Filmmaking can be an expensive endeavor. One way to broaden both experience and the services you offer is by renting equipment. But how can you know that you are renting equipment that will create the look and feel that will make the client happy? This week we are looking at a student’s question about renting equipment and meeting the client’s needs.

STUDENT: How do you discover what equipment you should rent for a project? For instance, would you storyboard a drone perspective only after considering a client’s budget?

ANDREW: Renting equipment has been huge for me getting started because I don’t have to actually buy all that gear up front. I can just rent the pieces that I need and customize that to what the client specifically wants for their project.

JOHN-CLAY: When planning equipment for a project, there are two ways to look at this. First, learning how to talk to clients and find out what is most important to them. You need to consider a client’s budget and that can define what needs to be done. But there’s also an element of casting vision and trying to help them do what is actually best for the project. The client doesn’t always know what that is and so sometimes you say, “If we were able to spend another $150 to rent a drone, we could do shots like this to help tell the story this way,” and they can decide whether they want to do it or not.

I had one project where a guy said, “I want my teaching on this certain subject filmed. How do I do that?” I said, “Well, there’s a $1,000 version and a $10,000 version. A $1,000 version is you stand in a corner and we do a little setup and we just use one camera and film you. The $10,000 version is we go to multiple locations around the city and we rent all this equipment…” He looked at me and said, “Well, if I can get what I want for  $1,000, why spend $10,000?” So we went with $1,000. The problem was, at the end of it all, he wasn’t happy. He wanted more energy, he wanted more drama, he wanted it to be interesting. He wanted the $10,000 version – he just didn’t want to spend that much money.

One of the things that I’ve learned to do is ask the client, “Can you send me examples of projects that you like, projects that are similar, or samples of what you are seeing in your head? Is there something you’ve seen recently that you’re like, ‘Oh that’s really good, if my project could look like this, I would like that’?” This helps me gain an understanding of what they are expecting and I can visually look at it and say, “Oh goodness, they have helicopters and cranes,” and then I know to go budget for that and they say, “well, we can’t afford that,” and I say, “then it won’t look like that.” You have to understand you can only have one or the other. Sometimes I’ve looked at their examples and realized, “This is much simpler than I thought they were trying to describe to me,” and I’m able to match the client’s needs.

Sometimes the client says, “I saw one that is kind of like what we’re doing but I don’t want it to look anything like that.” I tell them, “Send it to me, I want to look at it.” A client isn’t usually very good at describing things to you in a way that’s helpful so asking for examples is one way I’ve been able to understand what a client wants and then try to talk with them about budget and meeting the needs and expectations they have.

ANDREW: On rentals, think about technical specs – does the client need it in 4K or not?

When renting, remember to allow for some time to practice with the gear. If you’ve never used the gear before, it’s going to be difficult to jump straight into a shoot. You’re probably going to want to have a couple days ahead of time to actually go through the manual and use it some first.

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  • EthanH

    Really good! Thanks!

  • Andrew Wyatt

    Great article! Thanks!