You've got a little money, a lot of passion, and a crazy desire to make a film—but no idea of what gear you should purchase first.
If you're new to filmmaking, your collection of gear is probably pretty small—unless, of course, your mom was some sort of wizard and/or prophetic millionaire who prepared a treasure trove of professional filmmaking equipment in anticipation for your arrival into the industry. You might be sitting on a decent wad of cash itching to spend it on some gear, but you're not exactly sure which tools are absolutely necessary for making films.
The answer to that is very straightforward: it depends. Okay, it's not that straightforward, but it's true. If you're making a bare bones indie short that will be uploaded online, you'll probably need a lot less gear than if you're making a sci-fi feature set in space that will be shown at your local art house theater. But, let's just assume that you've never made a film before, you don't have any gear, and that your project is as basic and low-budget as they come—what gear should you get? In the video below, Darious Britt of D4Darious shares a pretty decent list of gear that you might want to consider getting your hands on if you're a first-timer.
As an adolescent filmmaker, I owned a ginormous flea market JVC VHS camcorder and a repurposed C-stand that I got from a Trinidadian reggae musician. (He also gave me his old bass, but took it back a few months later when he came out of retirement, forcing me to give up my dream of starting a middle school goth band.) Those were the first, and for years, only, pieces of filmmaking gear I owned, which forced me to be a creative individual who made do with what she had lying around the house.
It wasn't until I went to college and was irresponsible enough to spend big portions of my financial aid on gear that I started to wonder what other tools were out there that could help me create the films I wanted to create. And this is where lists like this come in handy. If you're adamant about not spending thousands of dollars on professional gear and repurposing free/cheap stuff to modify light, move your camera, or whatever, then a list like this may not be as appealing to you. However, if you do want to part with some cash in order to get your hands on some film equipment, Britt's list is pretty damn good for indie filmmakers who are just starting out.
- A computer: Get one that can handle your editing software.
- A camera: A huge topic that we can't get into here, but suffice it to say...get one that shoots at least HD and has manual functions.
- Memory cards: Get a few of them.
- Filters: Neutral Density (ND) filters are a great first filter to buy.
- Tripod: Fluid heads are really useful, but not absolutely necessary.
- Sound recorder: Handheld ones like the Zoom H4n work well and aren't too expensive.
- Headphones: Get yourself a decent pair to monitor sound.
- Microphones: Most of your gear budget should go to a good microphone.
- Mic stand/boom pole: These can be very helpful if you're shooting solo.
- Lights: A pro lighting kit is great but pricey; work lights from Home Depot are good enough if you don't have the scratch.
- Light modifiers: Bounce cards, reflectors, diffusers: relatively cheap to buy, even cheaper to make.
- Editing software: Free software is good to get your feet wet; Premiere Pro is pretty much the standard for indies.
- External hard drives: You'll need a few of these to keep all of your data on, especially if you're shooting 4K or higher.
Once again, every filmmaker and project is different and the kind of gear you get depends on the kind of filmmaker you are, the kind of project you're making, and how much money you have to spend. If all you can afford is a $500 camera, sweet! If you can afford to go hog-wild at B&H and then swim through your stockpile of filmmaking gear like Scrooge McDuck, sweet!
You don't need gear to make great films; all you need is a great story, some hard work, and a little creativity.