A few days back I had the opportunity to travel to Vancouver Island, BC to shoot a piece for an old friend. Well, not just a friend, but a mentor...my old high school media teacher, Peter. Since my high school graduation we have become more like friends. He played a crucial role in where I am today and what kind of filmmaker I am. For the shoot we decided to take Helijet instead of the ferry to save us at least four hours in travel time.This posed only one problem. In total we were both allowed one 50lb bag on the helicopter. I had to decide what the most crucial piece of gear I would need to bring, not only to get the job done, but get the results that the client was looking for.
The shoot itself was simple. Well, we actually had two shoots. The main shoot was for a special school for students with learning disabilities which involved several interviews with cover shots. The second shoot was a little gorilla-style commercial for Helijet in hopes of enticing them to request more work from us. This shoot involved shots of Peter showcasing the city of Victoria. Unfortunately, as our weight restriction on our bags was only 50lbs we literally had to leave behind the lighting kit, tripods and slider. I was only to able to carry on a large backpack, monopod and the hard case for the Ronin. Thank goodness that case has wheels, its heavy.
The helicopter ride was great, but it really limited us for the gear that we could bring with us. Upon landing in Victoria we rented a simple tripod (from London Drugs) for the interviews. We were fortunate to locate a room at the school with a skylight that worked in our favour for the interviews. We were able to use as much natural light as possible. I also had a small fold-up bounce, however, we didn’t need it. For the cover shots of the school we just used the monopod and made use of the Canon 5dmiii's low light ability. The shots around Victoria were simple walk and talks with the Ronin. It would have been nice to get a slider or jib shot around the school, but I’m still really happy with what I was able to get with just the monopod. I normally don’t travel this light and surprisingly I found myself not requiring any other tools.
There are so many options as far as filmmaking tools go nowadays. There are sliders, jibs, monopods, glidecams, etc. How do you really know what tool you’ll need for that specific project you are working on? I think the key is knowing exactly what you are shooting. The project itself will dictate the right tool for the job. If you have the trunk space to bring your slider and jib that’s great, however, if you find you can’t take all your equipment on a shoot, it is possible to function quite well with minimal gear. Your story should decide the tools you bring with you.