20+  Indie Film Gear Production Kit Items, (Must Have)
'Micro Budget, Film Production Gear & Kit Items'

(The minimum for 'unlimited' narrative filmmaking, content & scene production)

When It comes to filmmaking I'm kind of a 'Generalist'. I shoot just about everything.

Ive got 20 Years of Professional Film & Television production experience in Los Angeles & Hollywood. I've worked on many big budget Films, TV Shows & Commercials. 

Of course, I've also done a lot of Low & No Budget Films, Corporate Media, Internet Content, & YouTube Videos too.  I'll also shoot a mix of Still Photo, Print jobs throughout the year as well.

I'm happy to have all the bells & whistles of a high budget paid shoot, but I don't ever want budget to be a factor that stops or limits my ability to produce media. Quality Media that looks professional & meets my, or my clients needs.

Any competent media producer knows we have resources for Reds & Alexa's in cities all over America, with all the Cine Primes, Lights, Trucks & Grip gear you can shake a stick at. I don't need all that expensive film making equipment sitting in my garage stressing me out.

My 'Personal, Micro Budget Film Kit' is made up of the 'highest quality & cheapest price' film production gear I can find, that delivers the results I need.  I own most / all of the Film equipment & gear below, & have used it plenty.

If a client wants to drop a hundred grand per day, I have no problem arranging that for them, but the fact of the matter is, that's a rare production.  I do a bunch of Fashion Photo stuff & really small shoots for people who cringe at spending 3-500$  a day for film making equipment, or an entire shoot.

Individual business owners, Start up's, Fashion lines, Product shots, Web Blurbs, a lot of these gigs are quite small.

I don't have to do small shoots like these, but if I want to, I can.

More important by far, is the fact that I can produce my own media.  Weather its a finished production, or just concept & development materials, I'm always ready & able to shoot.  If my actual production is going to have a Grip Truck & 3 Arri's,  my 'personal kit' can become my 'Behind The Scenes' & documentary gear. It still gets plenty of use. 

From underwater, to aerial, to good looking & sounding Narrative, Corporate Media or Web Content, these items are what I consider the "Minimum Requirements' for my personal 'Micro Budget Kit'. They allow me to get all the types of shots I want, day or night.  Narative/Docu Dialogue, Wide Int / Ext scenes, Product, Presentation, Live & Staged Action.

I don't question 'IF' I'll be able to get a shot. As long as I have the Talent, Location, & any specialty Props or Set Dressing, I know that I can get the footage I need for a decent looking sequence. Basically I'm prepared to shoot 'Anything' that may arise.



As far as Camera's are concerned, the absolute most important factor in producing good (narrative Cinema looking) photography & media, is the ability to switch lenses. A camera body w/ swapable lenses is a must. 

Beyond that I like a decent choice of lenses from wide to long.  I'll start with a 30 to maybe around 100+mm Zoom, & then build out with Primes from there.

Sensor size is not a big factor with me. I'm comfortable with them all. I personally have enjoyed owning & shooting with Micro 4/3 bodies, but I mostly/only buy 'Full Frame' glass.  I run everything (a variety of lens mounts) to EF or E mounts, and adapt down to M 4/3 from there. This way, if I shoot w/ a different camera body, I still have my full lens set available.  

Basically, I want to shoot at least 1080, but why not 4K capture these days?  There's a variety of brands & bodies to choose from. I won't get too much into the particulars of them, but I do enjoy shooting Stills & Video with the same tool, so the 'Form Factor' of a DSLR type camera works well for me, & attracts less attention in 'small or public locations. 

I prefer a Mirrorless camera over a DSLR for my Digital Cinematography & Photography. Honestly, 90% of the best, most cinematic stuff I've seen in the past 3 years has come off the GH4. Its the 96fps & the color & image quality. I've used it a bunch & I love this camera. The GH5 is looking amazing so far &.... what can I say? its the only thing better than a GH4.

The Black Magic 4K Pocket Cinema Camera looks amazing as well, & I'm sure it will be a great tool for its minimal cost.

A7S II. Because I want to shoot at night w/o bringing lights. Seriously, thats the only reason.

Really, swapable lenses & manual control of camera functions is my base requirement. From there, brand preference maybe isn't super critical in the context of this article. 

'Cinema Camera's' & even 'Camcorders' can be good for recording longer events, but.... You loose the option of Still Photography when you commit to these types of bodies.

Sure, for 12 hours on a Set I prefer a cinema camera body, & maybe even for serious documentary or event work, but beyond that I find a DSLR type camera more useful as my #1 primary shooting option.

JVC LS300. I've seen it out perform a GH4 in side by side test & its got some amazing features. I haven't been able to get my hands on one, but I think this is the most under appreciated 'Cinema Camera' that exist today.

Having an extra little action camera (or 2) is great for general B Roll, Vlog stuff ,& BTS, but where they really shine is on specialty shots!

A crazy POV, Driving Int/Ext, Underwater stuff, Security Cameras, Action Sequences, Specialty placement / Stunts. There's a million things you can shoot with these small cameras & they are well worth the cost.  I want mine to shoot 24,30, & 60+ frames per second. 

These are definitely the 'Second Camera' choice on my shoots, & more useful (as action cameras) than simply having another conventional 'B body' available. 

An SJ5000 or even SJ4000 is a great little cam. Sure a GoPro is nice. I'm actually not a fan of the YI 4K. My personal choice for my kit, & I have 2 of them, is SJ CAM 

A drone might not be 'absolutely necessary' but they sure do add a lot of options, opportunities & production value to a project. At thousands of dollars they were cost effective, & these days with them being as affordable as they are, why not have the added capability?

A small drone is a great piece of kit in the current market.

DJI Phantom 3. There are better Drones available these days. I think the Phantom 3 is the minimum requirement for decent looking drone footage. Its clean & stable (2.7k?) HD footage adequate for most Web or TV Media.  Future Proofing w/ a Phantom 3 PRO with 4K might not be a bad Idea for extended use. 


Generally, If I only had 1 lens, I'd start with a zoom that went 'wide to fairly long'.  I want every focal length from about, maybe '18mm' to around '100,  up to 200mm'.

Of course I shoot wider or longer occasionally, but I find that (at Full Frame equivalent) 18/24mm out to around 135mm, is what I use 99% of the time, & I can do a lot with that, in both Cinema & Still Photo.

I'm not going to recommend specific lenses, but I'll tell you what my major criteria is with lens selection & I'll share some lens related gear that I find essential. 

Basically, I prefer a 2.8 or faster if I'm investing money & space to keep a lens.

I'm from the old 'manual' days & really don't need electronic functions or 'In Lens Stabilization'. I can work with that stuff, but you'll never see it on a Cinema Camera & I dont prefer to own it.

In fact, 'Manual' lens operation is quite important to me & I dont like a lot of modern electronic glass, because it lacks that capability.

I happen to prefer a 6 (or more) bladed aperture that has a somewhat rounded look.  I don't really like hard Hexagon or Pentagram bokeh.

From there I may prefer different qualities of lenses like color or contrast values, but mostly I look for a similar & consistent image qualities (like Bokeh) while pairing & building a set.

I enjoy a lot of 'vintage glass' & I have a couple of modern lenses that are quite sharp & even.

Quality Lenses are a good long term investment as they hold functionality & value, but you may not always need to pay top dollar for good glass.  There's plenty of functional camera lenses from as far back as the 1940's that will still produce a good image today. 

Between thrift shops, pawn shops & the internet, Its quite possible to amass a large lens collection that can be used for current productions.

LENSES!! Cameras & camcorders/ Lenses & accessories.

The best, cheapest place for old glass & vintage camera lenses!!  You have to hunt but you can find cheap gems here fairly often. Usually bidding starts at 3-5$ plus shipping.  *Filter your search results to find 'Lenses & Accessories', -in 'Cameras' 

Your next bet for old & new lenses is either...

eBay/Camera Lenses

Amazon/Camera lenses

I dont ever use my matte box unless I'm in 'Studio Mode', but the 3 stage rubber hood is a must. The seams will blow after about a year of hard use & abuse but it's only 8$. I'm fine with a 77mm on all my lenses, but you can find them in 86mm for something like a B4 or huge zoom. Between rain ,snow, windy sand &... sun light... it's a 'must have' for me. Light enough to run a Vari ND behind it, & I stack step down rings for smaller lenses. It lives on my camera. 
Step up/down so your 77mm filter fits on your 52mm lens!
Surprisingly, I've become a big fan of these 'Conversion Lenses' over the years. I have a few Wide Angle's & a couple Telephoto types that live in my kit. You can still pull focus behind them & get a shallow DOF. The Wide Angles really help in tight interiors & the Telephotos can bring you much closer to subject. I was a doubter for a long time but I realized the errors of my thinking. There's many Top Cinematographers, including Stanley Kubrick, who have regularly used 'conversion lenses' or had lenses permanently modded in the same way. Get 58mm versions which will fit over most front elements with step up/down rings.  You can actually find them in 77mm & 86mm makes too, but that's a bit excessive & heavy. 
A Surprising amount of shooters say they don't need a UV Filterfor lens protection but you only need to scratch 1 good lens to figure it out. Aside from protecting your glass element, it also makes cleaning when shooting SOO MUCH EASIER! I put one on every lens I have & you can find them for 3$ if you hunt!
Micro 4/3.  I shoot manual lenses adapted to M43. I can adapt MANY TYPES to EF, & then 'Double stack' onto this PIXCO .71x focal reducer to M43 & it works great. I paid 150$ 2 years ago. Its 90$ here. Good Build & Performance!
Polarizer,  Get rid of reflections in windows, on shiny stuff & over water. Get a large one that fits over all your lenses w/ step up/down rings. 
I've shot Photo & Video w/ this Variable ND Filter for 3 years. Clear, Sharp, good color. Super cheap.


Get a Slate!
I prefer a 4 or 6 track Audio Recorder because I can Lav 3 actors & Boom. Its a little more versatile than a 2 track.

1 stereo track Recorder, These are OK, but better to get the multi track. 4 or 6. 

I have the 30$ 'No Brand' version of this Microphone w/o the cool mount & case. Its good at about 1-4' feet away, 5 is pushing it & you wont hear anything at 7. A 'real' good shotgun will still pick up at 7,9 & maybe 12' away, but that's at least 300$ at the low end. 
Skip the expensive Audio Boom Pole (that breaks 75% of time) & get a 'Heavy Duty' Painters Pole. WAY better & cheaper. Needs a little mod, you can pad the base w/ 1" foam pipe insulation! Get 18' or 24' if possible. Check your LOCAL hardware store or Home Depot, & pay for a good quality, mid range price, strong one.
Lavalier Mics,  I should have put them first in this list.

I actually dont 'like' these mics, but they are the base of an audio kit & common for interviews. The type with a battery & 30ft cord can save you in some tricky spots.

The 'wireless' lavalier mics are great for many purposes, but quality ones are fairly expensive,

and I can rig a small external recorder (Iphone or zoom1) on Talent & record them 'locally',  So there's a work around if you're missing a wireless lav mic. 


Yes These, but I prefer the larger Reflector Dome size (this is standard 8.5") because hot bulb is deeper in large model. Use Tin foil as Barn Doors /flags on front to shape light.

Double clamp with a 'grip clip' to make secure on doors, street poles & surfaces.

Splice a Dimmer Switch into a 25 or 50' electrical cord to run each lamp. (you can probably run 3 off 1 cord)

If you're using old fashioned 'Hot Bulbs' you can get a cheap Dimmer Switch. If youre using new school 'LED' bulbs, then a 'LED' Dimmer Switch will run you about 30-40$.

I keep a couple dedicated cords like this for my lighting, with the Dimmer Box at the (Female / Light) plug in side w/ about 10+ feet of slack so I can run the light up a wall or stand. 

You have to spray black the inside of these Barn Doors. eBay sells this 1 light for 24$ but no battery.  I have plastic squeeze 'Grip Clip' that I put 1/4-20 thread through handle. I can attach to street sign, car door, house door, railing. Anything 3 inch. GREAT mobile lights, eat battery kind of quick, 30-45 continuous on small batt. 
Bigger is better for a 'China Ball' / Chinese Lantern. I prefer a 24" but a 12" will do. Avoid an 8". Good for soft even light.
5 in 1 bounce is always good for Interior & Exterior stuff, This one's got a scrim & handles for better clamping. 
Super Handy & most hardware stores have them for 5-6$. Putting this one in a white plastic bag diffuses it nicely. This square type w/ 24 bulbs on top is better than flashlight & it hides in tight spots well. good for car interior off dash. 
Ring Light, *THIS ONE, Easy mod over an old 77mm Rubber Lens Hood metal ring (insert foam ring & metal ring into this light), Screws to front of lens. Its too small for obvious Ring Reflection in eyes, but great for soft direct light!! Love mine!


If your tripod budget is less than 300$ I think this particular make is your best bet. Theres a few names for this exact set up & they are usually 130-180$. You can find other tripod  models around this price but they are flimsy & dont have the same extension hardware or build quality. This is a fairly heavy set up but thats good for stability. The heads on these are kind of 'hit or miss' as far as if you'll get a really smooth one.  You can source a better ball mount head starting at 200$ & legs with better feet starting at 120-130$, but for a package deal these are the best I've seen at around 130$+ total.
I have this Particular Arm & Vest(w/ a different stabilizer) & its decent. I've heard good things about the Fly Cam also. *Pro Tip for this GLIDE GEAR 'Arm & Vest only', go look on eBay where they auction them for 199$ (or best offer) every month.... Offer 100 or 150$ & if the listing doesn't sell, you'll get it for the offer you make. I got a brand new one for 100$. Arm & Vest. * If you get a different brand stabilizer you may need to mod the handle or mounting pin. 


Nothing like the real thing!!

 Gaffers tape!!

Wax Cooking paper. Diffuse hot lights.
Aluminum Foil. Cut, cloak & shape hot lights.
C-47's. The internet ones are never as good quality as in the market but they're OK. Make sure you order 'full size' not the 'minis' 

Make Up & SPFX

My most basic Make Up that I actually keep / provide for shoots is... Powder (IDK what it really is called, Compact powder foundation?)  I started with Light, Medium & Dark because I shoot a lot of skin types.

This stuff is good for Male & Female Talent, to avoid sweaty hot spots in a tight close up shot. It also covers bruises & irregular spots.

I've worked on 2nd Unit Shoots where Stunt Coordinators have personally powdered their guys... point being, it makes a difference in the presentation of a face on screen  & worth paying attention to.

These pallets of cheap eye makeup are a great 2nd makeup choice. You want the type that isn't metallic & shiny.

With a decent base powder & this stuff you can do a lot... Dead bodies, Bruises, Dirty grime.....

Obviously its good for Artsy Fashion & Glam too.

These & a couple Halloween cream makeups, colored hairspray & skin wax, are about as involved as I want to be with Make Up application. Eventually I'll hire a professional, even for a small shoot.

However, having this small kit allows me to shoot concepts quickly & on the fly.

One thing you really cant cheat is actual Liquid Latex. Sure, you can run jello prosthetic for scarring & use homemade 'Nose wax' for some texture, but real liquid latex is best for gluing & smoothing skin stuff. 

Handy Extra's

Bee Smoker is THE BEST tool for heavy white smoke for Pyro / Fire, for a light Mist effect in a jungle or thin Fog, or to bring out 'God Rays' from above.  A lot of people tout Fog Machines, spray Aerosol Mist, or the new 'Battery Liquid Smoke Blowers'. Those people are WRONG. The Bee Smoker is super cheap, pellet fuel is cheaper to get than the liquid fuel, & you are not dependent on electrical or battery power.  Every Art Department truck in Hollywood has a Bee Smoker on it. They are safe to breathe inside or outside. You can have thick smoke or fan it out for fine mist.  A little fuel will go a long way.  One smoker & a large bag of fuel will get you through many shoots. Nothing beats a Bee Smoker for Smoke, Fog or Mist.
****Projector    This isnt something you 'need' but they can be really useful.

Theres plenty of artistic creative applications using them directly, but you can also accomplish some subtle VFX with these.

Reflected Fire Light, Neon or Rain Drips in a window, Colored Spot Lighting, Film Noir light bars, Reflected streets on a car window.

There's plenty of in camera 'Visual Effects' that you can achieve with slightly blurring a well placed projection. They're 70-150$

& of course, you can project your finished Film!

****Jib Arm      Yes, its a specialty tool & you dont 'need' to have it, but in some cases they are the best option.

'Overhead Shots' are obviously where you utilize a jib arm.  I love to be able to do this over a bed, in an interior shot, over a desk or counter top, maybe off a stair case.

Outside I like a jib overhead on a balcony, a cliff or any chasm.

If I can get away with it, I like it on a moving car looking inside or away.  You can hang a little Action Camera on a small stabilizer, rig that to a jib arm, & you're shooting some amazing footage.

I have a hand held 'parallelogram' type device that allows me to hand hold a short, 4ft 'Jib Move'

but for all the shots I mention above I like an adjustable 6-8ft arm. More than that is too much for interiors & kind of unnecessary.

They are also really good for overhead Instructional & Presentation type shots, for things like Cooking or Maker videos.  

Here we are at the end of a long filmmaking tips tirade, and while were here I feel like its appropriate to mention some great free Editing Software...

Check out the totally amazing & completely FREE, 'HitFilm 4 Express' for a surprisingly robust & sophisticated  Editor & Compositor!

BlackMagic's Da Vinci Resolve is also another great FREE Editor & Color Grading Platform.

For more FREE tools & Info on Film Making & Media Production, visit

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