Happy Holidays: 18 Useful Gifts for Any Filmmaker

December 8, 2016
Tips and Techniques
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If you’re a filmmaker, asking for career-related gifts during the holiday season can be tricky. Useful film gear is oftentimes very expensive and very specific. While we all would love to see an ARRI Alexa with a set of Master Anamorphics waiting for us in wrapping paper, that’s probably not going to happen. At the same time, we simply cannot afford to sit back and drown in a sea of kitschy, useless, stocking stuffers: Coffee mugs that look like lenses, hats that read “movies,” or bargain bin Blu-Rays of movies we can already stream on Netflix. What do we do? Luckily, there are certain things all filmmakers can make use of that won’t break the bank.

Here is a list of affordable gifts that filmmakers can actually use.

Go to the Hardware Store

We all know someone who can navigate Home Depot better than an Amazon checkout page.  Use their passion to your advantage.

Extension Cords (Stingers): You always need one and yours is never long enough.

Space Blanket/Tarp: Protects your crew, gear, set, and/or locations from blood sprays, on-camera spills, off camera spills, oppressive sunlight, etc.

Gaffer’s tape: There’s something black and lumpy in your stocking. It’s not coal, it’s one of the most useful items you can keep around on set.

Get an App Store Gift Card

Your phone/tablet is becoming more and more useful for filmmaking every passing year, and with an app store gift card, you can use your mobile devices to their full potential.

MovieSlate: A super versatile and robust all-in-one set note taking app that’s great for tablets and smartphones alike. 

Helios Sun & Moon Position: Schedule your shoot around the most optimal lighting conditions with this incredible app.

Powerfinder App: Acts as a digital director’s viewfinder and even considers your camera sensor and specific lenses to help you find the perfect shot.

SunSeeker App: Helps determine the location and path of the sun and moon.

pCam: A Cinematographer’s virtual right-hand man. Aids in all on set calculations and more.

Subscriptions: The Gifts that Keep on Giving

Getting a year with a helpful industry magazine or online account is a great way to make your filmmaking year more enjoyable.

Filmmaker Magazine: With articles like “How Do you Market a Madman? On the Trailers of Werner Herzog,” interviews with some of the most exciting indie filmmakers, and insightful analyses on the current state of indie film, Filmmaker Magazine is a great way to stay current on the industry.

ASC Magazine: Reading enough American Cinematographer can be film school in and of itself. With in-depth, technical, articles and interviews about the latest in cinematography and access to past issues, ASC is essential to anyone behind a movie camera.

Sight & Sound: The international film magazine from BFI has, for a long time, provided some of the most engaging and insightful film analysis around. Want to up your artistic game in 2017? Sight & Sound is a great way to start.

Filmstruck: It’s a streaming partnership between TCM and Criterion, with tons of special features that are essential to any continuing film education. Would pair nicely with that Sight & Sound subscription.

IMDB Pro: For $149.99, it’s the priciest thing on this list, but it also provides some pretty intense film industry insights that make it hard to pass up on.

Vimeo Pro: Running out of storage space on Vimeo is a filmmaker rite of passage at this point, that doesn’t mean it has to remain so.

Go For The Gear

Finally, here’s some affordable gear that will make anyone’s set life easier.

Lens Filters: If you own the lens, but not the filters, then this gift is like a lens upgrade for a fraction of the cost. Lens filters not only protect your precious glass, but neutral density and polarizer filters are a must when shooting in the field.

Light Reflector/Flex Fill: They’re cheap, portable, and can provide the perfect lighting accent to your shot.

Lens Cleaners: Ever dropped a lens in oatmeal? I have, and I really wish I had better lens cleaning options with me. Lens Pen is cheap and portable while the Pancro Lens Cleaner and Tissue will get any job done.

Opteka Micro Professional Director’s Viewfinder: Some of these puppies can get expensive, but this one won’t break the bank and will let you gauge your options quickly on set.

Happy holidays, filmmakers!

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Brent L Zaffino

I am a filmmaker out of Atlanta, Georgia currently working as a freelance director and videographer for music videos, short films, and corporate videos.

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