Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to Get Free (or Cheap) Equipment for Your Film

This is the face of a man who spent all his money on film equipment.

Making films is expensive because you need expensive equipment to make your product. You can’t just use a paintbrush and easel, or music and your feet. Like I said in my first blog post, making a movie without a camera is like making ice cream without milk. Without milk you are not making ice cream. You may be making sorbet, which is great, but it’s not ice cream. If you want to make sorbet, you can ignore the rest of the post. For the rest of you, read on.

Now I’m hungry.

Good quality in production is the difference between being considered a professional and an amateur. If, like me when starting out, you are poor and unknowledgeable and technically illiterate and poor (and don’t forget poor), here is what I learned about getting the best equipment possible.


I was very particular about my choice of colleges. Particularly the location of the college. Specifically, I wanted to live in New York City, because, although I didn’t know that New York City was the independent filmmaking capitol of the world, I knew it was pretty darn close to it.

It was a big move. But it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

My college is not a film school. But one of the great things about it is it does have a media lab for the film students. Until recently it was run by students and gave them great on-the-job training. (I wish I had taken more advantage of it. But that’s another blog post.) If you have the opportunity to go to a film school or a school that has a good media lab, take advantage of that in every way you can.

Not everyone has the choice to go to a college in NYC like I did. I recognize that this was a blessing that I am grateful for.

But that’s another blog post.


I will go back to this again and again. Having film friends is important. Having friends is important in general. (Shout out Aristotle so I make my philosophy professor proud.) But when it comes to getting the best equipment, friends are irreplaceable for four reasons: 1. they will tell you what you should be looking for when you buy your own equipment, 2. you can borrow their equipment, 3. they will teach you the tricks they know, and 4. they might let you buy it off them for a cheaper price. Aside from what I used from the school, all of my films where shot one or more of these four ways.

If you want to make film friends. It is also helpful to live in New York City (or LA, but that’s a bit more the Hollywood scene than independent). Because there are so many film nerds there. You have a higher chance of making those connections here.

Basically, live in New York City is the lesson here.


Finally, the best thing you can do—if all these fail, and even if they don’t—is learn to do your own research. The internet is full of places that you can look at to give you the best deals or give you advice on. Look at amazon, look at craigslist dealers. Find the equipment that have the best reviews and within your price range and experiment as best you can. Research grants to fund your projects so you can get the top notch stuff. This is tough to do on your own and could take some expensive trial and error. (Grants less so.) I have never been good at research and experimenting, and that has held me back. If you can have a friend who can walk you through this it will be a better.

And there you have it. That’s how I learned to get the equipment I need. How about you? Any other tips you’ve learned on how to get access to good equipment on your films? Comment below.

If you’ll excuse me, it’s time to make some ice cream.

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