Cinematographer Profile: Marc Shap

Posted by Doug Klinger on November 7, 2012 in Interviews

Staff Post

Cinematographer Marc Shap is someone with a sweet IMVDb page and a sweet IMDb page. In addition to working on music videos for Barenaked LadiesFather John Misty, and Foxy Shazam, he has worked on everything from feature films, to commercials, to network television. We talked to Marc about how music videos compare to those other art forms, from a both a creative perspective and a financial one.

Marc Shap

Doug: You’ve worked on a variety of different projects, narrative pieces, television, commercials. Where do music videos fit into all of that for you?

Marc: I love shooting music videos. Like you said, I’m pretty versatile and I do a lot of different work. Music videos definitely have a special place for me. I’m a huge music lover; I actually started out studying music and film composition before moving on to cinematography. Anytime I can work with bands, especially bands that I enjoy, it’s a big bonus. They’re also fun because you get the freedom to be creative, and work on interesting treatments in unusual locations. Commercials are a lot more to the point; it’s more about getting a certain look. Where as, with music videos, there aren’t as many rules.

Doug: As far as how sets operate, you definitely see a difference between film, television, and the music video world?

Marc: Obviously there are some similarities on the outside, but there is more creative freedom in music videos. Anything and everything seems to be accepted.

Doug: So what do you mean by similarities on the outside, like the people who are working on each?

Marc: Yeah, you still have a lot of the same tools, and equipment, and crew. It’s just usually faster paced; you have to get in a lot of setups and coverage. At least in my experience with music videos, you can go with your instincts a little more: like try an interesting camera movement or lighting gag.

Marc Shap

Doug: And as far as rates, from your perspective as a DP, are they similar from that perspective?

Marc: No. Traditionally rates are lower for a music video and shoots are usually one or two days vs. a few days or a few weeks, or even a month on a film. I think, in general, there is just less and less money for music videos these days, so I don’t expect to get rich off of it.

Doug: Are music videos more of a creative outlet?

Marc: Yeah, a creative outlet and a good way to shoot and learn. I’m not really in it for the money, although it’s nice, it’s just something I enjoy doing.

Doug: As far as within music video specifically, does you approach change based on the director your working with?

Marc: Every director and I have a different relationship as far as our collaboration. Some do more prep/shot lists/story boards, some don’t. Directors that I work with more often, we share a certain understanding, or trust. We kind of just know how the other is going to work. For me, I’m mainly going off the treatment that I get from the director - it gives me a starting point. From there, it’s about working out the creative and the logistics. My job is ultimately to get the director what they want, and what’s on the treatment. Whatever it takes to get there.

Doug: You’re signed to Elevation Talent Agency, when it comes to music videos, is that where a lot of your work comes from, or is that more geared toward TV and film work?

Marc: Music video work usually comes through personal relationships. The agency is more in the feature world. Most of my music video work is through word of mouth, if someone sees one of my videos or if I’ve worked with them before.

Marc Shap

Doug: Are you typically working on more than one project at a time?

Marc: I always welcome more and more work. If it’s going to interfere or compromise the current project, I won’t do it. I like to think I’m pretty loyal and would never leave one production for another one, unless there is some kind of understanding. But, definitely, the more work the better.

Doug: Are you in the position to turn work down, either if you are currently working on something, or if you’re just not interested?

Marc: Yeah, over that past few years I’ve really had to learn what and how to turn down work. How to gauge what jobs are going to be beneficial, not just in terms of paying rent, but the people involved, the material involved, and things like that. It’s something I’ve had to deal with, either because I’m double booked, or because the project might not suit my work or suit me, or might not be in my best interest to do. 


cinematographer profile, marc shap

Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.



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