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Old January 4th, 2010, 02:13 AM   #1
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Starting a Production Company?

I'm in on the ground level of fledgling indy production company. What equipment should be a mandatory purchase to get us off the ground? We have a decent budget and we plan on shooting festival entry pieces as well as commercials.

All advice is welcome!
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Old January 4th, 2010, 03:48 AM   #2
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Aside from the equipment, consider carefully what everyone's motives are when forming a company.

People get into businesses for a variety of reasons. So you should discuss goals and division of labor with your partners, and come up with a very clear operating agreement before taking on any clients.

I've been through a couple of business partnerships and learned the hard way. Others here have, too. Find out why each member of the company wants to do this, what they will contribute, what they hope to get out of it, and how long they expect to commit. Aside from what they expect, what is expected of them?

Should there be any disputes, and there will be, how will it be resolved? Is there a division of responsibilities and authority? And who provides the overall direction of the company?

A positive attitude is worth its weight in gold. And people who are willing to learn are as valuable as those who already know a lot.

Good luck!
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Old January 4th, 2010, 03:55 AM   #3
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Many production companies don't have any equipment, they just rent as required. I guess these days a computer that you can do all the office work on, the rest depends on the market you're working in.
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Old January 4th, 2010, 07:22 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse Steele View Post
I'm in on the ground level of fledgling indy production company. What equipment should be a mandatory purchase to get us off the ground? We have a decent budget and we plan on shooting festival entry pieces as well as commercials.

All advice is welcome!
All advice is welcome... Then my advice, If you have to ask a forum for advice on what gear you need to purchase, then you are not ready to operate a production business.

This question is much like... How much should I charge.


All the Best!
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Old January 4th, 2010, 07:56 AM   #5
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I have just recently started a small production company myself, just while I am at university studying. It may be small potatoes for many, but I am doing what I love and hope to build it into something meaningful by the time I have left university.

It seems everyone above has given you pretty important information already, the direction and concept of the business possibly being the most important of all. But it seems you do have a direction at least.

Other than the usual things of finding a reason why you are a better option than one of the millions of production companies out there for a client, you have to decide where you will start.

If you want to do commercials, what range? As many commercials these days seem to use really high end equipment, normally all hired as the costs to purchase such equipment would be astronomical, considering the small production time. You say you have a big budget but its all relative, big like RED cameras? Or big like the Sony EX's? I know its obvious, but you aren't going to get straight into high end commercials without experience, and a decent portfolio and maybe a show-reel.

Festival shorts seems like a pretty attractive target for most fledgling indie production companies, but its all about the ideas, not the camera it was filmed on (well as a rule anyway). But what NLE system do you prefer - have you bought the setup? As I would consider that is the most important for a production company to own.

Have you got anything at all so far? E.g. tripods, lights, etc, and do you want a full shooting kit, or just some cameras and basic audio?

Also, how much do you know about the current camera choices out there? As the most important thing is for you to know what you are using inside out, what look it gives, what it can do, and what it can't, you can't just rely on someone on a forum telling you to buy a Sony EX1 or a Panasonic blahdeeblah as a lot of the choice is personal as well as application suited.

What is your position in this company as well? As in your current position you really need to research more if you are completely unsure of what to do next. Are there more experienced members than you, is it you and a friend, or do you have a collection of experienced members, thinking of something a little bigger?

All these questions are important, but they are just a scrape on the surface, and I am certainly no expert in these things! But I just thought these might be something you want to think about. As before I knew what the slightest bit about cameras and editing I just read, and read... and then read a bit more. Eventually cumulating in quite a bit of knowledge that doesn't necessarily make my company successful, but at least I am confident in any direction I take my business, and I know all the options.

I really hope some of that helps!
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Old January 4th, 2010, 09:10 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
Many production companies don't have any equipment, they just rent as required.
Yep.

My advice: don't buy any equipment. If I could do it all again, I wouldn't buy a single piece of equipment outside of a computer with appropriate post production software.

There are just too many good reasons to rent, not the least of which being it's a lot easier to keep up on the latest gear when someone else is purchasing it.

Plus, you never forget to build it into your quotes :)

It wouldn't be unwise to take the money you were planning to spend on cameras, lighting, audio, etc. and put it into marketing. Or even better, if you can manage, put it aside in a savings account because the first year of any business is tough financially.
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Old January 4th, 2010, 10:40 AM   #7
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I have a small production company. There are two of us that work here. One does all the office work and is also the producer. I am the camera man and editor we make about 100 commercials a year. I produce documentaries and indy features also. There is no where around that I can rent gear, and waiting for it to ship would cost me jobs. I can not imagine not having my own cameras. I have my kit packed and ready to go at a moments notice.

Now, granted I am not shooting super high end commercials if I were to shoot a large budget commercial I would probably rent. The thing is as a new company you are going to do all kinds of stuff until you find your nitch. I would suggest that you have a nice kit so you can take jobs that are less than a supper bowl commercial and still make a profit.
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Old January 4th, 2010, 11:11 AM   #8
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I agree, rent rent rent. Make it a part of your pricing. It offers way more flexibility.

Also, don't forget the most important element... CLIENTS. Wouldn't you just hate to buy all that expensive equipment only to be short on clients? Sometimes the demand in your area just isn't there. I've seen so many people (including myself) set up an entire business for operation only to fail when they can't figure out how to find the people that are looking to be served.
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Old January 4th, 2010, 11:58 AM   #9
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I'm with Ron in that I have no where to rent that doesn't involve expensive shipping of equipment. I live on an Island. I can rent audio gear here but no video stuff whatsoever. Besides you can buy some decent used gear for the price of 10-14 days worth of rental.

That said, if you ask here what gear you should start with, you're going to get a crapload worth of opinions.
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Old January 4th, 2010, 12:41 PM   #10
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Rather than rent, for things like cameras that you use even close to regularly, if you buy good used gear (from pros or serious amateurs who take good care of their gear - classifieds right here are an excellent place to find such gear), take proper care of it yourself, and then sell it when you no longer use it, you'll spend a boatload less money.

A decent camera costs a couple hundred a day (at least) to rent. If you use a camera more than even 3 or 4 days, you easily come out ahead by buying it used and then selling it (might even make a profit by accident). Of course, for folks that have absolutely no clue what they are doing, have utterly no common sense, and just plain have "sucker" written on their foreheads, perhaps renting is a better option.

For example, I found a mint FX1 back in early 2006 for $2500. It's still in mint condition. If I sold it today, it would have cost maybe $700-800 to "rent" for almost 4 years. In 2006, that might have rented it for a week or so. Another example: I found a barely used at all HMC40 for $1600 a couple months ago. Selling it today (still like new), heck, the "rental charge" for a couple months would essentially be free.
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Old January 4th, 2010, 12:53 PM   #11
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The only problem with renting is that it does'nt give you the opportunity to get exceptionaly familer with your camera and how it will react under certain circumstances. I think that owning a camera and a light kit is important. But I agree that renting is an option.

Last edited by Kevin Lewis; January 4th, 2010 at 02:16 PM.
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Old January 4th, 2010, 09:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse Steele View Post
I'm in on the ground level of fledgling indy production company. What equipment should be a mandatory purchase to get us off the ground? We have a decent budget and we plan on shooting festival entry pieces as well as commercials.

All advice is welcome!
Just curious, what is the 'decent budget' for equipment? That would narrow the options.
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Old January 4th, 2010, 10:05 PM   #13
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Two philosophies presented and each have their merit.

Personally I'm a gear hound and I did start off renting but the rental companies were chewing into my budgets too much for my taste so I purchased my own gear. Editing rigs (portable and studio) Audio, Camera, Lights, support gear...It's taken a few years to build it all up but I can now offer full service production from concept to completion (catchy aye?)
It allows me do do the smaller jobs at a reasonable price and larger ones, I still rent some gear but not nearly as much. I know my gear inside and out and that makes me a LOT more comfy on shoots.

Flip side...

A very successful company I used to do work for had the opposite idea. They didn't own a single piece of gear. Not even an edit system. They instead found a core group of writers, producers, directors and brought in crew and editors with their own rigs per job to do the technical stuff. This meant they could get anything from 35mm film all the way down the video ladder and have the experienced operators who owned the equipment (like me) run it. Worked for them as now they have offices in 3 cities.

So, it really depends on your budget. Are you talking $10k all-in...or $100k? Does the potential of having that gear collect dust between jobs scare you? Sounds like you need to hire a consultant (I'm not that far from CA...hint hint) to help spend your money!
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Old January 5th, 2010, 03:59 AM   #14
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Buying v renting really depends on the budget area you're investing in. For the lower priced prosumer cameras purchasing usually makes more sense, if only on the basis that the rental cost is a higher percentage compared to the purchase price. This is because you must recover your investment cost over a shorter period - the reason why the rental v purchase percentage is higher compared that on to a high end camera, which will have a longer working life expectancy (5 to 10yrs). You really need to work out realistically how quickly you can pay off your investment in gear.

However, this assumes that you already have clients and have a business plan. Shooting stuff for festivals doesn't really make commercial sense, if it had been put the other way: making commercials (assuming you already have the clients/contacts) and doing some shorts on the side, that would make some business sense.

BTW You can get familiar with gear in the rental house, they don't charge you for doing this.

Last edited by Brian Drysdale; January 5th, 2010 at 04:51 AM.
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Old January 5th, 2010, 04:15 AM   #15
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Along the lines of renting gear comes the consideration that you can hire the talent you need, rather than have permanent partners.

As needs change, you can find others who can handle various tasks. Editing, camera, animation, compositing. Certainly it's can be comforting to have a partner in the business, but again comes the question of how much that person contributes to the company, and is it worth the percentage distributed to that partner?

If each partner were paid an hourly wage, you'd be surprised at the disparities that arise. And that can cause conflicts.

For the business end there are bookkeepers and accountants that can do the work for a reasonable fee.

One last piece of advice to contemplate very, very carefully: Friends don't necessarily make good partners. And business partners may not necessarily make good friends.
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