Production Expendables

Movie Production Expendables: Useful Movie-Making Supplies That Are Often Forgotten

Production Expendables
“We have to stop shooting for two hours while someone finds a rain umbrella in Los Angeles!”

‘It’s starting to rain. We’ve got to protect the camera. Who’s got an umbrella?”

I’ve been on sets where this has happened a few times. But who thinks about bringing an umbrella to a film set? Especially in sunny places like Los Angeles where the likelihood of rain is minimal.  

That’s the thing… You have to be prepared for everything. If you are just starting out at making movies (or maybe even a little advanced), I’m sure you have seen all of the vital equipment lists for shooting your movie.  But the things that really trip us up are the little supplies called “expendables” or things that will probably be used up during the production.  The thing is that expendables are NOT expendable because you can avoid a lot of hold-ups when you have these items. When you need them and realize they have been forgotten or no one has bothered to make sure they are on set it is extremely frustrating.  Here is a list of basic and not so basic (but potentially vital) items to have on set and why you need them.***

*** Most film departments have an expendables list. I have mentioned a few of them below but I created this list with producers in mind and believe that with some items it is good to have both the department and the producer bring them to set.

Stuff Your Crew Will Need

First, we are going to talk about stuff your crew will or might need because this might already be on your equipment kit list (if you have one) and if you are going more basic and just gathering things ala carte from the Internet or a hardware or craft shop, this is stuff you probably thought of. Also, if you are a beginner this is stuff you probably did NOT think of but will find very useful in making your movie.

Lots and Lots of TAPE!  

The first thing you will find very practical to have on set is tape.  If you have ever been on a film set, you know there are often cords randomly strewn across the room. This can be a safety hazard because people are busy on set and paying attention to their job and sometimes miss that there is a cord on the ground. It is often best to tape the cords down where people are walking to avoid an accident.  

You will use Gaffer’s Tape for these sorts of jobs because Gaffer’s tape doesn’t leave any sticky residue, which your location will appreciate. Nor will you have to remove that stickiness from any cords or equipment before returning it to the rental shop or friend you got it from.

I prefer the 2-inch Wide Gaffer’s Tape.

You will also want some paper tape in various colors to mark the floor for actor’s marks (the place where the actor will move to in the scene so that they are properly in the frame and in focus).  This tape has additional uses as it can also mark the equipment marks if you are using a dolly or a Steadicam or handheld shot. You can also write on the tape and color code things as necessary on set for quick color recognition.

Extra Headphones

Your audio team, the script supervisor and the director will likely bring their own, but you may want to have some extra for other people to jump on and listen to recording (like YOU If you are the producer). Be sure to get the ones that cover the ears rather than the ones that you stick in the ears unless you have extra alcohol swabs to clean the earbuds between users.

A Long Measuring Tape

This is usually in the cinematographer’s kit to match shots, but it is something you should inquire about and I have also seen a number of beginner cinematographers NOT take measurements for a scene, so you might want to bring it with you and suggest measurements to the cinematographer if the shots seem to not be matching. Be gentle with this, though, because you don’t want to come across as you telling the cinematographer how to do his/her job.  Measuring shots is especially important when working with green screen and special effects mixed with live action.

Multi-Use Items like Fasteners, Velcro, String, Paperclips, Bobbypins, Safety Pins, Clothespins, etc…

I have learned a lot from going through the camera department kits, the script supervisor kit (yes, they usually have a kit) and the makeup and hair department kit. They usually stock up on all sorts of supplies with “Just In Case” scenarios that relate to their department. I am not going to run through the entire list of items that your crew already probably has that are outrageously helpful when they are needed, but the items mentioned above will give you a good start of outrageously helpful items.

Extra Pairs of Work Gloves

Again, this is always part of a camera department’s equipment, but it is very “handy” (sorry, I had to) to have additional work gloves on set.  They are useful outside the camera department but vital to crewmembers working with hot lights.

When I am not on set, I literally keep my work gloves in the glove box in my car. I know that’s a bit on the nose but they have come in very useful from time to time.

Random Practicalities

The first area of expendables we are going to talk about is random practicalities.

Extension Cords

This was the first a-ha moment when I was starting out. I had a friend camera assisting on a shoot with a cinematographer using my friend’s camera and as we looked into her kit she said to me, “Be sure to have plenty of extension cords. You’ll use them. And you’ll be running out to get them if you don’t have enough.”  She was right. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to place a light and not having enough length in the cord to do so properly.

Scissors and a pocket knife

This is relatively self-explanatory and there are probably several people on set that have pocket knives but it is still handy to have one yourself because it is better to get a job done with a tool you have at hand rather than look for the guy with the pocket knife to cut whatever needs cutting.

First Aid Kit. Or at a bare minimum…

Adhesive Bandages

Rubbing Alcohol to clean any wounds.  The rubbing alcohol can clean earbuds, as mentioned above.

Salve for Burns (lights can get hot!)

Cold Compress (C-stands can pinch fingers and again, hot lights)

Paper Towels and Dishcloths… because sometimes you need to clean stuff. And spills happen. (And again, hot lights and barn doors and scrims)

Spray Cleanser


not only to protect the equipment in rain, as well as actors hair, makeup, and wardrobe,  and other things that can’t get wet but also to protect people from the sun. I have worked in the desert more than once and you need to cover your actors in that environment.  Other crew might need it to, like those working with the camera so that they can be shaded to see the shot better.

Plastic Bags

There are only a few good reasons to use and reuse plastic bags these days, and one of them is to protect the camera in the case of rain when an umbrella is inappropriate or being used in another way.


Speaking of sun protection, if you know you will be shooting in sunny conditions, you will want to bring sunscreen for your actors and especially your crew.

Office On The Go

The third area where you should bring ample supplies is related to office supplies. In truth, YOU will probably be the one using them the most, and most other crew members that require such supplies have a kit (like script supervisors, who often request a kit fee in their contract).

But it is always a good idea to have these items in case other crew members require them or the scene requires them. There are always being notes written in the atmosphere of a set for various reasons (a poster guiding drivers to the location, a note reminding people to be quiet, etc), so keep that in mind as well.


Sharpies are the king on set. If you are on a long shot expect to bring fifty and end with two.  But they are a worthy expense. Vital to a movie set.

Notebooks (8.5” x 11”)

Notebooks (3” x 5” or pocket size)

On occasion, I work in the camera department, I keep notes on measurements and lenses on a 3-inch x 5-inch notepad.  I also use it for random notes. Sure, I could take out my phone but sometimes writing is just faster.


You need them. Other crew members will need them.



External Drive or Laptop

If you are producing, you will need this and I have been on many sets where loading the footage became an issue because the producer did not bring his/her laptop or an external drive.

The memory cards that are used during the shoot usually belong the cinematographer, and he/she will want those back and might have another movie coming up in a day and so will NOT want to leave them with you.

An alternative is to find out from your Director of Photography the exact type of memory cards are used with the camera your production is being shot on (though many cameras these days don’t even use memory cards) and buy them yourself.

It is a worthy investment because you know you have a backup in addition to the footage you load into your external drive or computer. (I still have the mini-DV tapes from my earliest movies stored in a fireproof safe).

If you don’t care about having a backup of the footage, there is a good chance you will find a use for memory cards in the future.


My dad used to say, “You never see the one that gets you,” and in the process of preparing to shoot a movie, that can be especially true.

But if you work through the more obvious things that could possibly happen on set and the upsets that happen in day-to-day life that also transfer to a set environment, you will be able to see why this list is necessary and add to it as you continue to make movies.

This list of expendables is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you a start and put you in a mental space for a day or so to really comb through everything you could possibly need on set in all the most random scenarios, so that you can prepare to have a smooth shoot day even if you hit a snafu or two.

pro video camcorder

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