This post isn’t about law, but rather about my work in documentary video—it’s a post for gear heads, especially users of the Panasonic Lumix GH4.
I’m beginning to prepare to shoot a film that will accompany the rare book exhibition Mike Widener and I are putting together for the Grolier Club in New York. I’ve got a lot of nifty things planned for the film, and it looks possible that it will receive outside financial support, so I’m really excited about it. And because I’ve benefited so much from online discussions about gear—posts of the “what’s in my camera bag” type—this seemed like a symbolically appropriately time to share the conclusions to which I’ve come in assembling my own kit. A bit of paying it forward. I hope some people out there will find it helpful to see what a prosumer-level filmmaker has assembled all in one place and how I work with what I have. Narrative storytelling, analysis, and high theory may have come naturally to me; learning about gear has taken a bit longer.
I should say from the start that I don’t have a lot of money to spend. I’ve been able to assemble these items over the past three years by not going out to eat; grinding our own flour, baking our own bread, and making our own yogurt; keeping the heat in our New England home at 58 degrees; teaching a few pinch-hit, four-day intensive courses in constitutional law; and by selling of bunch of my old books from graduate school. Some of the gear also was a gift from family and friends. Because I don’t have a lot of money to throw around, I’ve thought a very great deal before putting down my cash, justifying each purchase carefully. And looking at it all now, I’m gob smacked at how it’s grown into a very respectable box of tools, despite the fact that I don’t have a proper paying job.
Has the sacrifice been worth it? Without question. For me, the chance to explore the great artistic medium of our time has been beyond price. I learn something new and subtle about the world every day I look through the viewfinder or fire up Adobe Premiere Pro.
A word about how and what I film. I’m self-taught, solo, and DIY. I produce, write, film, and edit entirely on my own. I don’t have a crew, even a minimal one, though occasionally my wife holds a circular reflector disc—which is really helpful! Most of the people I interview are scholars and librarians. This means that I need to keep my kit light, so that I can move around quickly and carry it all myself (I typically have less than a minute to set up a shot), and I need to keep it small, so that when I’m pointing the camera it won’t be intimidating to people who are naturally shy.
A final note. A lot of what I’ve purchased has been inspired by the advice of the great site Suggestion of Motion. Of all the forums and blogs I’ve read, it’s been the most helpful for my purposes. Readers may also recognize recommendations that come from other websites, but I’m afraid I’m no longer able to find the original source of my inspiration.