Production Tips: What You Should Bring Your First Day on Set
You know the lingo, you landed a gig, and you’re ready to work. So what do you need to bring with you for your first of film or video production?
In a recent article, we talked about some of the basic things to know about film and video production before your first day on set. In this article, we’re going take a look at some of the basic components of a good multi-purpose kit.
In film and video production, the “kit” is the set of tools, gadgets, and other necessities each member of the crew brings with them to execute their particular job. Every member of the crew has their own particular set of tools. No two kits are the same, and they will vary from production to production.
Here is a list to get you started thinking about the basics of a good general-use kit of your own.
A basic set of tools will come in handy every day on set. Some of the most useful include the following:
Bring small, medium, and large phillips and flat-heads with you.
- Allen wrench (hex key) set
Bring a folding, multi-key set.
Adjustable wrenches like crescent wrenches offer a high degree of flexibility without taking up a ton of space in your bag.
- Pocket knife
one of the most essential tools for any member of the crew, pocket knives come in handy nearly every day.
A multi-tool, such as a Leatherman, can be a replacement for your entire tool bag in a pinch. While not as good as other dedicated tools, multi-tools offer sufficient performance in a convenient package.
- Rope and string
If you can, pack a good length of medium-weight rope and a spool of heavy-duty thread in your kit.
- Clips and clamps
A-Clamps, clothespins (C47s), and C-Clamps (among other forms of clamps) are always in short supply on set. Bring some for yourself and extra to share.
- Leather or other insulated work gloves
Heavy duty work gloves are essential if there is any possibility that you will be handling electricity or lighting equipment. Bring a pair just in case.
- Tool belt
You’ll notice that most of the seasoned crew carry their most-used tools on a tool belt. Tool belts cut down on how much you need to carry around with you, while also reducing the running back-and-forth to fetch tools.
- Comfortable boots or shoes
While not technically tools, a bad pair of shoes will ruin your day and increase fatigue each day on set. I usually wear my hiking boots on days when I will be standing and walking a lot. A good pair of supportive running shoes is also great. As with any labor job, no open-toed shoes.
Useful Additions to Your Kit
Beyond tools, here are some more considerations for your kit.
- Notebooks and pens
Bring a full-size notebook, one or two pocket-sized notebooks, and a nice selection of pens and pencils. Take notes, always.
- Cable ties
Whether fabric or plastic, cable ties have many uses on set.
Radio communication is the backbone of competent film production. Bring a set or two of walkie talkies with you. Security earpieces are a huge upgrade (many productions actually require them) that you can purchase for about $10-$30.
- Surge protectors, power strips, stingers
Do yourself and the Grip and Electric Departments a favor: bring some basic power connectivity options with you.
- Tape measure
Tape measures have dozens of practical uses every day on set. Have one for yourself and one to lend out.
- Laser pointer
These are useful for quickly signaling objects, places, or people without causing too much distraction to others. The rules are the same as when you were a kid: keep it away from eyes.
Gaffer’s tape is best, but bring whatever you have. Electrical and masking tape find common uses on set, as do the humble Duct and scotch tapes.
- Folding table and chairs
Having your own will keep you from monopolizing others’. This is especially important if you have a role that will require you to be relatively stationary.
- Permanent markers
Bring an assortment of colors and weights to mark your equipment, water bottles, and so on.
- Flashlights, headlamps, USB lights
Sets are usually dark. Have a small, high-output flashlight on your keychain for easy access. Headlamps are a direct upgrade to flashlights. USB lights are cheap, relatively low-output, and incredibly useful in about 5-dozen situations. Bring what you can and a couple extra to lend out.
- Power banks and rechargeable batteries
Having backup power options is a must on set. I recommend multiple high-capacity battery banks (10,000 mAh or greater) as well as a set of rechargeable AAs and AAAs.
Sets are tricky. People can get hurt, and things can go wrong at any moment. Having a basic safety kit will help you manage these uncontrollable factors. Here are some essentials:
- Extreme weather protection
Disposable rain ponchos, heavy coats or waterproof jackets, space blankets, and heating or chilling pads are all a great place to start. Water is essential no matter where you are shooting — have a reliable, insulated water bottle. Know the extreme weather possibilities of the region you’re shooting in and be prepared.
- First aid kit
It is my opinion that every member of the crew should always show up with a first aid kit. Even with a set medic, always knowing where a first aid kit is saves critical time when someone gets injured.
- Knee, ankle, elbow pads, and braces
Joint pads and braces are invaluable in many situations, both palliative and preventative. Bring some for yourself, and keep an eye out for any member of the crew that could use them.
- Fire extinguisher
Fire is a worst-case scenario on every set. Bring an extinguisher if you can. At the very least, know where one is at all times.
When deciding on the elements of your kit, consider everything you know about the production as well as the role you will be performing.
Are you going to be working in the audio department? Make sure to bring a good selection of cables, adapters, and headphones with you. Camera department? A lens-cleaning kit, microfiber cloth, and card/media holders will all be welcome additions to your kit. Wardrobe? Bring a steamer, clothes hangers, and a foldable clothes rack.
Each department has its own needs, and each role within each department its own more-specific ones. Think through what you will be doing in your role, examine this list for some ideas, and get packing!
Cover image via ponsulak.
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- Understanding Tax Incentives in the Filmmaking Industry
- The Lowdown on the Short Form from Three Nominated Series
- Industry Insights: Careers in Commercial, Indie, or Corporate Filmmaking