Advice from an Indie Producer: What You Need for Filming

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The Camera
There are many things you need to actually make a movie. The most important one is the camera. Without one there’s no movie. Here are some key questions you need to ask yourself when choosing a camera:

  • What type of look are you trying to achieve? Each camera’s output has a different look and feel.
  • How experienced is your DP? You want to choose a camera that the DP knows how to use effectively.
  • What type of lenses do you want to shoot on? Primes, zooms, anamorphic, etc. This can affect the type of mounts you will need. Also, if you chose expensive/rare lenses, your insurance coverage and premiums might be more than you budgeted for.
  • Will you shoot in ProRes, 2K or 4K? This will affect your post data workflow. The larger the files, the longer it takes to download the data, which means your staff will have to stay longer and potentially go into overtime.
  • How much experience does your DP have with low budgets? If you’re trying to save money and would like to use minimal lighting, you’ll need to choose a camera that works well with low light.
  • Will your project include VFX? Will you be shooting on green screen? Certain cameras are better than others to get the most out of VFX.

The bottom line is that the cost of the camera is not your only consideration — you must consider how your camera will affect your budget for crew, lighting, hard drives, and so on.

Hard Drives
Once you design your data workflow (how you’ll manage the data, back it up and share it with the editor), you can get an idea of how many and what type of hard drives you’ll need to buy. You’ll also need to know the amount of data you’ll shoot daily and how many backups you’ll require. Discuss this with your DP and editor in preproduction to ensure you protect your most valuable asset: your footage.

Lighting
Review your budget and hire people that can work with the lighting package you can afford. Depending on the scope of your project you can work with available light or rent out a stage with a lighting grid. Stands, flags and sandbags are considered “grip” and you will need these to set up the lights.

The larger the lighting package, the more crew you will need and the bigger the generators. Will you use house electric or a generator van? Getting clear on what you can afford and how you want the project to look in the end will save time, money and aggravation on set.

Vehicles
You will need to move people and things around. Depending on the size of your production, you many need one van that transports your camera and lighting or a fleet of trucks, trailers, honeywagons, and dressing rooms, or somewhere in between.

In addition, if you have remote locations that are outside the “zone” (SAG, IATSE, and Teamsters define the amount of miles from a certain point in NY and LA that is a fair distance to travel for actors and crew), you will have to transport your crew with passenger vans. Again the size of your fleet will depend on your budget.

Next up is all the things needed to decorate the set and dress the actors to make your movie come to life.

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