Thanks for the tip, I'll take a look! They both seem like decent cameras from the quick search I just did. (Irrelevant but what draws you to Panasonic?)
What makes you recommend the A6500? It's definitely a better camera but $400 is a lot, I'm not sure if I could get a better, say, DSLR for that price?
Hey everyone, it's been a few months but for the sake of people digging up this thread, I'd like to follow up a little!
I ended up with about a $500 budget, but only a portion went to actual lights; we were missing a lot of basics, like extension cords. I ended up using a bunch of floodlights on clamps, lots of bounces, and 3 on-camera LED panels. The ones I used most were 2 Yongnuo 300-II bicolor panels (I liked it so much, I even wrote a review: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1299340-REG/yongnuo_yn300_ii_led_... )
My biggest sell for these lights was flexibility and time. As much as I liked some other options, battery power was a must, screwing in lightbulbs for half an hour wasn't too appealing to our schedule. It also allowed for a lot of control over the lights, and it wasn't that hard to add or remove diffusion as I saw fit (though I did miss some harsh tones, but oh well.) So, still not a "real lighting kit", but we finished the movie. And yeah, the night scenes came out.
Having a bare-bones setup taught me a lot about lighting. In case anyone in my shoes is reading this for advice, what I learned best is that, you guessed it, the best equipment is the equipment you have with you. Hopefully for the next round I can spend a little more and play with the things this thread suggested-- my setup definitely got the job done, but didn't allow for a lot of creative control.
If you'd like to see what exactly I did, the project will be out this September! https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8589460/