Video Production: Pack For What You Can’t Plan

Video Creative Director
Published 2/18/14
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As mentioned in a previous blog post, in planning for a shoot, what you pack is of the utmost importance. As an on-site producer for the crew, you’re the leader. Just as much as they seek your wisdom for what the day has in store, they will seek your knowledge of mosquitoes, protection from the sun, what to do with an upset stomach and so on. (Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but still, someone’s gotta be prepared, and it might as well be you!) At any point, I have a bag ready to go with the essentials. Here’s what I keep on-hand at all times:

Printed copies of everything. Travel itineraries, permits, confirmations, important phone numbers, shoot schedule, etc. Sounds like a no-brainer, but as the leader it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone knows where they need to be and when. Also, cell phone battery power dies incredibly fast in remote locations where you also won’t be getting a GPS, mobile or Wi-Fi signal, so you can’t necessarily depend on your emails to load when you need them to. See that black padfolio? Chock full of necessary docs!

Pack a small arsenal of basic medicines... Cold medicine, TUMS, Benadryl, sleep aids, Band-Aids, etc. You’re being thrown into the unknown, and aside from potentially catching a bug, sometimes you’ll encounter new allergens or a new food that doesn’t agree with you. My first “away” shoot ever, I was on set with a 102-degree fever that popped up out of nowhere. The Crew doesn’t take sick days!

...and don't forget sunscreen and bug spray. In Florida, I never go on a shoot without either. There will be the awkward moment when you ask a crewmate to snag a spot on your back that you can’t reach, but no worries – you’ll be totally over it by Day 2.

Even if you think the weather’s going to be crazy hot, pack a layer or two just in case. Famously, we left Sarasota, Florida, in 72-degree weather and woke up to 32-degree weather only a couple hours away in Homosassa. None of us had planned for the random cold weather, and we were left struggling to find extra layers at a random Walgreens. Have you ever shopped for clothes at Walgreens? Let me rephrase that: Have you ever shopped for cold-weather clothes at a Walgreens in FLORIDA before? Exactly.

Your humble narrator stayin’ fresh in a dry-tech polo in Guam

So, it IS going to be crazy hot. I learned the secret to looking polished while totally sweating profusely only recently. Golf shirts made with dry-tech fabrics. Not only will you looked polished in a polo, but you won’t show sweat stains. During my shoot in Guam, where temperatures never dipped below 85, these golf shirts were essential. Avoid the ones with mesh, which look too sporty.

Speaking of golf, if you know your shoot will bring you to a golf course plan accordingly. No jeans or t-shirts! While we were shooting Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Golf Course, one of our videographers had to obtain special permission from Mr. Palmer himself to have lunch in the clubhouse on account of his jeans — even though he was a guest. Know your locations’ dress codes. It might seem old school, but part of golf’s tradition lies in its strict adherence to a dress code, no exceptions. Ditto for night clubs, certain restaurants… and Texas. 3

Pack some tourist attire. I can’t tell you how often we’ve had to put ourselves in a shot because a location is quiet while we’re shooting. Most hotels, restaurants, etc. will want you to shoot when they aren’t super busy since it’s less taxing on their staff. Obviously, we want to show a location as busy and popular whenever possible, but we also want to be respectful of where we’re shooting. On occasion, we’ve had to insert ourselves into shots if necessary. So bring a few options along that will work in a pinch – we call it “resort casual.”  Yup, I’m in that b-roll

…And a bathing suit: It’s true when you’re on vacation, and it’s true when you’re on the road, trust me. From the luxury of having a moment to swim in your hotel pool to burn off the calories you consumed during dinner or relax tired muscles, to needing to don a bathing suit in order to film manatees underwater (true story), you’ll be happy you packed it. 

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A couple of towels goes a long way. Beach shoot? You’ll want towels to keep the sand out of your equipment. Random downpour? You’ll want some towels to dry things off. Even if you don’t pack them, borrowing a couple from the hotel is a good idea — these are alternative uses of course, aside from the obvious needs of a towel to dry yourself off after getting underwater shots or if you’re just plain sweaty from filming on the beach for five hours.

Carry a big bag… and plan to carry all kinds of craziness in there. Model releases, microphones, extra batteries, trash bags (for when a downpour hits and you need to bag the equipment), aforementioned sunscreen and bug spray... A good sized tote or book bag are the tools any great producer needs to make sure you’re always prepared on-location. Bonus: can double as your carry-on if you’re flying to your shoot.

That’s the short list of the items I normally pack to make sure I’m prepared and comfortable on a shoot. While we can’t plan for everything, you can pack accordingly.