Here’s a question that doesn’t get asked often enough: What’s the best way to get a great deal on the equipment rental for my short film, pilot, web series, or other low-budget project? The answer isn’t complicated. It also might surprise you just how much you can save! Here’s where I suggest you start when you’re looking for a great deal renting cameras, lighting, and grip.
1. Be insured. You may only be spending $500 on rentals, but you could still have $10,000 in gear. Having insurance in place before you call sends the message that you take your responsibility and your job seriously. You may be able to “piggyback” on someone else’s policy, if they’re willing to sponsor you and take on the risks of your production. Otherwise, you can usually get some short term rental insurance starting around a few hundred dollars.
2. Try to keep your large grip/camera/lighting/etc. order with just one or two companies. That includes a production van. It may seem like you’re saving money buy renting a $19.95 U-Haul van instead of a grip van, but the bigger your order with one rental company, the bigger a discount you should be able to get. If your order is split between the rental companies with the cheapest prices on each item, none of them will want to give you a discount, and you’ll spend all day collecting gear.
3. Establish a track record with the rental company. Show that you’re reliable, punctual, organized, and responsible. A lot of the cost of managing an order is due to the little things, like chasing down missing parts, staying late for customers that can’t show up on time, etc. If you’re the easy customer, the discounts come easier, too.
4. Follow, interact, and show appreciation for the company in social media. The person running those accounts might throw you a discount or promo. Want the people in the rental shop to know your name? Write a nice review on Google, Facebook, or Yelp, mention their names, and you can be sure they’ll hear about it. Word gets around, after all. If you’re their friend, it’s easy to get the friend prices!
5. Be up front when you’re shopping around. If someone at a different company quotes you a better price, mention it. They may match the price, or let you know that the competition isn’t including the same things with the rental. Being honest about shopping around also helps us help you, since we’re often borrowing inventory from other shops to fill out your order. And we’ll know if you cancel your order at the last minute because “the shoot was cancelled” and then take your business to another vendor. Film communities are close-knit, and we hear about that kind of behavior. That’s an easy way to get your name on the secret list of people we never give discounts to.
The best way to get a discount is to ask for one! If you’re ordering more than a few items, or you’ll be renting for more than a week or so, it’s never inappropriate to ask.
Posted by Jon Kline