Set Essentials: What I Always Bring to a Shoot

Categories Set Cheat Sheets

It can be hard to foresee everything you might need on set, especially on indie films where budgets are tighter, set-ups are thriftier, and departments are a little bit more blended. Your crew position will also play a role into what you should bring, but even as a director, I still bring items that could potentially help G&E, art or even camera.

Here’s a comprehensive list of everything I currently have in my production bin:

1. Paper Towels

In case of spills or a lack of napkins or both.

2. Velcro

Potentially useful to art, wardrobe, camera or even G&E. You’ll see a running trend of adhesives as you continue down the list.

3. Command hooks

The quickest way to change the look of a room is to add things to the walls, so obviously these are crucial to production design. Command hooks are great because they’re reliably strong and, if removed properly, don’t damage the surfaces to which they’re applied.

Pro tip: Use a piece of thread to “floss” away the adhesive when you’re ready to remove. This ensures that the wallpaper/paint remains unaltered.

4. Gaffer’s tape

This one should be obvious. For those who don’t know, Gaffer’s tape is a heavy duty adhesive that is distinguishable from other tapes because of its fabric backing. When it comes to tape, this is the superior choice because of its heat-resistant properties, adhesive strength and easy removal.

5. Painter’s tape

Because Gaffer’s tape is expensive, you don’t want to waste it labeling mags or using it to hang paper signs on doors. That said, make sure to bring a variety of tape. Painter’s tape is great because it’s colored, comes in bigger roles than scotch tape, and it’s lightweight, making it very easy to remove. You would use this kind of tape for the purposes mentioned earlier in this paragraph.

6. Gorilla glue

In case a prop breaks. Not for really anything else… this stuff is serious. It will damage anything you try to remove it from, so make sure you’re only using Gorilla glue on things that need to stick together forever.

7. Disposable cutlery and plates

Okay, so this should really be the responsibility of craft services and catering, BUT this role has fallen to me many times on DIY projects. Also, after most shoots, there are a good amount of extras, so I just pack them away in my production bin until the next shoot.

8. Water bottles

Water bottles… such an ethical gray area in production. Unfortunately, waste is one of the biggest problems of the industry. And as much as you want to promote environmentalism on set, plastic water bottles are a lot more convenient than getting a gallon-sized filling station, filling it up, lugging it to set and refilling it throughout the day. Okay, I would probably take the trouble if I had bigger budgets and more manpower at my disposal. Currently, though, I must plead guilty to carrying around an alarming volume of leftover plastic water bottles in my car.

I will say that I do my very best to recycle whenever possible, though.

9. Pens and pencils

Obviously you need to write things down throughout the day.

10. Clothing pins

Also called “C-47’s”, supposedly because in the early days of Hollywood, a production crew wanted the executives to pay for them, but knew “clothespins” on the receipt would look dubious. So they changed them to C-47’s to make them sound more official.

Anyway, you need these particularly for lighting– they hold gels, diffusion, and other things in place on hot lights.

11. Extra clipboards

If not for anything else, just to make your production seem more “official”. I was once told by a professor to always bring a clipboard along to any location scout just for the effect.

12. Sticky tack

In case you run out of painter’s tape for putting up signs.

13. Hand Sanitizer

You don’t want anyone getting sick your set, do you? No. You really, really don’t.

14. First Aid Kit

This is traditionally supplied by the 1st AD. The reason why I have one is because I’ve 1st ADed on other sets, and because it was never used, I bring it to every set just to have extra supplies in case the worst were to happen.

15. Power strip(s)

You can never have enough outlets. However, make sure to notify your gaffer and best boy electric before plugging anything in so you don’t blow any fuses. Better to have this conversation before a shoot, too, than to scramble looking for power on the day of.

16. Clif bars

These are my go-to “meal-in-a-bar” brand. Also, I’ve learned from past shoots that empty stomachs can make quite a bit of noise– a problem if you’re standing too close to the sound guy.

17. Extra batteries

Having extra batteries on you will save the production time that would otherwise be wasted sending someone to pick more up from the nearest Walgreens. AAs and 9Vs are the most commonly used.

18. Tension Rods

Another one for the art department. Tension rods are my go-to method for hanging curtains. They don’t take any screws, nails or hammers. You literally just thread them through your curtain and cram them into the window.

19. Sunscreen

For outside shoots, especially on sunny days. (Even if when it’s cold.)

20. Bug Spray

Also for outside shoots, especially during summer in muggy climates.

21. Wrinkle Release

A life-saver for the wardrobe department when you’re in a pinch.

22. Scissors

To open stubborn bags, trim stray threads, cut tape into smaller pieces, etc.

23. Garbage Bags

And lastly, you absolutely need garbage bags. Returning to my previous point, productions generate a great deal of trash. Be a responsible crew and clean up after yourselves.

What do you bring to set? Tell me in the comments!

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