Do you want to make more money or money while you’re sitting at home? A big part of making good, easy money in the film industry is earning kit or rental fees. Not all jobs or positions will allow for rentals, but that is how many cinematographers and technicians make a good chunk of their living. Now, we’ve already discussed the tools you need to tech, but those tools are a necessity for doing your job, they don’t necessarily make you money.
What can make you money is owning stuff like cameras, lights, dollies, lenses and grip gear. In this post we will talk about building your kit and making money from rentals.
Building your Kit & Earning Extra Income Through Gear Rentals:
One of the smartest purchases I made at the start of last year was the GoPro I ordered from BHPhotoVideo.com. I put together a rental package including some Class 10 SD Cards that I ordered on Amazon.com at a very competitive rate with local rental houses and within a couple of short months the GoPro was paid off and I was making profit.
I was basically able to get a free water proof HD Camera and a few hundred dollars of profit from an initial investment of around $300! Now if I wanted I could sell that GoPro, some accessories and it’s carrying case for something like $150-200 and reinvest that money into the newest version, a different piece of gear or a ton of Cadbury mini eggs. What I was able to do with the GoPro in a couple of months is a small taste of what can be done if you begin to build yourself an equipment package NOW.
What to Get:
You don’t have to invest a ton of money right away. You can start with something small, something that has to do with the type of work you do on set. Don’t just get anything though! Look at what’s in demand and what isn’t owned by everyone. If you are an aspiring cinematographer you can get some lights that you like and use a lot or a camera that is in demand for the type of jobs you do. Thousands of DOPs own something like a Canon 7D or 5dm2 and rent them out on their jobs.
Imagine building yourself a decent little 7D package and getting your daily rate + a rental rate. If you’re selling yourself and your gear the right way it shouldn’t take too long for you to pay it all off and begin to make profit. Luckily with something like a DSLR you can do much more than just shoot video or just take pictures.
I’m not going to hold your hand and tell you exactly what to get and why, but I’ll give you a list of the stuff I see people getting rentals on the most.
- Canon 5dm3, 7d or GH2
- Zeiss CP2 lenses check them out on BHPhotoVideo.com
- Monitors like Small HD DP4 or DP6, TV Logic & Marshall
- Canon L Series, check some out on Amazon.com Lenses
- Specialty lenses like Tokina 11-16 f2.8 (bhphotovideo) or even Lens Baby (amazon)
- Lights like Arri Kits (bh photovideo) and Kino Flos (bh photo video)
Where to Buy:
I’m a firm believer in NEVER paying full price for anything! I’m constantly looking for deals or looking into used gear. If you time things, know where to look and are patient you can save thousands of dollars. Those thousands that you save means more money to put toward gear or more mini eggs.
My top 4 Places to buy:
- B&H Photo Video: The best! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love B&H. I have easily saved $1000 by ordering from them. Their shipping is fast and reliable and their savings are unbelievable. Their used store has had some great stuff too at some fantastic prices.
- Amazon: Just like B&H they have great prices and awesome deals from time to time. Many of the 3rd party sellers take a long time to ship, but a good deal is a good deal.
- Ebay: Great for used stuff or parts and low-cost alternatives. Watch out for cheap knock off and be sure to do your research!
- Local Shops: Build relationships with your local shops. Keep on top of their sales or subscribe to their news letters if they have them. Many places will actually give you a discount if they like you and you are a loyal customer.
Storing Your Gear:
Proper storage of your gear is extremely important, get yourself some pelicans, lighting cases, camera bags or whatever else it takes to keep your stuff safe. Not only will it protect your gear from damage, but it will make you look like a pro. If you haven’t noticed yet, about 50% of what we do in this industry is about making someone, something or yourself look good.
My favourite and one of the most rugged storage options are Pelican Cases you can get the best prices for them on BHphotovideo.com. No joke, even in Canada it is far less expensive to order these cases from B&H than it is to buy it locally. Pelican also recently bought out Storm Cases and I would recommend getting the Pelican Storm version if you don’t mind spending a tiny bit more per case . They are just like regular pelicans, but have extremely easy to open latches.
How to get Rentals:
There are several different ways to go about getting rentals and the more you rent your gear out and work with it the more opportunity you will have for even more rentals. As a cinematographer, camera AC or lighting tech there are several different relationships that you will form as part of your job, those relationships can be the start of getting your gear rented out.
- Production Managers: Ultimately their job is to make a production’s budget work. That can mean striking deals, getting stuff for free, bribing and sometimes stealing. You could negotiate a slightly higher rate for providing some lights or something else they will need. A couple of lower paid rentals and favors now can mean high paid rentals later.
- Procucers/Directors: Sometimes Producers will have a handful of guys they go to for stuff, they will automatically hire or push certain DOPs, Gaffers or ACs because they know they have something or might be able to provide something. There are also times where Directors get certain projects or contracts where they are Producing/Directing/PM’ing and whatever the hell else, so they will have their dudes they call. BE ONE OF THOSE DUDES!
- Cinematographers: Many cinematographers will hire certain techs because they have gear they can provide. In most cases when those techs aren’t available they will still rent from them. Let your DOPs know what YOU own and if THEY also have gear be aware of what they have before buying anything you expect to get rentals from.
There are many more options, but the point is NETWORK. Build relationships and get your name and gear out there. Even if at first you have to do it at a far lower rate than you expected. It’s better to make less than your standard rate than to have your stuff sitting around collecting dust. Also, the people on those jobs are going to see your gear and know that you are an option in the future. Don’t be afraid to donate too, provide a second camera to a super low budget short and negotiate an executive producer credit in return.
Other Stuff to Keep in Mind:
- The Web: Get yourself a site or blog and throw your equipment list on there. You can also put a link in your email signature linking back to that list. Put the site on your Facebook info page, Twitter, LinkedIn or whatever else you use. When you get new toys don’t be afraid to spread the word, update your list and maybe even send out an email to the people who rent from you the most.
As your list grows and you get more and more rentals it might be a good idea to take the list down. It will get to a point where you might have so much different stuff that you don’t necessarily want people to know EVERYTHING you have because it can cripple your earnings. People might expect packaged deals for all your stuff at a lower flat rate.
It might be nice to keep the section up on your site, but throw up a couple of pictures of your gear and a line that says something like: “All rates are negotiable depending on what kit is needed”. Then based on your tech scout, conversations with the director and producer or who ever else you can quote them a rate, if they suddenly need more stuff and you just happen to own it you can slightly increase that rate.
LABEL YOUR STUFF. Get a label make and be sure to put your name on EVERYTHING! If you have a website that has your name in the URL you can put that on your gear.
I hope this blog has been helpful to all you potential gear owners. Having my own stuff has been really great for me and I hope it works out for you!