Speak Softly and Carry a Big Purse

Random (and not so random) crap I've collected over the past couple years in my AC bag(s) that has come in handy as a cinematographer or AC on a budget.

My work-in-progress, low-budget camerawoman survival kit:
  • white christmas lights - great for creating an eyelight in cramped spaces, or even as set dressing.
  • chinese paper lanterns (or "china balls") - Soft, white light you can hang anywhere.
  • pan lights - you can get these for 6 bucks at Walmart. You can clip them to odd places. Also, you can steal the cord and lightbulb socket and use them with the china balls. It's cheaper and easier than making your own or buying a "kit".
  • gardener's knee pad - long scenes on those awful doorway dollies can be rough on your knees.
  • small sketchbook and pencils- because sometimes your director doesn't understand how eyelines work.
  • cheap digital camera- because sometimes your director doesn't understand how eyelines work.
  • click sharpies - no cap to lose!
  • Expo2 Bullet-Point Dry-Erase Markers - supposedly they do not stain camera slates.
  • dry erase eraser - can't tell you how many AC's I've had with smudged, black fingers. A DIY eraser can be a powder puff or makeup sponge taped to the end of the marker.
  • hair ties - ladies, these things can be used for many things.
  • plastic cable ties and velcro cable ties
  • art/portfolio case... good for carrying around gels or those paper lanterns safely.
  • big bag o' C-47's (aka clothespins)
  • piece of foamboard from a craft store, one side left white, the other covered in crumpled and then flattened aluminum foil. Great for a cheap bounce board.
  • extra film cores, cans, and bags (I pick these up for cheap at film developing labs)
  • medium to wide paper tape in white, black, and a few bright colors
  • very narrow white paper tape for focus marks on the camera lens
  • wide gaffer tape in black and red
  • stubby screw driver - got one at Ace Hardware for a few bucks
  • Fog in a can - much easier and cheaper than renting a fog machine, and more controlled. Great for scenes that only need a hint of dust or haze. Can't tell you how many times I've used this.
  • grease pencils - for making marks on your camera temporarily without messing it up
  • lens tissue, or micro-fiber lens cloth
  • lens cleaner fluid
  • canned air
  • little travel pack of kleenex
  • Pledge spray or baby powder- these can be used to safely lubricate dolly tracks to eliminate squeaking. Don't use WD-40... it gets messy and you don't want it around your camera anyway.
  • nasal aspirator or bulb syringe - functions as a little air blower for cleaning the gate in your film camera. You never want to blow canned air into your camera innards.
  • orangewood sticks - for cleaning the gate. You never want to use anything metal to clean the gate, or something that could damage or scratch your camera.
  • small maglight - on top of, well, helping you see... maglights are awesome for lowlight situations when it's hard to focus your camera to your eye. Unscrew the cap of the maglight until it comes all the way off, and the lit bulb is exposed. Being mindful of your talent's vision and safety, hold the bulb up alongside his eye (as the actor's eyes are normally what one wants in focus.) If you pull the focus on the lens, you can see the pinpoint of light blur out, or tighten to a point. When it's as tight as possible, that's when you're in focus for that distance.
  • scissors
  • batteries! (AA and AAA)
  • carabiners (to hook things to your belt)
  • rope (to secure your tripod to the dolly, and various other things)
  • gardening gloves (cheaper than professional grip gloves)
  • travel size excedrin and advil - staring at bright lights and squinting into an eyepiece can give you headaches. Keep these on hand.
  • travel size contact solution - you do not want to have a contact lens malfunction on set and be stranded with no way to wash out your lens. A sore or itchy eye is bad for a DP.
  • band-aids. BAND. AIDS.
  • nail clippers.
  • hand moisturizer.
  • firewire or USB cords if you're shooting digital. Someone will lose or forget theirs.
  • measuring tape
  • light bulbs in varying wattage
  • camera reports
  • pencils with good erasers.
  • small clipboard
  • fishing line (creative solutions!)
  • small circular bubble level
  • small water bottle you can clip to your belt (seriously. awesome.)
  • depth of field charts - laminated, cut, hole-punched, and key-ringed.
  • light meter, of course
Sadly I am missing a bunch of stuff that either got lost/stolen on set or lost in my move out from LA. Initial everything in sharpie! Keep your tape rolls on a strap and attached to either yourself or your AC bag at all times! And keep your crap out of foot traffic, so people do not feel compelled to move or touch it.

Keep in mind, purchasing/owning all this crap shouldn't rest on the shoulders of one person. Some of it the AC should be in charge of, some of it the gaffer, some of it the DP. This is a list of crap that has been accumulated starting in film school up until now, for sets with limited crew, limited expenses, and limited access to equipment. There may often be times, especially when just starting out, find yourself functioning as a cinematographer/gaffer/AC all at once on small productions. That's how ridiculous kits like this get formed.


-)_-. said...

Or in my case blue fingers.... lol!!!

There is some great tips in here! Hey what do you use Nail clippers for?

LH said...

clipping nails... hahaha. This IS a girls blog.

my nails grow freakishly fast and if they tear or break on set they hurrrt. It's also something I started carrying with me in highschool anyways because long nails + cello = snagging, owww.