This is all just advice and none of it is mandatory! Just some kit tips that I've picked up along the way...
TL/DR: I have underlined each item in case you don’t want to read the reasons why I have included each one.
Below is the kind of outfit I would wear to the first day on a job. Even if they haven't asked you to wear 'blacks', it is worth coming in them just in case.
I also thought I would include my car (Pete) in this photo - just to highlight how important it is to at least have a driving licence and, even a better, your own car! Pete is my trusty steed.
We live in England, it is probably going to rain.
Comfortable trainers or walking boots
No matter what the shoot, always wear a pair of shoes that are comfortable. (They may not look it, but these Buffalos are actually very comfortable for me.) They don't have to be pretty - you will be on your feet all day so you will regret wearing those flat-soled Vans when you could have worn your ugly hiking boots.
Then again, you might be on location in a remote field. In which case, definitely wear hiking boots and a thick pair of socks. But, if you are filming in a difficult location you will be told beforehand, so ALWAYS CHECK THE CALLSHEET.
About a year ago I invested in a sturdy North Face backpack from an outlet store that was thankfully selling them half price, as they can be quite pricey. Of course, by no means should you purchase an expensive bag for work. But I would think about getting something that is strong and not going to fall apart when it is thrown into the back of a minibus or carried through wind and rain.
I would avoid Black’s own brand Eurohike. Although they often look the part, I have had a few backpacks from this brand in the past and they soon fall to pieces. If you can afford it, it would probably be a better use of your money to buy something slightly pricier that will last you a lot longer rather than purchasing lots of cheap knockoffs.
My backpack is 28 litres - somewhere around this size is usually about right. If they have different compartments and a place to store your water bottle then you're good to go!
The essentials my backpack contains:
Production will want to scan this in when you start on a shoot. You will also need to fill in lots of forms for HMRC, so try to learn your National Insurance number off by heart. If not, have it noted down somewhere safe.
They might want to scan this in too. It is also useful to keep this with you if you go on errands to buy anything that requires proof of age, e.g. sharp objects, alcohol, solvents, etc.
Your Whatsapp crew group chat will be pinging all day and you'll be on and off the phone with your colleagues. It is highly likely you will need to re-charge your phone and you probably won't be near a plug socket. Keep a portable charger and phone cable with you at all times - you don't want to miss any of those important messages!
I have quite a hefty power bank. It has about 7 full re-charges for a phone, which means I can lend it out if anyone else doesn't have one. Remember spare cables for different phones though (Apple & Android)!
Sharpies, biros, pencils
You often hear people asking, ‘does anyone have a pen?’ Be that person with the pen.
Clear money wallet
Some productions will give you a float in a wallet, but I usually take one in case they don’t. If they do, then you can use this spare one for the receipts you get.
Strong bum bag or shoulder bag
I say strong for the same reasons I mentioned above about the backpack. A bum bag is going to be one of your most useful possessions. If you don’t wear a belt or have pockets on your trousers, like most women’s trousers, this will hold your walkie talkie to your person. They can be heavy, so make sure the straps are strong. In this, you can also store some pens, paper for notes, hand sanitiser, gum, camera tape, and your phone.
I often take a bum bag and my shoulder bag (pictured).
ESSENTIAL. Hydration is key.
Everyone loves gum. If you’re the person with gum, you’re an instant hit.
Even if you don’t smoke, there will always be someone that does smoke and can’t find their lighter. Or you might be asked to light a candle on set. Either way, you’ve got one at the ready!
A kind PD might give you some advice. They don’t have to help, but if they do always listen carefully and take notes! These moments are pure gold!
You will probably be asked to take food orders – and you definitely don’t want to be giving a vegan a bacon sandwich by mistake! If it’s your first day on a shoot, when taking down names for orders, make a little (non-offensive) note next to each person’s name, perhaps with their hair colour or what clothes they’re wearing, to help you remember who’s who. Eventually, you will not only know that Sally is dairy-free, but that Jim likes just olive oil on his salad and no balsamic unless it is the glazed kind. (I sound like I’m joking but I’m not).
You might even want to convey some important information to another member of your crew whilst you are shooting but you must remain silent. Write a little note and show it to them!
For all these things, a good old fashioned note pad is perfect.
Sadly, Covid-19 has meant we all must wear a face mask to work now. So, make sure you keep one in your pocket all times and bring a few spares in your backpack too. Even if they do give them to you at work, it's best to come prepared.
I bought a bag of cheap reusable squeeze bottles with carabiners attached from Amazon. Then I bought a large bottle of hand sanitiser to dispense into the smaller ones. Then you can be environmentally-friendly, economical, and Covid-prepared!
· Link to the reusable squeeze bottles here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/TOPBATHY-Refillable-Bottles-Containers-Transparent/dp/B086MWRRT7/ref=psdc_11968022031_t2_B077ZLH2JR
I have included some optional extras to show that of course you do not need to be lugging all these things around with you from shoot to shoot, but if you want to go the extra mile, your keenness won’t go unnoticed. Furthermore, if you are working on a shoot for an extended period of time you will realise what sort of stuff you are expected to bring into work and other bits you might not need. That is when you can start to cut stuff down. However, I would usually take as many different bits to work on the first day, as this makes you look prepared.
Re-usable coffee cup
Most productions strive to be as environmentally-friendly as possible, especially if they are working under Albert (https://wearealbert.org/).
Bringing a re-usable coffee cup to set can: save you money on coffee, if you decide to get coffee at a nearby café; make you look organised; make sure that you don’t accidentally drink from someone else’s cup (because you can either get a brightly designed cup or label your own); and make your own job easier for when you’re making teas and coffees for crew – trust me, you will begin to hate those flimsy disposable cups!
You might be given keys or fobs to access certain areas. Having a lanyard will mean these will be easy to quickly access, especially if you’re carrying things. I managed to get a lanyard with a purse attached, which is what I now keep the company card and any receipts in.
I also keep a trolly token or two on my lanyard - these will be a lifesaver when you do the 'big grocery shop' for production. Key ring of your favourite pet is optional.
Spare t-shirt and socks
If you’re working hard you will be sweating – and no one will want to stand next to you if you’re drenched in 12 hours of sweat. You might also be asked to do some painting, in which case make sure at least one of the t-shirts you bring is one you don't care about and/or can get paint on.
Spare shorts and trousers
I would usually just bring these during the ‘in-between’ seasons, like when summer is either just beginning or nearly finished. You can have the occasional boiling day and you’ll regret wearing thermals with waterproof trousers on top and vice versa.
I actually wouldn’t advise taking this out in your backpack unless you know you’re working with talent or contributors. If I need to get from place to place by myself, I’ll do it quickly and an umbrella will only slow me down; wear a raincoat when doing this instead. However, if you’re a floor runner looking after contribs or talent, you want to make sure you have an umbrella on you if it’s a rainy day.
Camera / duct / Gaffa tape
Camera tape can be very expensive, sometimes about £15 for one roll, and doesn’t last long because if you have it, everyone wants the bright pink tape. But, if you are working as a Data Wrangler, for example, this will come in handy to label rushes. If you are assisting in the camera department, this will of course come in handy to mark floor spots for talent and for use with cameras.
Gaffa and duct tape is cheap and can be used to put up signs, tie things together, lay down cables, the list is endless… and you will be using it endlessly too.
You should really be taught health and safety advice on the job and if you are working with cables and heavy or splintering materials you should be given gloves. If not, having some with you can also make carrying heavy things easier, due to the grip on them. Either way, you don’t want to have calyces on your palms on day one of a 2-month shoot.
I buy a new pair every six months or so, as they tend to get a bit holey. Buy a cheap pair from Screwfix or B&Q, they’re only about £2.
Personal wash bag
· Deodorant is a must.
· As a girl, extra sanitary products are useful either for yourself or others.
· Spare hairbands (people always ask to borrow them).
· Lip balm (for extreme weather conditions).
The camera and lighting teams should usually have plenty of these, but you will look ULTRA PREPARED if you have some of your own to begin with. These clips will stick to anything, so if you want to look extra keen, clip your call sheet to your belt or bum bag for quick and easy access.
· They can be bought here: https://www.flash-light.co.uk/product/croc/
· Or here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/GTSE-Pack-Electrical-Crocodile-Clips/dp/B088Q2QYNP/ref=pd_sbs_3?pd_rd_w=tjvfb&pf_rd_p=4fd38ebe-c6e0-49c6-9586-ee7ede565afb&pf_rd_r=P29YW0G8WEC5WA8A3AYN&pd_rd_r=daaf9f59-3a2f-4e83-9958-3a35d15897bd&pd_rd_wg=kbgiN&pd_rd_i=B088Q2QYNP&psc=1
I use a Leatherman, which is basically a fancy pen knife multi-tool. You can get cheaper brands, but I usually advise to save up for something that will last longer than buy lots of cheaper versions. This will be very handy when rigging and de-rigging, unpacking boxes, and someone ALWAYS needs a flat head screwdriver.
If you buy directly from the website you can also get it engraved, which reduces the likelihood of yours getting lost or nicked.
As you can see, I love my Leatherman.
Spare black jumper
It is usually advised to wear all black. I bring a spare jumper in case it gets extra cold; layers are best. Having extras also means if someone else has forgotten something, you can be the person that brightens up their day.
Book to read
Be the person that isn’t on their phone during breaks.
If you’re in the production office these are always in high demand. Use Post-Its for temporary signposting and reminders. Again, always the one thing people need.
Sunglasses & baseball cap
For the 3 days a year when Britain is sunny.
Tie together spare pens, sort out some loose cables, stop a share bag of crisps from going stale (maybe not during Covid, but you know what I mean). Endless uses!
2 METRES EVERYONE!
That's it for now! If you can think of anything else, please leave a comment below.
Happy Running! x