‘The cameras, lenses, cranes, batteries, tripods, drones… the ‘kit’… will not make you a great filmmaker.’
That was one core message I shared at BVE onstage yesterday, and if the organisers find out, it’s likely I will never be invited back!
Taking action now, making stuff now, learning about story now, working with actors now… these are the things that will give you an edge as a filmmaker in the climate we find ourselves in. The secret is action ‘now’ and to not get distracted by kit.
Of course we need kit to make our films, and of course we should seek the best tool for the job. Having said that, we all know that a great story that is well told will always trump a long series of beautiful images that are emotionally vacant.
So why do so many of us battle with the desire to own and use more kit? Here are my top ten rules when it comes to kit for your microbudget film.
Know you have a fetish
It’s like a madness or addiction. So many of us can’t keep our hands of the newest kit. It’s a fetish and we are addicted.
Choose kit that is appropriate for your story
Not all films benefit from the top end cameras. There have been a number of recent films shot on iPhone that could never have been shot on any other camera as the tech would have got in the way of the story and drama. I am still waiting for the first mind blowing action feature film shot on a GoPro. It will happen.
Don’t buy it, borrow it
The best camera to use is the one your friend owns, or the one you can blag for free. Buying kit can (not always) be a false economy as you end up locked into tech that will inevitably become out of date. And rapidly out of date.
Don’t buy cameras, buy sound kit
Sound kit is improving all the time, but it’s true that a 20 year old microphone like a Sennheiser 416 would have made a very smart investment that would still be used today. Sound kit will not become redundant anywhere near as quickly as camera tech (excluding lenses).
Lenses are more important than the body
A good lens could last you a career where a camera body may be totally out of date within a few years. A good lens will help you get great images today AND in 20 years (and a good tripod is also a great investment).
Can you handle the data?
New cameras are spitting out masses of data. Can you actually DIT fast enough, and handle the data storage down the line? It’s always more data than you anticipate.
Bigger camera, bigger crew
…And that all means more people, more transport, more food, usually slower shooting and all manner of other logistical issues. Guerilla filmmaking is all about being nimble on your feet. Don’t get seduced into the top end cameras unless you have a real need for it and the commitment to support that tech.
Resist the newest tech
A basic principle of all tech is to never use the first generation of anything as it’s usually got bugs and other problems. Plus it’s often disproportionately more expensive. Let the early adopters figure out the problems and solutions while we use last years tried and tested kit.
The bottom line is this. Don’t let the camera tech get in the way of making great drama, telling extraordinary and innovative stories and taking creative risk.
Above all, get out there now and make what you can with what you have or can get easily.
Onwards and upwards!