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Old March 20th, 2005, 05:11 PM   #1
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Basic Kit and a Pro Gaffer!?

Hi! Planning a modest first indie feature this summmer and our preferred DP is insisting we provide him a pro gaffer. We were going to use a DV Creator 55 kit (we just don't like the idea of renting gear) for this shoot and others down the road but I'm confused after looking into a few pro gaffers.

Do I really need a guy with a 4 ton truck full of gear to set up and move around my little DV Creator 55 kit? Is a kit like that redundant or silly if all these pro gaffers have got access to trucks full of lighting and electric gear? Am I really risking burning buildiings down with a DV Creator 55 if I don't have a hardcore electrician around?

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Old March 20th, 2005, 05:27 PM   #2
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Where are you shooting!!!!!!!!!!!

What are you talking about....

OK.. What?
Strength and Honor
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Old March 20th, 2005, 05:53 PM   #3
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What's your budget? What kind of script is it?

Even with a relatively small story that's dialogue driven, I don't think the Lowel kit will be enough to cover you in most situations. Why are you against renting? Your DP should have a good idea of what kind of Grip & Electric package he wants to carry for the show. If you're going to hire a gaffer with a truck, he should have plenty of instruments, and I'd wager that they would be better than Lowel units.

B&H has the Lowel kit you mentioned listed for $1279. For that amount of money, you could easily rent a 1-ton grip package, a good selection of tungsten fresnels, a couple kinos, and even an HMI or two for at least a week (here in LA).

I'm prepping a low-budget feature right now. It's character driven and is mostly day and night interiors. Even for something like this, I'm pushing for a 2-ton grip and electric package with kinoflos and HMI's because I know it'll make a difference on screen.

If you have a tiny budget, even a couple hundred dollars toward rentals can get you some decent tungsten mole units along with C-stands and flags and other miscellaneous stuff.

We can help you more if you give us specific details like your location, your budget and how long you'll be shooting. Good luck,

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Old March 20th, 2005, 08:17 PM   #4
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Shoot Details

This is a twenty day shoot (five business days a week for four weeks) in June. First half of the shoot will be indoors - day and night scenes - in a large loft studio (about 1800 SF) that will house four "sets" (kitchenette, living area, desk area and bedroom). Virtually all scenes involve either one actor alone or two actors speaking. No special effects, no B.S. It's a simple character-driven story.

This loft has high ceilings - about 15 feet and brick walls. Natural light comes in on only one side through three very large, very high windows. In my naive imagination, I envisioned lighting more or less one "set" (really an area of the loft decorated as such) at a time and shooting scenes (out of sequence of course) that way.

Second half of the shoot will be relatively short scenes outdoors on city streets and in a park as well as a number of interiors (restaurant, laundromat, music store, bakery, back of taxi).

The Gear
Sony Z1 HDV, Cavision mattebox and focus puller, Sennheiser lavs and AT mics on K-tek boom. Magiqcam II and Bogen/Manfrotto tripods/fluid heads. DV Creator 55 (maybe - lighting is still open that's why I'm here!).

The Budget
About $30,000 for principal photography. That is what's left after locations, insurance and permits are paid for and after we have purchased all of our sound/lighting/video/grip gear. So that $30,000 has to pay for: DP for 20 shooting days, pro gaffer, student boom/audio assistant and about $8,000 to one non-SAG, non-deferrable actor that is committed at this point. So realisitically I've got about $16-$18k to pay for a DP and gaffer for those 20 days. Sad, I know, but this /is/ indie filmmaking.

Budget for purchasing lighting gear: $2500 max. Much rather buy than rent as that $2500 for gear cannot be used for rentals. If I have to rent it - it comes out of my $30,000 budget. Don't ask.

Don't tell me I'm crazy - I already know that. I need to know how this can be done. Many thanks! :)
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Old March 21st, 2005, 01:36 PM   #5
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personally, i would look at hiring a gaffer with a truck. since the space you describe has large windows with lots of sunlight coming in, i would probably want to stick with daylight balanced units when lighting the day interiors. a couple 4' 4-bank kinos with daylight tubes, and a couple HMI's, probably a 575w PAR and a 1200w PAR. of course, the lights are only part of the equation. in addition to all this, i'd want to have plenty of C-stands, sandbags, floppys, empty frames, 6x6 frames and tons of other stuff to control the light.

for $2500, you could get 2 kino flo 4' 4-bank units. but you'd still need to buy tubes, and stands for them. that would put you over $2500 easy. for that kind of budget you could get a decent ARRI kit with fresnels. but then again, if you hire a gaffer with an electric package, he/she will probably have you covered when it comes to tungsten instruments.

with the $16K-$18K you have budgeted for DP and gaffer, i think you could probably find a gaffer with a good size G&E package and maybe even a DP with his own camera pacakge. are you set on shooting it with the Z1? the reason i ask, is because with your budget, stepping up to a better HD setup might not be out of the question (Varicam or f900). while $30K isn't a big budget, it might be enough for you to step up to a pro camera with bigger chips, better lens choices, etc. i always feel that with low budget stuff, you should originate on the best format you can afford.

best of luck,

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Old March 21st, 2005, 02:53 PM   #6
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Thanks for the post, Kris! Well, we're pretty sold on the Z1 at this point - literally - since we own it and like what we're seeing out of it. We may play with putting different glass in front of it if the Micro35 project gets it's act together soon enough and brochures/gg ship, but I think for better or worse we'll be shooting HDV. We do understand the limitations of the camera, but are interested in taking up the challenge of seeing how far we can push this technology.

It sounds like I need to make some calls to some local gaffers and sound this out. The day rate for gaffers seems to be around $550 per but I'm not even sure that includes any gear usage.
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Old March 22nd, 2005, 01:09 PM   #7
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I have to say that shooting for 2 weeks in a loft with large windows does raise red flags for me. The light through those windows will change from hour to hour and from day to day. Unless the scenes you shoot there are very short and can be done quickly you are going to really be fighting the light. And if one day it's raining and another it's sunny you will have problems matching the scenes. I think it would be very wise to rent a proper grip truck that would contain tools to deal with a situation like this. Duvateen, large reflectors, overheads, HMI's and Kino's would be the right tools for this job. I think you would be VERY dissappointed with what a small Lowel kit could do in a daylit loft space.
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Old March 22nd, 2005, 01:16 PM   #8
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I assume your DP is someone that you trust and respect.
If that's the case, then do what you can with the budget you have to get the DP the tools he needs. That is the best way to ensure you get the look you want. A great DP without the right tools to work with won't do you much good. If he is insisting that he needs a gaffer, then he probably needs a gaffer to be able to get you what you want.

Let the DP worry about the grip/electric needs.
You can sit down with him and show him how much money you have allocated for that. Together you two should be able to figure out a good compromise on where to spend the remaining budget.

If you let him worry about these things, then you can worry about what matters most, your script, story, and performances.

Just my 2 cents.
Luis Caffesse
Pitch Productions
Austin, Texas
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