Secrets of Indie Filmmaking

Secrets of Indie Filmmaking: Talking Equipment

Photo: Christopher Comrie on location in Mexico by Samantha Swan

Generally on this blog, we have confined our discussions to the creative: posts about who and what can inspire indie filmmakers; storytelling concerns; directing techniques, et cetera, and all through an independent or low-budget or micro-budget independent filmmaking lens. In other words, we have tried to not make it yet another indie film post talking equipment.

Oh God, the ongoing fascination with equipment.

Cameras in particular. I don’t know what it is, but it seems I can’t attend a film Q&A without being asked “What did you shoot it on?” And if I’m one of the people in the audience, the camera question is one I always hear.

I’m not completely unsympathetic. It is understandable, if you are about to make your first film or a feature that has been put together on a wing and a prayer, held together by chewing gum, that you really want to check in with others of your ilk. “What equipment do you have? What did you shoot it on?” But those questions are often actually stand-ins for the panic-stricken “What is enough? Do I have enough to do this? I can’t possibly have enough!” And let’s face it, equipment is tangible. It’s much easier, and in some cases reassuring, to go to an equipment rental house or vendor and stand around talking cameras and tripods and lights. You can touch them.  You can’t lean across the counter, caressing a stack of paper, saying “I’m not confident in my third act.” Well, you can, but all it would yield would be blank looks.

Of course, the camera is important. But it is not the only piece of equipment that matters. On this blog we’ve tried to underscore that the script, the actors, your experience, your sense of storytelling and quality; these are all your tools too. Okay, fine, we have previous posts about these.  So let’s take a moment to assume you already have your camera or know which model you’re going to rent. Because that camera you’re going to get asked about at your future Q&A? It doesn’t matter how good or luxe it is if it is the only piece of equipment to which you gave serious thought. If it took the the lion’s share of your consideration and energy. This is especially important if you happen to be a director of a small film who is also his or her own cinematographer.

So though I seem to have been dragged into it, here is some of what we like Talking Equipment: a few additional pieces that don’t cost an arm and a leg, but can add a lot of options and value to your shoot.

UNDERWATER CAMERA HOUSING
Obviously this is not going to be required on every shoot, but very useful when, like us, you want to shoot in the ocean in Mexico.
Why else I like it: under water doesn’t have to mean the ocean. We can shoot in heavy rain with this housing, not to mention shoot on or near water without having to worry about a camera accident – like it gets heavily splashed or dropped in the drink.

TABLETOP DOLLY
Small is beautiful. What a nice way to get a low-down creature POV.
Why else I like it:  it  can add movement to a dinner scene or documentary shooting of a round-table discussion.

COMPACT CAMERA CRANE/JIB
Small is still beautiful: In the past we have shot from atop ladders and out second story windows in order to shoot from above, to get the shot that suited the mood – but to be able to get smooth motions on three axes in 4′ and 8′ heights is useful.
Why else I like it: fully automatic tilting keeps the camera level at all times.

As in the past, I have not gotten into brand names here. My reason for that, is I don’t want to give the impression that Ardent has sponsors for brand endorsement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’d also prefer to endorse something I love and can recommend without hesitation. Besides, many independent film people are DIYers who are quite capable of building – and do build – their own rigs.

So, that is some equipment we like, and yes, it was all in support of the camera. Next time we’ll discuss that other area of equipment often so badly neglected in independent film: Sound.


More from Ardent Pictures

Recent

More Secrets of Indie Filmmaking

Leave a Comment

Let us know your thoughts on this post but remember to play nicely folks!