Ah yes, water bottles, the great fuel of the film crew — well, and coffee. But water bottles are perhaps the most precious commodity at craft services. They go fast, get drank quick and are often hoarded by forward thinking department interns and production assistants. Nothing says, “I’m here for you” like extending an unopened water bottle to a fellow crew member. The only problem is, when moving around large sets or on location, these water bottles can often get left behind. In comes the bottle buddy to save the day…
The bottle buddy is a highly sophisticated piece of film equipment, but before I really delve into its mechanical complexities, I have to tell the story of how it was made:
In the beginning…
It was a hot Virginia summer on the set of Below the Beltway a couple of years ago when I was working as camera utility/data loader on the low-budget indie. While shooting some exteriors, water bottles were being guzzled left and right. Not only that, but they were being forgotten about on the ground left and right.
The shooting of the first half of the day — the exterior part — was going at a hectic pace and everyone was struggling to keep up. I was indoors downloading footage almost this entire time because of the rapid pace they were shooting. I had almost no breaks between downloads to help out the rest of my camera brethren.
Suddenly, while scrubbing through some footage, I received a radio call from the 2nd AC, “Evan, these water bottles are killing us. I don’t care what you get but you need to find something for us to carry these all in.”
Apparently, every time the setup was moved, they were moving video village, the camera, the lens case, ditty bag and then would have to get an arms full of water bottles to move as well. It may sound like a small additional task, but it was taking enough time to warrant the need for something to carry them in.
Immediately I rushed to crafty where you can find all sorts of cardboard. And if there is one thing I’m good at it is building things out of cardboard and gaffer’s tape. I looked around the table and saw a plastic bucket thing holding a bunch of Twizzlers. It wasn’t cardboard, but it looked like it could work.
“Can I use this?” I asked the craft services girl
“Sure, do you want more Twizzlers?”
“Nope, just this,” I flipped the bucket over and dumped the Twizzler’s out on the table and rushed over to the camera cart. I set about gaff taping a handle on top and securing it best I could. At most this took me 3 minutes, all the while getting more updates from the 2nd AC asking when it would be flying in.
Finally, I rushed to the exterior set with my contraption in hand and threw the water bottles in there. It perfectly fit 5 water bottles, enough for one bottle for everyone in the camera department. It wasn’t until the end of the day that the term “Bottle Buddy” came to be.
So what is the bottle buddy?
It’s a homemade contraption to carry water bottles around on set. It fits 5 bottles with ease, but no room to spare, and has survived multiple productions in two years. I bring it on every show I can and it provides a perfect place to hold water bottles on a camera cart or while moving around location.
It is really useful and very easy to make. Simply grab a plastic bucket of sorts and run some gaff tape vertically along the sides to make the handle. Then, to secure the handle, gaff tape around the circumference of the bucket. At one point I had also made attachments to the side to hold snacks and trash, but they eventually got removed to skinny up the bottle buddy for transportation over the years.
For the rest of the shoot on Below the Beltway, the bottle buddy became an essential part of the camera package. There were times where we had to run-n-gun shoot and we were told to only bring what was needed. What was needed usually included the camera, lenses, ditty bag, and the bottle buddy. It was also perfect in the sense that everyone in the department could keep a water bottle in there and extras could be stored for whenever someone wanted one.
Needless to say, the bottle buddy quickly warmed our hearts and became one of the most simple, best ideas I’ve ever constructed out of a Twizzler bucket on a set in 3 minutes.