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Buy vs. Rent

Marty Hamrick

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We've covered this before, but it's been awhile. I've worked both ways. back when I shot primarily 16mm, I usually owned a few MOS cameras and rented the more expensive blimped sync cameras when I needed to.Ditto for broadcast and industrial video as I found that with video equipment , it went obsolete before you got it paid for. Now I've just relocated to near the Toronto area and as I'm waiting for immigration to go through so I can legally work here, I'm noticing alot of ads for camera people wanted who are owners, particularly RED owners. Does anyone else see this as a trend, particularly among the less expensive HD rigs? Are we finally at a point in time when what you buy won't be a boat anchor in less than two or three years?

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I think if you answer 99% of those ads, they'll be people with no money, no experience and no clue, think they write like Billy Wilder, can direct like Stanley Kubrick and feel you should consider yourself the luckiest person on earth to be graced with the thumbs up and allowed to work 16 hours days for them at you OWN expense since they generously and out of the kindness of their heart, give you 1 or 2 back end points because THEIR movie is going to gross so much green, it will make Avatar look like it barely broke even. AT BEST, you will be paid a pittance and "hired" only on the condition your equipment is included in the deal at no extra charge.


I own all my own stuff (film, and old SD video, "old" from 2002 :rolleyes: ) because it gives me the freedom to shoot whenever and where ever I can afford to and IF I am forced by circumstances to underpay a qualified camera crew who deserve more, at lease THEY don't have to put hours on their equipment or pay their own expendables. It also affords me the opportunity to kinda shoot on the installment plan, I've already paid for the equipment, I've gathered expendables, I've collected props, costumes, set pieces and am about to start buying film and freezing it while also setting aside cash for processing and printing. That will leave just the compensation for the cast and crew. For me, it makes sense to do it this way unless I can get a few investors interested, but I believe THAT will ONLY happen AFTER I have the money to do it on my owe.


You seem to be in another situation in that you are primarily a cinematographer so for YOU, I would say find out first IF these people with ads are paying enough to make it worth you time and wear and tear on a 30 thousand dollar camera before buying a RED. For me, because of the built in obsolescence of video cameras, I would rent and price your services accordingly. For ME, it's F.F. (Film Forever) B)

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You'll find that 99.9% of the calls for a cinematographer who owns a camera can't afford to pay a proper rate for you or for your equipment. Jobs that can pay something fair also have the money to rent.

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Thanks guys. I was aware of the lo-no-deferred pay status, as I've been down that road before. In Toronto, there's a film liason service called LIFT where I can get some good cut rates on renting if I want to take some of these lo pay gigs just to get my feet wet in the new market. I have an infomercial shoot that I'm doing for a percentage of sales on the product I'm seriously considering picking up a DSLR for these kinds of gigs. Very simple, alot of table top product shots and some shots of the gizmo doing it's job(It's a pool cleaning machine of some sort).My rule of thumb at an early stage like this is if I buy anything, it will be something cheap but effective like a Canon T2, not a big investment to start out. That would probably be useless on my run and gun news/doc gigs, but I'm playing that by ear as I'm new to the Canadian market.

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