Rental houses have been the backbone of motion picture acquisition equipment for decades. They paved the way for professionals to get their hands on the gear they needed. The way I see it, there are a few different types: the seasoned professionals who demand nothing but Panavision gear for their projects. That's fine... Panavision works very hard to meet the needs of their clientele and they deserve the reputation they've earned. Then there's the other working pros who enjoy a slightly more progressive approach with more options. They'll turn to popular rental houses such as Clairmont Camera, Otto Nemenz, Keslow Camera, The Camera House, and dozens more. The rental house environment has undeniable advantages for working professionals. The gear is properly maintained by qualified technicians, the prep space is an absolute dream at most rental houses, and the overall experience can make your entire production run more efficiently with a good rental house. But what if you're looking for something a bit more budget friendly? What if you don't have the minimum $1,000,000 insurance coverage required by most rental houses? There's a new option that caught my attention that's making some excellent progress lately. It's called ShareGrid
. I think the best way to sum up their business model is a professional peer-to-peer rental service. ShareGrid is essentially acting as the middle-man between equipment owners and equipment renters.
I sat down with ShareGrid's front man Brent Barbano to discuss ShareGrid a bit more in-depth to see what they're all about and where they're going. Brent is originally from New York. He graduated in 2007 as a film major and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in cinematography. Brent continues to freelance as a DP full-time while conceiving and building ShareGrid. I asked Brent where he came up with the idea for ShareGrid. He went on to explain that while working on a documentary project about the "Share Economy", he was inspired by it and saw an opportunity in the motion picture equipment rental field. He then teamed up with his current co-founders who had already been working on the idea and ShareGrid was born.
Brent goes on to explain who ShareGrid appeals to most: "The ShareGrid model really caters to film students, independent filmmakers, freelance photographers, and even full-time DPs that may be looking for other gear". Anyone can sign up on the website. However, it's currently limited to the Los Angeles area. ShareGrid does have plans to expand, more on that later. After checking out their site and pretty keen on the whole concept, I decided to give it a try and experience it first hand.
I have this little 11-16mm lens laying around that you may have heard of ;-) so I figure it would be a good piece of equipment to start with. I'll go through my complete experience:
Applying for membership is an excellent way for ShareGrid to keep out the riffraff. I proceeded to enter my contact info, and some other details such as examples of the gear I'd be be interested in "sharing". That same day I received an email requesting a copy of my photo ID to ensure I was a real person. I sent it over and within a few minutes, I was approved! I proceeded to add my pretty little 11-16mm lens as my very first offering to the ShareGrid community. It's super simple - choose a category such as camera, lens, monitor, accessories, etc., pick a brand, upload a photo, choose a daily price, item location, and give a description for the item. Within a minute I had a beautiful listing, ready for others to view.
There are a few more details that go into being a user for the site. You provide you bank account details to receive payment deposits for rentals. I just put the listing up yesterday, so I don't quite know first-hand, the details of what happens when someone actually wants to rent something. Brent from ShareGrid offered some insight there: As an equipment owner, I receive a notification via email that someone is interested in renting my gear (SMS notifications are coming soon as well). I can review the time frame they requested and contact the renter to confirm, adjust, or simply decline the rental for whatever reason. Renters are required to select an insurance option when requesting gear which comes in a few flavors: Short-Term Insurance for items over $5,000 in value, Annual Insurance which is pretty useful as it covers personal equipment as well as rented equipment, at a cost of $425 per year (a great rate), or 3rd Party Insurance if you already have your own. One last option is a simple damage waiver that you can select for any item with a value under $5,000 for $5 - $25 per day.
I went into more detail with Brent regarding the risks of the site which really do seem quite limited. Because ShareGrid is a closed system with a manual verification system, the risks are really rather low. Every single member is screened by a ShareGrid employee prior to being accepted. The insurance options through ShareGrid add another layer of protection for renters and equipment owners.
I touched on the future of ShareGrid with Brent - where the site is going and what we can expect down the line. Their goals include domestic and international expansion, allowing more users to sign up for the service and offer equipment. Brent discusses a few more distant concepts such as branching out to professional service connections, almost like a classifieds for service. For example, you're working on a project and you need a gaffer for the weekend - you could browse a list of professionals who are available to work and hire peer-to-peer. This brings a whole new level of connection that already has the groundwork laid out with the current ShareGrid platform. It's not just about offering gear to others. They also plan to list spaces, studios and locations for rent. As well as a laundry list of other features. But they’re primary focus at the moment, is their members. “We need to focus on our core community first (LA), hear them out and build a product that best suits their needs.” It's about making connections and sharing experience.
There's a video at the top of ShareGrid's home page (below) that shows how the whole system works. The concept above is illustrated in this video as Brent points out: "Here's this seasoned DP and a young filmmaker - connecting the two. I think it's a really simple, good idea that shows what ShareGrid could be."
[vimeo 116736485 w=500 h=281]
I do hope that ShareGrid continues to grow and offer more and more equipment at very competitive rates. There's so much equipment floating around out there that just isn't being used, that could be in the hands of passionate, motivated creative individuals. Check out their site and if sign up if you feel like you could benefit or contribute. Even if you're not in LA, you can sign up now and when ShareGrid expands, you'll be the first to know.
If you have any questions about the site or their service, drop them in the comments below or check out their comprehensive FAQ
. I've been playing with the site and have a good deal of first hand experience that I'm more than happy to share.