and it’s true that you actually do get “more with honey than you do with vinegar.” I’ve found that affability is one of the most important secrets to success on set. Believe it or not, it will set you apart from the pack. It also makes you a prime candidate for re-hiring on future projects. Your reputation will precede you; make sure producers and directors want to have you in the trenches with them.
There’s so much mediocre product out right now, and it’s difficult to stand out if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else. It can seem almost impossible to rise above that noise. I’ve been most successful when I make bold artistic choices with a director who has the courage to follow through. My first feature “One” probably had too many “fly on the wall” shots peering through doorways and dividing up the frame geometrically, but we went BOLD with it… and that project put me on the map when it premiered at Sundance ’98. Try not to make the obvious choices, while making sure the style you’re creating rises organically out of the material and the character arcs. Safe thinking breeds mediocrity. Go big or go home!
This is key on all levels: not just collaboration between the DP and the director, but collaboration between DP and a day player grip, who might groove on what you’re doing and give a fantastic suggestion. Be open to that input; don’t feel threatened by it or let your ego get in the way. Good filmmaking requires collaboration with every department. That’s a lot of personalities with different points of view. Try to keep your crew invested in what’s going on. When people know they’re active participants, you’ll get their very best work. Keep your eyes and ears open, because you never know where that next genius idea might come from.
Nothing kills a day like waffling. And nothing makes a crew more restless. Collaborate fully and encourage input from all levels, but then YOU need to be the one making decisions. Follow through confidently, and if you find you’ve made a mistake, don’t get freaked out… just go in a new direction just as decisively. You don’t always have to be right. Your crew doesn’t expect perfection. But they absolutely expect and deserve decisiveness.