My career started at Film School in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. I worked in Lighting & Grip (the department of the school that rents out the film gear for student sets) and I hated it.
It was essentially manual labor — lugging heavy, heavy, heavy stands, lights and grip material from upstairs to downstairs and organizing them in a manner that would allow the manager to quickly check off items we’ve filled.
There was a sense of pride associated with knowing the terminology for each item … Baby Plates, Vice Grip, Flags, Cucoloris, Duvetyne, Flex arm, Hi-Hi Roller Stands (the worst!), C Stands, and the list went on.
Film students are already notorious for being snobs when it comes to name dropping of actors, directors, films … add in these terms and you’ve got yourself a room of inflated egos.
I was one of the few who did not care. In fact, I did everything I could to avoid landing a shift on Monday or Friday (the days when you either checked in and put away orders or filled them for the weekend).
The main lesson I learned from this job and being on film sets almost every weekend was the the rented gear — while it did serve a purpose and increase production value — was often overkill. Go to any student film showcase and you might be in awe of the visuals of the films, but very often disappointed in the story.
I wanted to be different. Maybe it was the fact that I’m 120 lbs and a female, but the idea of lugging around heavy gear and taking forever to set up the perfect shot just felt like wasted time. I wanted it to be RAW and REAL. I adopted the line “I want to live life and film it.”
This has continued to be my motto as I grow my Video Marketing Business. I’ve grown to appreciate the value of lighting and grip items, but never want it to impact my ability to capture the moment.
For Business Owners: What This Means For You
You’re looking to create a video, but you have no idea where to start. You’re either going to hire a videographer that you found off Craigslist or reach out to local Production Houses or Agencies.
The quotes get are going to vary massively. These are mostly due to the level of production. The more gear they bring, the more man power and time is needed to lug around, set up and operate that gear. This in turn translates to bigger budgets.
When Hiring a Videographer:
Videographers tend to do everything alone so they will come with smaller gear they can carry without help. This comes with it’s own limitations and if the videographer is any good, they’ll be able to advise you on what they can or cannot accomplish as an individual.
It’s good to ask what gear they use to increase production value. Hint: Ask if they own a slider or a stabilizer.
Having these two items will take your video up a notch. It might even be worth adding a gear rental if they do not have these items, but do know how to use them (or are willing to learn). Another thing to consider is to offer adding a budget to get a second camera or just extra pair of hands.
When Hiring a Production House:
Oppositely, you might pitch an idea to a Production House and they likely will pull out all stops to make your vision possible. They have lots of resources (gear, talent and contractors) to make your vision happen, but it will cost you. Their concern is production value, not budget. You’ll likely know if you’re in the right place once you get a quote.
If the quote is higher than anticipated, but you still really want to work with them then ask if there is a way to reduce the amount of gear or contractors they plan to use.
They often will push back, because they want to use their full creative arsenal. They’ll tell you that the Production Value of your video will fall (and it will), but that might be okay depending on what you are looking for.
Have them explain how the video will change and make sure you’re okay with the changes before moving forward. Whatever you do, don’t push back later if the production value doesn’t live up to the initial conversation you had before budget was discussed.