Pictured above: A Scrim Jim (listed below) for diffusing light, either outdoors or indoors.
Essential Gear for Your Film Lighting Kit
Cucoloris, Cookaloris, or “Cookie”
This is probably one of the most misspelled bits of kit for documentary film interview lighting kits, but it’s also one of the most essential. Using a “cookie” as it’s sometimes called, by putting it in front of your background light, casts a dappled light pattern on the background of the shot, behind your interviewee. It can transform a boring conference room wall into an interesting fuzzy pattern, making something mundane look interesting very easily. Cucalorises also come in different sizes, depending on how wide a pattern your lights cast and how big of a background you need to fill up.
Ah, what to say about the scrim jim. We’d venture to guess that for every 10 experienced documentary DPs out there, at least two or three of them have had their butts saved by this extremely lightweight, very portable scrim that can diffuse or reflect light (depending on which type of scrim you’re using). This particular model of scrim jim (they come in different sizes) measures 42 inches by 72 inches and can be set up in a matter of about five minutes. Scrim jims are useful for reflecting an even amount of light on a subject when they have a silver or opaque white fabric on them, and diffusing harsh overhead light ourdoors when they have a semi-opaque textile rigged up. It’s compact when disassembled, and comes with its own carrying case as well. Watch a demo of the scrim jim below:
Rock N Roller Multicart Model R2 Micro
The Multicart is pretty much *the* solution for transporting all your lighting gear from vehicle to shoot location. You’ve probably seen them on other sets. There are many models of multicarts but they all have this in common: they fold up into an extremely compact form factor and they’re all extremely well liked by gaffers. They’re also transformable, meaning you can configure them into a variety of different shapes and cart types, depending on how much lighting gear you need to haul from point A to point B. This particular model– the Rock N Roller R2RT “micro” cart is rated for up to 350 pounds of gear, but each model differs slightly. You’ll probably also want to grab some bungee cords to secure your gear to the cart so it doesn’t fall off as well.
Sandbags for Securing Light Stands
Safety is extremely important on any kind of film set and documentary film sets are no different. The last thing you want is an unbalanced light stand with a hot lamp on it crashing down on an interviewee just as they’re spilling their guts to you for your documentary. That’s exactly the sort of outtake you don’t want. Sandbags are the answer to this problem, and you’ll want one for each light stand you have, plus possibly an extra smaller one for a boom arm if you’ve got one.
Lighting Stand with a Boom Arm
A lighting stand with a counter-weighted boom arm is an extremely useful tool for documentary interview lighting setups because it allows you to get the light stand far away from the actual place where the light is. This lets you achieve looks you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise (particularly with hair lights that shine a light around the edge of your subject to separate them from the background of the shot), without getting a light stand in your shot.
Flexible clamps are a super useful part of any documentary film interview lighting kit. They’re perfect for holding up solid flags in place to block extra light, a lighter cucaloris, gels, and all sorts of other things that you need to position “just so.” Flexible clamps are particularly useful with at least one very wide end that can clamp on to a tripod leg or light stand easily without worrying about stretching it out over time with daily use.
Double Super Clamps
In the same vein as the flexible clamp above, the Double Super Clamp is a workhorse for holding heavier flags up, cookalorises, all sorts of things. It clamps right on to your lighting stand or a C-stand and can hold up several pounds of gear at a right angle almost indefinitely.
We love using them with an extra lighting stand or C-Stand to hold up a scrim jim, for instance.
Extra Lighting Gels
This one is pretty simple, really. Lighting gels are an essential part of any interview kit, unless of course you want all your interviews to look exactly the same, lighting-wise.
Having a variety of colors can change the mood and match existing lighting sources to help augment the available light. An extra set of different colored gels can help augment your existing lighting kit.
This may seem obvious, but having a few different sizes of gaffer’s tape in your lighting kit at any given time can come in handy.
It’s especially useful to have at least one thin type of gaffe tape to use for marking spots on the floor, and at least one wider (stronger) gaffe tape to use for things like taping down cables for safety to the floor so people don’t trip over them.
SetWear Pro Leather Gloves for Heat Protection
Gloves are important if you’re working with lights that get hot, and many film lights do get quite hot. But they’re not just for safety: many high end lights get so hot that when you need to replace a bulb you have to wear gloves because any oil residue from your fingers that stays on the bulb when it’s heated will cause it to explode. Which… isn’t the greatest especially if it explodes all over your interviewee in the middle of an interview! Be sure to get the correct size gloves for your hands.
The Best Documentary Filmmaking Interview Lighting Kits