Work long enough in the camera department and you will eventually be blessed with a camera cart. They come in all shapes and sizes and are most useful in studio settings or on large locations.
But a good cart’s value doesn’t go unnoticed and you need to protect it because everyone else on the crew will be licking their lips, waiting to seize the opportunity to use your cart to lug their gear.
And you can’t let that happen.
The Death of Eugene
On one film I was working, I was pleased to receive a camera cart despite an already stretched budget. With an aggressive schedule planned, having a cart to wheel equipment around would save us precious moments of time.
After a long discussion with the director of photography (DP) and my 2nd assistant camera (AC), we named our cart “Eugene.”
Eugene was our workhorse for the first couple of days and at nights we would place him in the grip truck with a soft goodbye.
It was around day 5 that things started to get fishy.
No longer was Eugene coming off the truck fresh and ready for a day’s work. Instead he was loaded with furnie pads, stingers and sandbags.
Sometimes clearing off the cart to get our own equipment was a process in itself.
By the time Eugene got unloaded and then loaded back up, I could’ve staged the camera gear in an accessible location.
Despite our protests that it was our cart and that Eugene was rented for the camera gear, the grip and electric departments took him over.
By day 10, Eugene was humping cables and lugging sandbags.
Establish Your Cart as Yours
When you get your own cart for a production, you have to prevent it from falling into the same doomsday scenario that Eugene did.
I’ve seen it happen all too often. It starts with “just one thing” and ends with 4 HMI lights — or more.
As far as I’m concerned, the camera cart is for camera use only. Usually I grab the brightest tape I have and write in huge letters “camera department only” on the side.
And I mean it.
No matter how secure the lens case is on the bottom of the shelf, I simply don’t want people to be using the cart as a commodity. The camera cart is as much a tool and piece of equipment belonging to the camera department as the tripod the camera sits on.
Part of that is to make sure I don’t lose another Eugene, but the more important side of it is to protect the equipment.
If you come back to your cart and find something on it that doesn’t belong, don’t be afraid to remove it (unless it belongs to someone in camera).
The most common offenses are:
- Drinks, coffee cups, sodas
- Snack wrappers
- Cell phones
The camera body, lenses, and other accessories should be as far away from liquids, trash, snacks and overall clutter as possible.
Now I am not advocating being a jerk or yelling at everyone on set. Asking politely for someone to remove their stuff or telling them that you want the cart to remain clean because of the equipment is all that is usually needed.
If there are repeat offenders, ask them more tersely.
People may scoff at you or tease you for it, but in the end you’re doing your job by maintaining the equipment you’re in charge of.
Sometimes people don’t realize how serious you are until you let them know. Once they realize, 9 times out of 10 they’ll respect your professionalism and you’ll be buying each other drinks later that night.
What sort of tactics do you employ to keep your camera cart clean? Are you as stingy about it as I am? Please leave a comment and let me know!