With a great script, a competent
director can often turn a mediocre
art. And we all know that great actors can make stale dialogue
sparkle. But what kind of movie can you make without the right
equipment? When you’re striving to execute your vision, finding
the right equipment is one of the most important decisions you’ll
make as a moviemaker. And securing it from the right place ranks
nearly as high.
Because of that importance, you don’t want to make decisions blindly.
Just because you’ve heard that a particular video camera is cheap
or because you liked the look it gave someone else doesn’t mean
it’s the right choice for you. Luckily, there are experts ready,
willing and able to guide you as you investigate the options. Working
closely with your rental house can make all the difference as you
give yourself every advantage to make sure that your investment
Following is a list of some of the top rental houses in the country
in terms of price, quality, customer service and reputation. Before
picking up the phone to call one or all of them, know some of the
questions to ask. And get the right answers before signing a contract.
Equipment History: What is the age
of the equipment?
Just like buying a car, you’ll want to be sure that the equipment
you’re renting is not only in the best possible working order the
day you get it, but that it hasn’t been abused in the past. Sure,
they’ll agree to replace it during your shoot, but you’re going
to lose valuable time that you cannot afford. So don’t be afraid
to ask about the age of the equipment and even its history. Also,
be sure to discuss the shots you’re planning, to make sure that
you’ve rented all the necessary accessories.
Price: How much is it going to cost me?
Obviously, price is a key factor in determining
which rental house to go with. Find out what the daily, weekly
and monthly rates are
for the desired equipment, and what sort of price breaks are offered.
In many cases, for example, it’s cheaper to rent your equipment
for a total of two weeks, as opposed to 10 days. And let’s face
it, who wouldn’t like the added security of knowing that if any
problems arise, you have a few extra days to make up any lost time.
On the other hand, if you know you’ll only need a day to
complete your project, consider setting your production for a weekend.
A number of houses offer a “weekender” rate, whereby you pick up
the equipment on Friday afternoon and have until Monday to return
Almost all houses have a number of discount
options for specific types of shoots or moviemakers. Some of
the most commonly found
discounts apply to students and non-profit organizations. Speak
with a number of houses and see if there’s an angle your production
has that will allow you even better pricing. At Hollywood Studio
Rentals in Burbank, CA, for instance, it pays to be a pro. Their “Pronet” discount
offers a 15 percent deduction when equipment is being used in a
professional capacity, such as on a television show or studio-supported
feature. That same 15 percent can be taken off the bills of those
involved with a professional trade organization such as SAG, WGA
or DGA and employed directly by a studio or station (I.D. is, of
Duration: What is the minimum or maximum period
of time I can rent?
As far as maximums go, the sky is usually the
limit. But at a certain point, it may just pay for you to purchase
outright. With a number of houses offering both sales and rentals,
you’ll get all the advice you’ll need as to at what point you’re
better off buying.
While most houses won’t rent equipment on an hourly basis, the
most you should have to pay for equipment being used for less than
a day is the price for a one-day rental. And again, who’s going
to argue with the flexibility and security that comes with having
a full 24 hours as opposed to two?
Flexibility: Will you charge me if my equipment
is not returned on time?
So you’re on your way back to the rental house with your equipment
when the car breaks down, you hit a major traffic jam, etc. As
in the rest of your life, being a tiny bit late is typically not
a problem—as long as you show the courtesy of giving your rental
agent a call to explain the situation. “We can be flexible under
many circumstances,” says Richard Wurman, general manager of Boston
Camera. At Zacuto Rentals in Chicago.
“We have 24-hour pick-up and return with our night drop room,” states
partner Steve Weiss. Customer service is the name of the game in
the rental house business and owners want to make sure that each of
their clients is receiving top-notch service. So if late equipment
affects another moviemaker, you can bet you’ll be charged for the
time. Plan ahead by giving yourself plenty of leeway, and plan
Consolidation: If I rent all my equipment from
one place, will I save money?
We all know how convenient one-stop shopping
can be. Why not let the same philosophy apply to camera and equipment
if one house does not have everything you need, it doesn’t hurt
to ask where you can find it. “We’re lucky to have sub-rental relations
with virtually every house within a 100-mile radius,” says Robert
Shuster, Hollywood Studio Rentals’ corporation manager. The attitude
in the industry is one of cooperation, where good customer service
benefits everyone. Geography & Shipping: How much will it cost
to ship the equipment?
Though it may not immediately occur to you
to call an out-of-state house, in some cases it can actually
be more economical. On the
other hand, you might find that even though you can get the cheapest
lights from Seattle and the cheapest cameras from Chicago, once
you factor in all the costs, it’s not so inexpensive after all.
Assess the expenses plus the added risks of transportation.
Insurance: Am I adequately covered?
In each stage of production, insurance is a
friend—and sometimes last saving grace. Compare policies before
agreeing to rent any equipment. Prices and coverage for the same
shoot can vary as wildly as airline ticket prices for the same
journey. And read the entire contract! On an “inexpensive” policy
there are often odd “exclusions” for equipment left in a vehicle
or third-party damages. Compare the cost of buying a year-long
policy to one that covers you for just one shoot. Even if you only
have a vague notion of shooting later in the year, it may make
sense to pay the additional amount now. Understand all the policy’s
terms, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The only stupid one
is the one not asked.
When you get there, check equipment thoroughly with one of the
resident experts and agree on the condition of each piece before
you take it out. Know what you are responsible for and what damages/services
the house covers.
Service and Support: Do you offer training or
technical support? What about emergency replacements?
Any reputable rental house offers tech support—and some even go
a few steps further by offering it at no charge, 24/7. Still others
offer free training, particularly on newer equipment, such as HD.
Often “technique training,” rather than basic usage training, is
part of the package.
Be sure to ask about what happens when an emergency replacement
is needed. Waiting for a replacement piece over a weekend could
easily send you behind schedule and over budget!
Testing: Can I test the equipment? Ask if you’re
allowed to test the equipment (for free, of course) before renting.
The answer may be indicative of the house’s overall level of customer
service. Again, like a car, you want to make sure you like the
equipment before you fork over thousands of dollars and tons of
trust to shoot your project with it. Keep the likely shooting conditions
in mind. You may like the way a camera captures cover, but if you’re
going to be on the run in a rainforest, you don’t want 100 pounds
of equipment attached to you.
user-friendly RENTAL HOUSEs, coast to coast
Abel Cine Tech
4110 West Magnolia Blvd.
American Production Services
Analog Digital International
ARRI Camera Service Center
Atlantic Cine Equipment
Bill Barnes Video Production
625 West 55th Street
801 S. Main Street
1821 Kaiser Avenue
20239 N.E. 15th Court
5555 Oakbrook Parkway #160
1001 N. Union Bower Rd. Suite130
555 Herndon Parkway
Big Zig HD Video
Birns and Sawyer, Inc.
Broadcast Video Rentals
Chapman/Leonard Studio Equipment
9460 Delegates Drive
1901 East 51st Street, Ste. 38
5045 Still Creek Ave.
Cine Photo Tech
101 Krog Street NE
Cine Rent West
2580 Upshur Street
Cine Services, Inc.
3000 Justin Drive, Suite A
16 Overlea Blvd.
1225 E. Keith Road, #2
Armanda Costanza, Inc.
DTC Grip & Electric
Joe Dunton & Co. International
Film & Tape Works
Film/Video Equipment Service
Fire & Light LLC.
Gambino Camera Rental
Geo Film Group
Alan Gordon Enterprises
Gunner Camera and Lighting
Hand Held Films
Helix Camera & Video
Hello World Communications
Hit & Run Productions
9100C Perimeter Woods Drive
11497 Rocket Blvd.
Hollywood Studio Rentals
Koerner Camera Systems, Inc.
Liman Video Rental
Mobile Production Service
Modern Image Film & Video
Modern Movie Machines
545 W. 45th Street
15987 S Hilltop
3007 So. West Temple suite K
North American Camera
2645 N. Mississippi
1305 Evans Avenue
Otto Nemenz International
Pacific Grip & Lighting
10401 MLK Jr. Way South
Performance Lighting Rentals
Picture This Production Services & Stage
Producers Choice Lighting
Production Consultants & Equipment
3 Golden Square, Suite 14