This LA Rental House Field Guide will help new filmmakers shine a light on properly interacting with our industry’s front line.
Say you just landed in sunny Los Angeles and you’re ready to launch your filmmaking career. Whether you begin in production or as a camera tech, you need to understand rental house etiquette. That way, you can avoid awkward side glances and earn the respect of your rental house peers.
If you take anything away from this article, it’s this… Your relationships with rental houses matter!
Rental houses are a vital link in the filmmaking supply chain. Cinematographers like Shane Hurlbut, ASC depend on their relationships to get reliable gear and collaborate on new ideas. Not only that but you can even work your way from a camera rental house to making a career in cinematography like Michael Dallatorre.
Keep reading to discover general rental house etiquette in Los Angeles along with other key insights!
RENTAL HOUSE ETIQUETTE
While no rental house is the same, there are standard protocols and etiquette that you should know before stepping through the door. Keep these tips in mind be they for production rentals, G&E, art, cameras and lens houses, etc.
Below are types of rental houses and trusted leaders.
Production Rental Companies:
Production Vehicle Rental Companies:
1. WHO IS THE RENTAL AGENT OR POINT OF CONTACT?
When production orders equipment from a vendor, a rental agent or point of contact is assigned to the order. They are responsible for handling possible issues with the order and answering any questions.
This is an easy one. Even if you rent something from ShareGrid (which you might do on smaller projects), you have the renter’s information to field questions.
2. KNOW WHO MANAGES THE PRODUCTION
Basically, who are you reporting to? Whether it’s the UPM or a Production Coordinator, make sure you have their phone number. In the event something goes wrong, you will need to handle any such issue by authorizing payments or showing proof of insurance.
In this sense, you serve as the liaison between the production and the rental house. So, always handle yourself professionally and clearly communicate the issue with your point person to remedy the situation.
3. WHAT ARE YOU PICKING UP?
Learn about what you are picking up ahead of time to know if you have the right kind of vehicle. You could (literally) come across any situation, especially if working non-union gigs. As a production assistant or set dec, for example, you will handle smaller pickups with your own vehicle. Other times, you might drive a rental van or a three-ton truck.
If you are just picking up a lens, you know there’s no need for the truck. But if you’re also picking up G&E from Wooden Nickel followed by some gack at Hollywood Expendables, you probably could get away with a van depending on the load. But if your day includes a foliage stop at Green Set then you’ll need to trade in the van keys for the truck.
Fortunately, the production manager or coordinator (or whoever your point person is) will advise you on the vehicle. That said, take the time to understand the equipment because you may be making plenty of stops on a pickup day. Maximizing your efficiency with each round of pickups is the name of the game.
So, get the rental order in advance and make sure you have the right size vehicle to pick up the equipment. And if you need help with a particularly heavy load, just ask one of the kind rental employees for a hand.
|PRO TIP: It’s a good idea to stay in contact with the specific department head to review the order before leaving the facility.|
4. DOES IT NEED PREPPING?
Take into account the time and workload for the prep of a particular piece of equipment or gear at the rental house. For example, the camera department usually preps at the rental house before rolling out on the job.
What is your role on the production and will you be a part of that process? If not, get to know who all is involved so you can best facilitate the production.
5. DOUBLE-CHECK THE ORDER!!
Review all equipment listed on the order piece by piece to ensure everything is accounted for. Take the time to do it right, but don’t take too long. In good time, you will pick up speed.
And if you don’t know a piece of equipment, just ask! It’s best to speak up and confirm everything on the order rather than miss something because you were worried about how you looked asking. Just make sure to see it as a learning experience and know what it is next time around!
The last thing you want to happen is that you show up on the job and something listed isn’t there for the day. If you miss something, you’ll lose time calling your point person and the rental house to troubleshoot.
6. THE ART OF LOADING
Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, there are many ways to load a truck. Chances are you will witness more ways to secure equipment than you could ever imagine. It becomes a real-life game of Tetris where you ultimately create your own method that is an amalgamation of other methods you saw.
We don’t have time to explain every nuance of loading but we’ll share a few quick tips. The first rule of loading is organization. The more organized you are, the more space you will conserve and the less of a chance something is damaged in transit. That means keep your ratchet straps and furni pads neatly hung and folded until needed for use.
Secure all of the gear and equipment to ensure it’s all adequately supported before taking off. You might think a piece of heavy equipment won’t budge but you would be wrong. Don’t find out the hard way; clamp it up.
If you don’t have ratchets or furni pads, you can pick them up at most rental houses. But if you work on smaller productions, ask the point person if they have their own. If a rental employee is giving you a hand, it’s a good idea to check out their method.
7. BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE RENTAL HOUSE
Getting to know the people at the rental houses and building those relationships is absolutely essential.
In fact, it’s one of the best ways to grow as a filmmaker. These people are crucial to scaling your career whether it be as a cinematographer, producer, director, or anything in between.
We cannot highlight this point enough. Trusting a group of people who will have your back is essential these days.
So, start up a conversation, learn their names, and remember them. Take them a box of doughnuts, show them you care, and leave them a treat on the holidays. They’ll be sure to return the favor.
8. LEARN THE LOCATION OF EACH RENTAL HOUSE
We can thank the film gods for GPS apps like Google Maps and Waze. Although, try not to rely on an app to the extent that it’s a crutch.
There may be times when you don’t have a charger and your phone dies. You’re pretty helpless if you have no understanding of your surroundings. Get a lay of the land and learn the directions to the rental houses.
Then, if any equipment is lost or breaks and you need to make an emergency trip to the rental house, you’re a hero. Or, you may just want to plot out your day in the most efficient way possible. You don’t want to drive from Burbank to Pasadena and then back to Burbank.
So, plan your route in advance and check traffic volume during specific times of the day. If you have multiple pickups, you don’t want to waste time by going back and forth when you could plan your route in advance.
9. KNOW THE VENDORS
As a new filmmaker, learn the names of the vendors and what they supply. This is something that you can pick up on set. Note that the G&E came from Quixote and the rental truck was supplied by Avon, for example.
Another reason it’s good to learn is that you can start to associate the brand with the rental and where they are located. Then, if something needs to be swapped out (like in the point made above), you will know what the product is and where to replace it.
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