September 5, 2019

An Essential Back-to-School Shopping List for Filmmakers

Heading back to school? Here are some items that you'll find extremely useful when you're planning and shooting projects on campus.

Class is back in session for a lot of you out there, which means two things: 1.) you're filling your brain with lots of (hopefully) great and wonderful things, and 2.) you have significantly less time to run around with a camera shooting stuff.

That's okay because even if you're only able to write a couple of pages of your script or shoot a few subjects as you wait for your next class to start, these items will help you save time and keep you light on your feet as you do so.

In this video, Armando Ferreira and film student Nick Jansen name a few really cool gadgets, apps, and other products that might help you get some work done more effectively while on campus. I'll also throw some of my favorites in the mix after the jump.

Whether you're in college or high school, you're not going to have a whole lot of time to dedicate to film projects...what with all of the homework, studying, and raging keggers and toga parties. That's why it's so important to find ways to incorporate your work into the very sparse downtime you might have in between classes, commuting on public transportation, or just hanging out in the quad.

Here are some of the top picks from Ferreira and Jansen:

  • Rocketbook: The Rocketbook is a reusable digital notebook that allows you to scan pages with a QR code, upload them to the Cloud, erase, and start over. With prices ranging from $10 to $35, this thing might be a great alternative to traditional notebooks that you fill up with production notes, script ideas, and storyboards.
  • Mophie Powerstation Hub: Staying charged up is essential. The Mophie Powerstation Hub is $100 and can charge your devices, including cameras and QI-enabled phones, and take up no room at all...which is good when surface real estate is limited.
  • RED multi-tool: Or any multi-tool, really...right? The RED Sidewinder is $28 and has a ton of essential driver keys that you might need when working on a set.
  • Light Spectrum Pro app: When your backpack is full of books and binders, throwing a light meter into the mix is not always the wisest thing. Because apps take up no physical space whatsoever, you might want to download Light Spectrum Pro to measure color temperature. And it's only $2.

Now, back when I was a young college student (young...I was in my mid-20s when I started school), I barely had time to sleep let alone make movies. I was taking a full course load, working full time at a soul-crushing paper company, and, of course, writing a few articles a week for NFS, so planning projects and organizing shoots was something that I either had to do on the weekends or in between classes.

And since a legit, albeit very short and very rushed weekend shoot affords you the time to collect the gear you actually need, I'll share with you the stuff I used for impromptu shoots while I was on campus, in a cafe or bar, or walking home. Here are a few things I always kept with me in my bag, other than a laptop and a ridiculous number of notebooks.

Sometimes, reading a few pages out of an excellent script is all you can do between classes. (Also, check out that old ass iPod. Hey, cutie!)
  • Sony MDR-7506 Headphones: Now, I might be kind of bias being someone who went through 3 pairs of Beats (like an idiot) before buying an actual pair of headphones rather than an advertisement and social status symbol that you wear on your head, but these headphones are by far the best I've ever had. The sound quality is amazing and these headphones just straight up do not break. I bought my first pair back in 2012 and after throwing them in my bag without a case, tossing them here and there, dropping them, stretching them, doing the absolute most to them, I only had to replace them this year. In my opinion, you can't do better for $100.
  • Empty Slide Mounts: Yeah, this one is weird, but blame my aesthetics professor. She gave our class little empty slide mountsyou know, the little plastic squares that you put film in to show it on a projectorbecause she said it was the cheapest viewfinder we were ever gonna find other than our hands. And because I didn't want to be one of those film students on campus making squares out of my hands, I carried a slide mount in my wallet.
  • Zoom H4n Pro: For a couple hundred bucks, you can carry a powerful, high-quality handheld recorder in your bag at all times. I got one (I don't think it was the "Pro" version) when I first started college and used it constantly to record sound effects and room tone for whatever little project I was shooting.
  • A Book on Filmmaking: I went to college to study cinema, so of course I had some kind of book about filmmaking on me all the time. However, even when I didn't have to, I did, because every chance I got, I'd read and read and read about different aspects of filmmaking, from contemporary cinematography to Nordic cinema in the 1920s. And don't do the thing where you assume certain parts of cinema aren't going to interest or benefit you. They will. Not big on film history...think it's boring...would rather read up on Christopher Nolan? Fine, then let Nolan himself tell you to study people like Fritz Lang, David Lean, and Sidney Lumet. (There are too many books I'd recommend reading to list here, but please ask me for some titles down in the comments.)

What filmmaking gear are you bringing back to school? Let us know down in the comments.     

Your Comment

2 Comments

For me the one book every film student needs to read is "On Film-making" by Alexander Mckendrick, written by the greatest film teacher of all time, filled with totally amazing ideas that even veteran filmmakers would benefit from. Most film books are crap. This one is sensational.

Honorable mention: "Directing Actors" by Judith Weston, the single best book on how to be an actors' director ever written.

September 5, 2019 at 5:29PM

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Marcelo Teson
Filmmaking Instructor/Sound Editor
330

Thank you so much for bringing up the book On Film-making. Not trying to get on you, but I must point the correct spelling of Alexander’s last name is “Mackendrick.”

I was lucky to study Film with the great Sandy Mackendrick. I still have the original handouts and sketches that he used in class, which are the basis of the Book “On Film-making”. He was a wonderful inspiring teacher. I owe him much.

James Mangold, the director of 2 Marvel movies, "Logan, The Wolverine", and the writer director of "3:10 to Yuma & Walk the Line", was also one of Sandy’s students.

September 5, 2019 at 8:29PM, Edited September 5, 8:35PM

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B Sharp
Writer/Actor
13