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24 Things In A Indie Film Director’s Survival Kit

December 23, 2012 | 10:51 pm | 9,329 views

by Jake Oelman

I carry my backpack with me everywhere I go. Filmmaking is a life style and you always need to be prepared. Now every director is different and their survival kits will not be like the one pictured here but this is what I carry with me because it works for me. Seeing how it’s the holidays this list also provides some great gift ideas for the filmmakers in your family.

List reads left to right in rows.
1. Chocolate – Not only is it a great pick me up but it serves as an ice breaker with people you don’t know very well. Easy way to calm a riot and get people’s attention is to offer chocolate. A snickers will do but if you can get your hands on some Swiss chocolate, preferably Sprungli, the better off you’ll be.
2. Camcorder – Whether rehearsing scenes, scouting locations, or posting a new Kickstarter video having a video camera is a must.
3. Gorilla Pod – A miniature tripod that’s easy to adjust and maneuver. Perfect for pre pro documentation when you need an extra hand.
4. The Pod – A 1/4 20 thread mount for what is essentially a small bean bag great for the bottom of your camera allowing you to rest it on virtually any surface.
5. Camera – I have a Canon G12 which is a great little camera. I would say this is the most important tool in a director’s kit. Taking photos is important to visualizing  your project.
6. Memory Card Case w/Cards – In today’s digital age you can’t have enough SD cards.
7. Laptop – Whether you’re sharing big files, creating location slideshows, or managing all your film paperwork having a laptop is a must. I use both a laptop and an iPad and for me the difference is this. I work on my laptop but I use my iPad when I’m at work.
8. Business Cards – Is hoping someone remembers you enough? Even if someone never looks at your business card I’d rather have one and not need it than need one and not have it.
9. Laptop Power Cord – You never know how much juice you’re going to need.
10. iPhone – Doesn’t matter what phone you use but if you can’t communicate with your production team there’s a high probability that you’re a moron.
11. USB Jump Drive – I have a cheesy one that is a Burton snowboard but these are a great way to quickly swap files with people.
12. Pens – I always have more than I need because you just never know. Having a Sharpie is key and a pencil and highlighter doesn’t hurt either.
13. Trail Mix – You never know when you’ll get the chance to eat again and being fatigued and bitchy isn’t an option so always have something to snack on with you.
14. Headphones – Watching clips, listening to music, or having a hands free production conversation are just 3 reasons to have ears.
15. Phone Charger – A lot of time you’ll be searching for signal or talking someone off a ledge for two hours so always make sure you can power your phone.
16. Mini Hard Drive – There’s always larger files to share and swap with so many people you work with so make sure to travel accordingly.
17. Toothbrush & Mints – Most filmmakers drink copious amounts of coffee and some even choose cigarette smoke over oxygen. Whatever the case may be  people won’t be thrilled to talk to you if your breath smells like shit.
18. Emergen-C – These things are great. Boost your vitamin C while spicing up your water. It’s a win win.
19. Leatherman – The modern day Swiss Army  knife is crucial for any filmmaker working on location.
20. Tissues – Filmmaking won’t stop if you get sick so do yourself and everyone around you a favor by wiping the snot off your face.
21. Moleskin Notebooks – These are crucial. Just about any idea I’ve ever had has at one point or another danced through the pages of one of these books.
22. Advil – Filmmaking is pain and suffering. Do you like being in miserable pain? No. Well then pack the pain relief and shut it.
23. Firewire/USB Cable – You can’t share info if you have the means to transfer it.
24. iPad – The one tool that has literally changed my on set life. Script notes, reference photos & videos, film apps, sun charts, slates, etc. There are so many ways you can make your life easier by using an iPad. I recommend that if you’ve never used one just try it out to see if you can apply it to your style of filmmaking.

Couple other things to consider are water (actually mandatory), throat drops, SD connector for the iPad, director’s viewfinder, various USB cables, sunglasses, sun screen, a good hat, good footwear with arch support and of course a good bag. Something padded with nice comfortable straps ought to do it.

Jake Oelman is the director, producer of the romantic indie comedy Dear Sidewalk starring Joe Mazzello, Michelle Forbes, and Josh Fadem and the Kickstarter funded documentary film Learning to See about the macro insect photography work of his father Robert Oelman. He also produced The Electric Daisy Carnival Experience with acclaimed music video director Kevin Kerslake.


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