Here is our go-to list of top ten items to have on-hand at all times.
1. Tape for filmmaking
While it may seem trivial, tape is often the most overlooked and under-utilized tools for a budding filmmaker or videographer. Whether it be to mark blocking for actors, mend a wardrobe, or simply secure paper to a wall, the uses of tape on a film set could fill an entire blog on its own. Having a roll on hand could be the difference between happiness and a headache, which is why it is number one on our list.
2. C47s AKA Clothespins
Call it a cousin of our friend, Mr. Gaff Tape, clothespins or “C47s” in film lingo, are arguably the second most versatile component to have in your kit. Uses include securing diffusion or gels to lights, acting as a handle to maneuver hot barn doors, and even being used to hold a straw in a cup to prevent it from falling (seriously).
3. Tripod for locked down filming
Often the signifying mark of a “student” production, shaky footage without reason will quickly turn your viewers off. A tripod on set will be your best friend, not only to stabilize your footage, but to give your body a break from handling the camera. The best type of tripod is a fluid head. However, if you are looking for a cheap go-to for laid back shooting, picking up a standard photography tripod will do just fine.
4. Light kit for filming interiors
To take your production to the next level, a light kit can make all the difference. The ability to create depth and contour on your subjects will instantly make your footage more dynamic and engaging to the viewer. If space is an issue, rather than lugging around a full lighting package, having a few portable LED lights in your kit can make the difference between passable images and stunning cinematography.
5. Bounce disk for lighting
To round out your lighting capabilities, investing in a cheap bounce disk is advisable. Should you find yourself in a situation where you cannot access your lights, popping open a disk to catch and reflect existing light can get you by. Compact and portable, having a few of these in your travel bag is a good idea.
6. Paracord or rope for rigging
Another important and useful item not often thought of is paracord or rope. Useful applications include tying down and securing large frames, safety lines for crew, or even acting as a catch in case a light falls. Cheap and reusable, this can be a cost effective solution to prevent accidents onset while furthering your ability to creatively solve problems where other items on this list may fall short. Everyone makes fun of the rope, until it is needed!
7. Pocket knife or multitool
Having a pocket knife or multitool on your belt is a must when it comes to working on a set. Whether it is being used to tighten screws or to pry objects apart, not having this tool when you need it can end a shoot pretty quick. This multi-purpose instrument is standard in a grip’s arsenal. Another added bonus is how compact both items are. Acquiring a case to wear on one’s belt will further your ease of access, without taking up space.
8. Pony clamps
One final item to round out your tie-down capabilities is the pony clamp. Strong, lightweight, and versatile, these clamps come in handy when you need added strength to secure items, production design elements, or even to act as a leg for a bounce disk. With various sizes, these are a great addition to your kit that can be hung on a rope to improve access and retrieval.
9. Gloves for safety
Whether you are a seasoned pro or a budding amatuer, it does not take long to realize that lights get hot, fast. Having a pair of heavy duty, insulated gloves will enable you to work faster and more effective when it comes to the adjustment and tear down of your production lights. Protecting your hands and health is paramount when it comes to the long hours accompanied by a shoot, and good gloves will do the trick.
Many times on set you will find yourself working in uneven lighting conditions, whether due to house lights being down for filming, or working in the elements at night. The ability to navigate in dark areas is not only crucial for safety, it will also allow you be efficient. Having a light on your belt is great when it comes to finding gear in your bag without having to run the hassle of turning on the overhead lights. Finalizing the items on this list, the flashlight is an item you do not want to leave back at home.
BONUS ITEM: The Pen
Having been in situations where vital information is delivered fast and without warning, the pen might just be the most valuable tool at that time. Precious moments are spent hunting for a pen to cross off a shot on the shot list or jot down notes to remember for later, and each passing moment spent hunting is time lost on the day. Having a large pack costs nothing, so one might as well place several in your kit and on your person.
Gearing up for a shoot can be stressful, but having these items on hand at all times will ensure your ability to perform, even if you forget your main arsenal of tools. A production is only as good as the time you have to complete it, the tools you have at your disposal, and the talent you have to use them. While this list only covers a handful of items one can have in their ditty bag, these are the staples of any grip or laborer on a film set or production. Now that you have the essentials, you are ready to get to work. Just do not forget the camera!