First movies are often tight on funding. Learn what gear to look for and you’ll be able to get A-list results from a C-list budget.
Step 1: Make a budget Make a budget for what you can spend on gear. If you skip this step, you risk finding yourself with a camera but not enough money for a tripod.
Step 2: Consider insurance Consider insurance. It might seem expensive, but it’s nothing compared to breaking a brand-new camera. Also, you will need insurance to rent equipment.
Step 3: Go through your shots Go through your shot list and determine your general needs. For example, if your entire movie takes place outdoors during the day, you can pretty safely divert your lighting budget elsewhere.
TIP: Consider shooting in digital—it’s cheaper, easier, and, if you know what you’re doing, it can look fantastic. Also, high-definition cameras are rapidly dropping in price.
Step 4: Schedule smartly Be smart about scheduling. If you want to rent something special—like a jib—for a few shots, schedule those shots together.
TIP: If you’re going to rent gear, make sure your insurance will cover it—and inspect everything carefully before taking it out.
Step 5: Get lights Get your lights. Try to use multipurpose lights. Make sure you have protective gloves and the proper stands.
TIP: For really shoestring situations, substitute industrial or construction lights. If you’re creative, you can find lights at a hardware store that can do in a pinch—or make them yourself using photoflood bulbs, sockets, diffusion, gels, and plywood.
Step 6: Select microphones Pick out microphones that will suit your film. Use shotgun mics to record from a distance and lavaliers to attach to your talent. Never rely on on-camera microphones.
TIP: Good audio is essential. An audience can adjust to camcorder-level video if it’s shot and edited well, but if they can’t hear what your characters are saying, they’ll ask to see the manager and demand a refund.
Step 7: List supporting gear Make a definitive list of everything else you need, from tripods to traveling cases to cables to reflectors. Don’t skip this step—a camera is worthless without film.
Step 8: Shop wisely When you’re ready to get your equipment, try to find discounts on rental equipment, or considering borrowing from friends. If you rent gear on Friday and return it Monday morning, most rental houses will only charge you for one day!
FACT: Shot for just $35,000, The Blair Witch Project made $250 million!