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Practical gift ideas for filmmakers

Updated on October 24, 2014

We're not that hard to shop for!

Working alongside my fellow filmmaking professionals has given me plenty of time to think about what makes for practical gifts for my colleagues. Filmmakers tend to live and breathe their work, so gifts that assist in their job or make their workday a little bit more comfortable are great. But not every filmmaking department is created equal, grips have very different practical needs than sound technicians. Camera operators and editors day to day duties are wildly different, and so on. Maybe you have someone in your life who loves to make movies, but you're not quite sure how to shop for them. Or maybe you're a crew member or actor yourself and you're not sure what to get for a fellow filmmaker. This guide will give you a starting point with gift ideas that are practical and useful for your favorite filmmaker. I've broken down the gift ideas into various film crew departments, featuring mainly the production crew that's on set for principal photography. For more great gift ideas for the filmmaker in your life, check out my Filmmaker's Gift Shopping Guide over at http://indiegrip.pulsephoenix.com, you'll find many more great practical gift ideas there, organized by individual crew department. Including many departments not featured here on this list!

For the Camera Operator

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Whether you know them as a director of photography, or cinematographer, or 1st AC, or just "camera guy", everyone on the camera team has similar needs regardless of which role they play within the department.

Devek Neon Spike Tape Rainbow Pack 1/2 Inch X 45 Yards
Devek Neon Spike Tape Rainbow Pack 1/2 Inch X 45 Yards

Spike tape is the camera department's swiss army knife. They use it for spot marking, labeling, as high visibility warnings for set hazards, and so much more. You simply can't have enough of this stuff.

 
Bosch DLR130K Laser Measure (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Bosch DLR130K Laser Measure (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

Few departments must regularly take precise distance measurements like the Camera crew does, and just like the other departments camera has to move fast. Saving half a second here and there can really add up throughout a long shoot day, and a laser distance measure is perfect for just that.

 

For Grip and Electric - Grips, Gaffers, Electric Techs and Lighting Technicians

Source

The rigging crew needs gear that's as tough and durable as they are. Grip and electric regularly sees intense physical labor in pretty much any condition imaginable. Safety and efficiency are paramount in their department, and the kind of gear that make great gifts for these rough and tumble journeymen of filmmaking reflect that.

Mechanix Wear - Original Gloves (X-Small, Black)
Mechanix Wear - Original Gloves (X-Small, Black)

Though these gloves are pretty standard hand protection for ALL film crew, grips and electrics go through gloves faster than any other department. Every G&E crew member should carry a couple pairs in their kit at all times.

 
Black Diamond Equipment Storm Headlamp (Matte Black)
Black Diamond Equipment Storm Headlamp (Matte Black)

Grip and Electric are in charge of wrapping and stowing ALL the rigging and lighting gear, which means that working in pitch darkness is a pretty routine. Having a reliable, high powered personal light source is crucial. Even better if it leaves both your hands free for working. That's why I recommend the Black Diamond, this thing is an effective light source in a torrential downpour. Now that's reliable.

 

For the Production Assistant

Set production assistants are the lifeblood of the production. Oftentimes fulfilling the role of the runner, PAs need to be equipped to move fast and to be protected from the elements.

HDE Covert Surveillance Headset 2-Pin Acoustic Tube Earpiece & Microphone Compatible with Motorola Radio Devices
HDE Covert Surveillance Headset 2-Pin Acoustic Tube Earpiece & Microphone Compatible with Motorola Radio Devices

You can be sure that if there are walkies on set, the PA team will be the first to get them. I find the idea of re-used rental earbud headsets to be really gross. Save the PA in your life some disgust by giving them a headset of their own.

 
4 Panel Large Bill Flap Hat W15S48B (One Size Fits Most/Khaki)
4 Panel Large Bill Flap Hat W15S48B (One Size Fits Most/Khaki)

Their role as gatekeepers of the production often means that PAs must post up in the sun for several hours at a time. Sunburn and more longterm skin damage are a serious concern for film crew, but PAs especially. Give the production assistant in your life the gift of mobile shade.

 

For the Freelancer

Film crew and freelancers are often one in the same, but not always. Freelancing as a photographer or videographer requires one to pick up a more generalized skillset, especially if you're running a single person operation.

Sony 64GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 R40 Memory Card (SF64UY/TQMN) (OLD MODEL)
Sony 64GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 R40 Memory Card (SF64UY/TQMN) (OLD MODEL)

You'd be surprised how quickly SD cards get filled. Save the photog or videographer in your life some serious headaches by stocking them up!

 
Manfrotto 562B-1 Fluid Video Aluminum Monopod with Plate
Manfrotto 562B-1 Fluid Video Aluminum Monopod with Plate

The innocuous monopod is the guerrilla filmmaker's best friend. It's a highly compact, versatile tool that every freelancer should own.

 
SetWear Jumbo AC Pouch (7"Hx 8.5"W) - Black
SetWear Jumbo AC Pouch (7"Hx 8.5"W) - Black

Whether you're shooting commercial work on a cyclorama or you're outdoors filming a music video, you can be sure that hauling gear will be part of the job.

 
Litepanels LP Micro Compact LED Camera Light Kit Includes Gel Kit
Litepanels LP Micro Compact LED Camera Light Kit Includes Gel Kit

Extremely handy, infinitely useful, infinitely portable LED light source. An absolute must-have for anyone serious about the craft.

 

Other Ideas

Things ALL filmmakers need (in no particular order)

  • Toiletries: Sunscreen, lip balm, baby powder, aloe vera gel, etc.
  • Comfortable, Durable Shoes
  • Gift cards!: Filmmakers keep weird hours, and when they're on the job they often have very little time to cook for themselves. Gift cards from your favorite filmmaker's preferred coffee house or burger joint will end up being a lot more appreciated than you may think!
  • Clothing: Production clothes get beat up and torn pretty quickly. Don't know what size to buy? Then see above!

You can also check out my comprehensive film crew gift shopping guide at http://indiegrip.pulsephoenix.com/the-film-crew-gift-shopping-guide/.

You'll find many more practical gift ideas organized by film crew department there.

Got a gift idea for filmmakers? - Let's hear it below!

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    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 3 years ago

      These really are very practical (yet inventive) suggestions. I can imagine that friends and family of filmmakers must have a tough time to know what to buy as a gift, especially if the filmmaker in question is a fast-moving minimalist who keeps his personal gear and gadgets to whatever fits in a kit bag, just in case he gets "that call".... A very helpful gift guide here.

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