Whether you’re an established filmmaker or just making your first short, you’ll soon find that you quickly grow attached to specific gear or other tools that make life on set a lot easier and more efficient. We reached out to a selection of independent filmmakers and asked them “What’s the one piece of filmmaking gear you couldn’t live without?” You’ll find their responses below, in no particular order:
“This could hardly be considered ‘gear,’ but my most important thing is having as many copies of the mini quarter-sized sides on me as possible. I’m normally a really well organized, put-together guy, but when I’m shooting I’m only trying to think about my actors and the DP and what I need to get, so I’m constantly losing my sides. Any AD I’ve worked with has known to always have a few extra on him so I can just always have one to go. Sometimes by the end of the day, I’ll find like four copies just in my jean pockets, me being totally unaware that I just kept loading them up since I always just assume I’ve misplaced them.” – Kyle Patrick Alvarez (“The Stanford Prison Experiment”)
“My Canon 1014 XL-S Super8mm camera. I shot my very first short film with this camera in the ’80s and used it again for fantasy sequences in my debut feature ‘I Believe in Unicorns.’ Although shooting on celluloid is becoming more of a rare luxury, there is still nothing else like it. It is up to us independent filmmakers to keep these formats alive. I am curious to experiment with the Digital Bolex as well, but will never part with my original Canon.” – Leah Meyerhoff (“I Believe in Unicorns”)
“When we go on shoots, I always bring the Radio Shack Power Inverter which in some ways is a filmmakers version of a James Bond gadget because it is not essential yet helpful in so many ways. The Radio Shack Power Inverter plugs into a car lighter and allows you to have an energy source for an AC plus and USB. This allows us to charge batteries, a computer, and of course, a phone. When on location and no access to an outlet it makes a big difference. Think of how many times someone forgets to charge a camera battery or a computer that is being used to download footage doesn’t have enough power. I bring the 150 watt version which is small and allows one plug and one USB and costs only $39.99. They also have a version for $49.99 that allows 3 plugs. It’s awesome.” – Douglas Tirola (“Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of The National Lampoon”)
“The one thing I always carry with me, whether in production or in editing, is an Aeropress coffeemaker. It’s fast, convenient, easy to use in even the most dire circumstances and capable of making a really excellent cup of coffee. We have three of them floating around our editing suite at the moment! So that, and a MacBook Pro. If I have those two things, I’m good to go!” – David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”)
“I discovered a pen which had lots of different colors that if you pressed one of the buttons down it would be a different color ink, red, green, yellow, blue, about six different colors. That was brilliant because when writing notes on a script and writing about different takes and didn’t want my notes to get confused, I was writing in different colors. rather than have ten pens in different colors, one pen with lots of different colors made life a lot easier.” – Morgan Matthews (“A Brilliant Young Mind”)
“When working on documentaries the one piece of gear I can’t live with out is a monopod. It obviously acts as a stabilizer but more importantly as a weight.” – Crystal Moselle (“The Wolfpack”)
“I’ve had the same Kata camera backpack for the last ten years. I’ve gone through four different cameras, but always use the same backpack to carry them. I don’t need a lot of help looking like a dirty backpacker, but the bag is definitely part of that disguise. It helps me get through foreign customs without any questions, and it also looks cheap so nobody robs me. Both of those things have happened to me, but only when carrying more traditional camera bags.” – Ryan White (“The Case Against 8”)
“One piece of filmmaking gear that I covet is the clamshell monitor. I like using handheld camera but I also like to be in the room as close as I can to the actors, to see them with my own eyes. I avoid video village and like it to be a distance away from the actors, the camera and me. A clamshell monitor that you can wear on your body allows the director to glance at the frame but keep their eye directly on the performance as it’s unfolding.” – Mora Stephens (“Zipper”)
“I don’t favour any particular equipment. At the moment I’m using the Sony 800 with a wide-angle lens. I have it set up by a friend in the hire shop before I leave as I’m hopeless with camera menus. Then I don’t touch anything the whole time I’m filming. I don’t take the lens off or change any of the settings so I know it will all look okay. I don’t watch anything I’ve filmed except when I get home I always check the last 2 minutes just to reassure myself that it’s all there and the camera is still working properly. I’m very reluctant to engage with equipment as I’m a bit troubled by it but I look after it carefully. In the car, I always have the camera on my lap on a cushion, for example, as I worry about it getting jolted. During the day, I hardly ever put it down. – kim longinotto (“Dreamcatcher”)
“Is it a cheat to say Final Draft? Storytelling all starts on the page. If you don’t get it right there, then you’re just ‘polishing brass on the Titanic,’ as my mentor Ron Osborn used to tell me.” – Khalil Sullins (“Listening”)
What filmmaking gear can’t you live without? Tell us in the comments section below.
Check out previous “Filmmaker Surveys” here. Indiewire is striving to spur discussion in the indie film community about a variety of timely issues. If you’ve got a topic you’d like us to feature, please let us know in the comments section below.