Whether you need a full camera package, or a wardrobe rack, renting equipment is essential for every production. But navigating what your crew wants and what your budget can afford can be an overwhelming process, even for the most seasoned producer.

But a load of paperwork and phone calls doesn’t mean renting equipment should be a headache. In this post, we will lead you through the rental process, from making an equipment list to wrapping out. Here are our seven simple steps for renting film equipment.

1 SHARE YOUR SCRIPT BREAKDOWN

Break down your script first

The first step in renting equipment is sharing the script breakdown with your Department Heads.  You do this to figure out exactly what equipment you and your team think they need.

Creating a script breakdown helps identify all the components of every scene. It covers everything from essential props, must-have wardrobe, specific shots and much more.

Also, any special equipment or special effects will be in the breakdown.

Once you have your breakdown,  you can generate a shot list, a shooting schedule, a storyboard, and a budget.

You can see why the script breakdown is so important. The “cine” qua non for filmmakers.

These elements from your breakdown are shared with the Department Heads… which, depending on the size of your shoot, are typically Camera, Art, Special Effects and Production.

Though on period-specific productions, there are exceptions. Sometimes wardrobe, hair-and-makeup, and props become their own departments on larger shoots. This is also true for other departments like locations and transportation as well.

There are no absolutes in film production.  Find the best way to work with each project as it comes.  Though a standardized approach to pre-production is recommended a guide like this one will help you stay on track when unforeseen curveballs are thrown your way.

2 CREATE YOUR FILM EQUIPMENT LIST

Trust your department heads

The next step will be creating equipment lists. Your department heads will take the shot list, storyboards, and schedules and review them.  Then, in one big pre-production meeting, everyone will discuss what they need for their department to realize the scenes as scripted.

This “audible breakdown” is done scene-by-scene for every scene in the film. Depending on the script, this meeting can be a pleasant afternoon or a week-long extravaganza.

After the meeting, the department heads will be on the same page.  At some point, you will let your departments generate their equipment lists.

The DP will list the wants of the camera department such as the camera, lenses, tripods, mounts, film, or hard drives, etc…

The Sound Department will ask for lav mics…

The Art Department will have one of the biggest lists on most shoots and can include everything from wood for set construction to props, costumes, fog machines, picture cars and much more.  You could be dealing with many different rental companies for the art department, but the art department should ideally have its’ own coordinator who should be there to help.

After the department heads give you their list, you or your production manager will determine what equipment will be needed to support the entire operation.

You’ll have several lists of different lengths.  Try your best to stick with one company for as much as possible as you will be able to get better discounts on the entire rental list.

3 BID OUT YOUR LISTS

Send your lists to competitors

The third step in renting equipment is bidding.

Now that each department head has delivered their equipment list and budget estimates, you should carefully study them for any items that stand out.  You want to identify anything that you think is over the top, unnecessary or simply needs more of an explanation.

For example, your director of photography says he wants two sets of lenses which cost thousands of dollars to rent.  If you didn’t discuss it previously, then he’ll need to justify it as you will have to as well.

Another example would be if the production designer asks for an industrial fan, but the warehouse location was cut.  Will a smaller version do?

About peer-to-peer rental companies

Independent producers and filmmakers don’t have to work solely with the big rental houses like Panavision, Arriflex or Quixote to fill their equipment needs. Peer-to-peer companies such as ShareGrid, KitSplit, and even Parachut.co, have great deals for smaller budgets.  They also have very flexible insurance rates and plans that may be a lot less hassle than the big rental houses.

Measure the list several times and then cut accordingly, so to speak.  You can raise any concerns or suggestions early on so as not to waste time in making request or additions you won’t need or can’t afford.  Then you’ll be ready to choose 2 or 3 rental companies to submit the equipment lists for bids.

When you send the lists over, they should come back to you within twenty-four hours unless you are on a very large project.

4 NEGOTIATE WITH RENTAL HOUSES

You definitely want to bargain

After the bids come back from the rental companies you can proceed to our fourth step in the rental process: Negotiating

Carefully look over the bids as the goal now is to negotiate to get the best prices and even better gear.  

How do I get better prices and gear?   You simply ask, knowing that you have leverage!  Use the bids against each other as many companies are open to matching competitors to get your business.   

Then, some of the other factors to consider when deciding on a rental company will be their location, which may be a big deal if you have to go back often.  Another consideration is the hours of operation. Their hours should be consistent with your schedule.

Another element that will affect your decision is the insurance requirements which are different for every company.

Lastly,  delivery options can save time, manpower and, best of all, money on your budget.  This might be the icing on the cake for your choice of rental companies.

5 AWARD THE JOB TO A RENTAL HOUSE

Choose your companies wisely

In the fifth step in renting equipment, it’s time to award the job.

Choose the rental company that offers the best terms and place the quote on a hold. Open an account by submitting the necessary paperwork, placing a credit card on file, and most importantly, generating a Certificate of Insurance or COI.  

Every rental company will require General Liability Insurance in order to rent equipment without a substantial deposit.  After all the paperwork is submitted, call and get verbal confirmation that they received your order.

At this point, let the rental houses that you aren’t going with know that you’re going with the other company.  They don’t work on commission and will appreciate knowing that they don’t have to work on your order any more. This is also a great way to build a rapport just in case you need them at a later point in the shoot.

Now, barring any specialized equipment needs, the company you choose will let you know that you are approved for rentals right away.

You’re ready for the next simple step.

6 PREP AND PICK UP YOUR FILM EQUIPMENT

Make sure everything works

Our next simple step is prepping and picking up equipment.

This will be a different process for every department, but each department should be well acquainted with what their responsibilities are.  

One of the most important preps for the film shoot is with the camera department. Depending on the type of camera, the 1st Assistant Camera will inspect and prepare the equipment for use and transport.

The Key Grip and Gaffer will inspect their truck. The Special Effects Assistant will try the rain machine and so on...

Someone from every department will make sure that the equipment is ready to be used. If there needs to be replacements, changes or additions, you will be notified very quickly, so be ready.

Each department will be given invoices and receipts for the deposits and rentals.  Every invoice or receipt will be given to production. If you are not emailed an invoice or receipt from the rental house contact, it is not out of the ordinary to have your crew member take a picture.   

This is especially useful if they will not be joining production immediately after prep and pick up.  This is also a way to prevent any surprises. No surprises are the only good surprises in production.

7 WRAP UP AND WRAP OUT

Wrap the job like a pro

After someone yells, “That’s a WRAP!” then comes Simple Step #7… The actual wrap out.

Hopefully, mid-Shoot,  you asked your department heads, at the appropriate time, whether or not there are any pieces of gear or equipment that can be returned.  Some items can have a day rate that can be saved if it is known that it will not be used for the rest of the shoot.

Return your equipment in good shape and as soon as possible to avoid cost overages.  

Remember, returning your equipment even an hour late can get you a full day’s charge at non-negotiated rates.  Avoid this mistake at all cost. Even if your PA has to sleep in the van to get back to the rental company on time.

When you receive the final invoice it will reflect any additional expenses, discounts, and loss and damage charges if anything is broken, lost or stolen during your shoot.

UP NEXT

The essential duties of a line producer

Renting equipment is a piece of cake with these seven simple steps.  Now that you got the process down, perhaps it’s time to step up your game and learn everything you need to know about being a line producer.  Check out Studiobinder’s article on the essential duties up next.

Up Next: The Essential Duties of A Line Producer →

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