Hey there filmmakers and producers out there in internet-land. Let’s take a moment and talk about what can be one of the most expensive and frustrating (although it doesn’t have to be!) parts of shooting your project. The rentals.
Costs can quickly go out of control, crew can add-on items that have seemingly no use, and piles of paperwork and strict insurance requirements will give you headaches.
But Rentals can also be your best friend, save you money, give you advice, and a reliable rental house can make or break a production.
So without further ado let’s look at some of the misconceptions and secrets of the camera and equipment rental industry.
#1 – THAT CAMERA YOU JUST RENTED MAY BELONG TO YOUR NEIGHBOR
Camera’s, lenses, etc. are expensive. Really expensive. And even the big players in the industry can’t keep up with every item that the manufacturers roll out. So what’s a Rental Company to do?
The answer? Consignments! Everybody does it, even if they don’t expressly say so. In fact some rental houses have as much as 80% of ‘their’ inventory that actually they don’t own themselves.
Why is this bad? Because it means those places that rely more heavily on sub-rentals pay out a percentage of the revenue (usually around 70%) to the gear owner. This means they have to charge you more. You can usually get better prices or bigger discounts by going to a place that doesn’t use sub-rentals for most of their equipment.
At BrainBox™ we do sub-rent when we have to, but only from trusted sources and from gear we can count on. And the overall percentage of sub-rented gear is much smaller, giving us better price controls. All this means lower prices for you, and better quality control of the equipment.
#2 – IF YOU’RE NOT GETTING A DISCOUNT YOU’RE PAYING TOO MUCH
I’m sure there’s some psychological study that shows when people see a big discount on their invoice they feel like they are getting a great deal. Rental companies love to price gear high, and then mark it down a lot when they send you a quote. And why not? It makes you feel like you’re getting a great deal. But if you want to make sure you are always getting a good rate, it pays to go with a company that advertises low prices up-front.
There are exceptions of course. Single items, like just one lens or one light, usually don’t get discounts. And weekend rentals don’t usually have much room for a bid discount.
But if you are renting a full camera package, or are taking the gear for a long period of time, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
At BrainBox™ we frequently give discounts on our listed rates for any order of a week or longer, or on larger single day orders.
And if you rent your gear at BrainBox™ we also will beat a comparable quote from any other rental house.
#3 – WHEN YOU CONFIRM YOUR ORDER – IT MAY NOT BE CONFIRMED
This goes back to some rental houses business model of sub-renting a majority of their equipment. They don’t want to tell you ‘no – we can’t get that for you.’ So they tell you yes. Then they try to hunt down the gear you want.
On occasion this causes problems because sub-rentals fall through, the private owner/operators end up pulling gear for their own shoots, etc. Sometimes the day before, or even the day of your pickup, you get the bad news that what you had requested isn’t available. Or they offer you an alternative item that may or may not work for you. That can cause your production all kinds of headaches.
We hate saying no to client requests at BrainBox™ as well, although we understand that on occasion we have to. We won’t ever confirm an order for you and then cancel or try to switch to a different item at the last minute.
#4 – YOU MAY BE LIABLE FOR DAMAGE – EVEN WEEKS AFTER YOU RETURN
Rental companies know that things get broken. We try to catch problems with gear when it is returned to us so you’ll know pretty quick if you might owe some money for something that was lost or damaged. But on occasion an item will be damaged in such a way to not be obvious when it’s checked back in.
When the rental company discovers the problem, even if it is weeks later, they will go back and find the last person who had it checked out, and try to collect the amount from you.
How do you protect yourself from this?
First, be upfront when you return equipment about anything that may be damaged or lost. Sometimes problems can be repaired in house and at little or no charge, or we may have a source for cheap replacements.
Second, you’ll want to rent gear from a company that maintains their equipment in good working order. Make sure you carefully inspect and prep your gear before you take it, and note any problems. And lastly, check in with the rental company that everything was checked in okay a day or two after your return. That’s just being smart.
#5 – YOUR EXPENSIVE PRODUCTION INSURANCE MAY NOT COVER YOU
Don’t get me wrong. Insurance is important. You definitely want it. Nothing will ruin your day faster than having a clumsy crew member drop a $20,000 lens onto the parking lot and realizing you are now on the hook for it.
But not all insurance coverage is equal. General liability coverage usually won’t cover rented equipment. You want to make sure your policy has explicit coverage for ‘miscellaneous rented equipment’ or ‘camera and equipment rentals.’ And be aware that if you have a deductible, you are still liable for the deductible amount. And lastly, watch your expiration date. Short term insurance usually expires the last day of your shoot, but its always best to get it for a few days later in case you need pickups or get delayed.
HOW BRAINBOX™ IS BETTER
Naturally we try to do things different here. Yes, we still need to make a profit, but our clients are king to us, and we bend over backwards to make them happy and get them great deals.
At BrainBox™ Cameras we use a minimum of sub-rentals, hand out discounts like candy, and won’t confirm an order for you unless we actually have everything locked down for you. We strive to be open and transparent about our check-in and check-out process and can guide you through picking a good insurance policy and making sure you are covered for most eventualities.
We know that things don’t always go smoothly in the production world, but we work everyday to make sure that your rental experience is as smooth and pain free as possible.