Here are some core film gear items I carried on movie sets and TV sets as a production assistant. They’re broken down by Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced categories, depending on how hardcore you are or want to be at this whole film production thing. Don’t forget to save your receipts and write off any work-related purchases on your taxes.
Basic and Affordable Film Gear – to get started
Tool Pouch: It’ll come in handy to carry your film gear goodies – flashlight, pens, paper, sharpies, etc. Plus, you gain +10 capability points for just looking prepared. (If you want an extra-durable and handy pouch, a Radio-EMT combo pouch will do the job nicely as well as provide a spot for your walkie!)
Sharpies, Pens, Paper: Sharpies are king on film sets, and pens and paper are a must for jotting down notes.
Flashlight: For all those times when you have to lead a herd of extras through a precariously dark field. (It happens more often than you’d think). The industry favorite, particularly among ACs, is the Maglight.
Headlamp: For all the times when you have to lead a herd of extras through a precariously dark field while carrying director’s chairs and a cooler and you don’t have a free hand to hold the flashlight. (Believe me, this definitely happens more than it should).
Poncho: For all those times it suddenly rains on you while you’re posted on an outdoor lockup. It happens….a lot.
Rain Suit: After you’ve spent a day in the pouring rain in a poncho, a rain suit will feel luxurious. It’s a necessity if you’re dealing with a lot of fickle weather.
Intermediate Film Gear– for the up and coming PA
film gear if you’re ready to be taken seriously.
Walkie Talkie Surveillance Headset: Burger King headsets are for n00bs, and do you really want to use a used earpiece? I also love the molded earpieces that sit in your ear rather than just the round thing that jams into your ear – I can still hear what’s going on around me in addition to walkie chatter. If I had to work on a deserted island and I could only take one piece of film gear, this would be it. (Oh, and of course, a walkie talkie to radio Transpo to get me off the island).
NOTE: This headset is compatible with Motorola CP200 walkie talkies, the industry standard.
Leatherman pocket knife: It’s surprising how often you need a pair of scissors or a knife on set, or even a screwdriver or pliers. People start taking you seriously if they ask you for a “blade” – and you whip out a fancy leatherman. Just remember to put it in your checked bag if you ever have to fly for work.
Waterproof jacket: Rain suits will work in a pinch — but they get steamy quickly. For those long and wet 16 hour days, I’m always glad to have coughed up the extra money for my waterproof jacket from Columbia. It’s amazing how much simple “creature comforts” keep you energized! (Be sure to get one size larger to fit extra layers.)
Hiking Shoes/Boots – Waterproof a definite bonus!
All it took was two consecutive days of standing on my feet for 16+ hours before I realized I needed something other than my Converse if I wanted to stick around in the business for at least 2 years without developing back problems. Merrells have been my go-to shoe ever since – they’re hardy, but comfortable. If you’re in a climate prone to rain and mud, opt for the model featuring Gore-Tex.
Dec 2016 UPDATE: Lately, I’ve been wearing Nike Flyknits 24/7 – they’re the best shoes I’ve ever owned! They’re SO lightweight and perfect for everything, including set life and working out. They are not waterproof, so I keep a set of these cute rain boots in the car as a backup.
Advanced Film Gear
for the PA who works nonstop and has their sights set on a specific department.
An AD “Tin”: If you’re working you way into the AD department and find yourselves dealing with extras or first team on a regular basis, a legal-sized “tin” is an eventual must. It’s the way ADs organize their callsheets, schedules, shotlists, etc – and the aluminum helps protect the paperwork from the elements, dirt, and grips that would undoubtedly wrinkle or soil the crisp clean pages. Note – Legal size is KEY as that is the standard size for callsheets.
Gaff Tape: It’s the filmworker’s duct tape – only much higher quality. If you want to pursue the Grip or Electric departments, picking up a roll is a good move. If the Camera Department is your end goal, start picking up a variety of colors of 1-inch gaff tap for placing marks or labeling cards.