ShareGrid co-founder and cinematographer Brent Barbano on the benefits of renting your kit out

Brent Barbano is an award-winning, freelance cinematographer based in Los Angeles, California. He has worked for clients including ABC, A & E, Bravo, Discovery Channel, Disney, E! Entertainment, Fox, ESPN, NBC, MTV, TLC, TruTV and more. Brent also co-founded ShareGrid – a US peer-to-peer marketplace where verified filmmakers and creatives can rent gear to and from each other with integrated insurance.

20th April 2018
/ By Andrew Wooding

ShareGrid co-founder Brent Barbano BRENTBARBANO

Brent, tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from and what you did before co-founding ShareGrid?
Before ShareGrid I was a freelance cinematographer and I still am. I’ve been a freelance cinematographer in LA for about 11 years. That’s how I ended up co-founding ShareGrid. I saw the need and opportunity for a community like this.  

I worked on commercials, documentaries, features and traveling all over the world. I own gear, my friends own a lot of expensive gear and we could never really make a return on our investment. At the same time as an indie filmmaker, it was really expensive and difficult to find the proper resources and equipment to make a project. So that’s what sparked the idea. 

Luckily for me, I was connected to my now two co-founders, Marius and Arash who also had the same idea up in Silicon Valley. Marius was a filmmaker who had worked for PBS and Samsung and Arash was a photographer. I messaged them, we Skyped and four years later, here we are!

Where can people find ShareGrid? Is it just in the US or certain states?
We are live in seven US cities right now; Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and San Diego. We are opening up to a number of other cities in the next year. But, in those seven cities alone, we have over $450 million (£319m) of inventory and close to 50,000 members.

How does it all work? What’s the process from a renter or kit owner's point of view?
As a renter, if you have a project and you need equipment, it’s now really easy! Its free to join and there’s no subscription to be a member. You’re required to pass our ID verification and a number of other our security measures on the website before you can start renting. We take these steps very seriously and have a lot of security measures in place. However, it’s pretty painless and you can get through it rather quickly. 

Now it’s time to search for what kind of gear you need. Our marketplace is incredibly vast. You can browse and rent for practically anything. From grip trucks to Alexa Minis to lighting and audio packages to incredibly beautiful, vintage anamorphic lenses. We even have studios and sound stages for rent as well. You can search based upon popularity, best match, location and, of course, price. We also have an interactive map to see what’s around you as sometimes commuting can be a deal breaker. You then pick the items you want, select the rental dates and then select one of our instant insurance or damage waiver policies or your own third-party insurance which we manually verify.  We have an exclusive partnership with Athos Insurance which allows our members to buy an insurance policy instantly on our site. So now, what used to take days to do, is only a few minutes of your time. And each rental is connected to your insurance policy to make it a streamlined process.

For indie productions who may be on tighter budget, our damage waiver policy is a great option. This can cover damage up to $30,000 (£21,317). It’s a very inexpensive and affordable option. After your selection, you select request and the owner will respond and accept it and then you’re good to go!

Where is all the equipment kept? Does a renter collect it directly from an owner’s residence or do you have a central warehouse to store it?
It depends on who you are renting from but usually it’s connected to an address. An owner will use their home address if that’s where the equipment is being stored. You’re not actually given the address until the rental has been accepted and then the owner will tell you where to meet. 

We also have close to 80 rental houses on ShareGrid and even more production companies and businesses. So depending on the vendor, you can be meeting at a place of business, renter’s home, an agreed upon 3rd party location or a rental house. Meeting at rental houses always has an added benefit as this gives the renter the opportunity to prep and test the equipment properly. 

We’re working with a number of rental houses and other businesses in the industry to set up options to meet and prep gear with another peer for a more professional and efficient experience.

How are the prices set? Is that something that is decided by ShareGrid or by the owners individually?
The owner sets the price. We have always been very hands-off about that and for a few reasons. We want to keep it a free market and let our owners of the community dictate how they want to price. That being said, when you are listing your equipment, we have a tool on the site that recommends a price based on our own algorithm of averages and provides you with a recommendation and information on if you’re competitively, too low or too high. 

We are currently working on refining this price suggestion to include even more data points for an even more accurate algorithm.

Obviously it will vary from city to city but tell us what range of equipment you have on ShareGrid?
I’ve been in this industry for 11 years so I’ve seen just about everything and, in our first year, I was completely shocked at how much gear people owned and listed for rent. We have got everything. When a brand new camera like the Canon C200 or Panasonic AU-EVA1 came out we had 20 of them within a week. People who buy these hot items upload them immediately. Any high-end cinema cameras like the Red Monstro to any Alexa camera to vintage anamorphic lenses… it’s all on there. 

The spectrum is incredibly wide. It’s not just cameras and lenses, there’s lighting, grip trucks, studio spaces, LEDs, jibs, gimbals, drones, audio gear…everything.

On a personal level, has there been anyone famous or someone who surprised you requesting gear on ShareGrid?
There were certainly a few. We’ve had some celebrities, and also family members of celebrities. Jayden Smith tweeted at us last year. More importantly for me, I nerd out at ASC DPs, directors and sometimes the names no-one knows. We had a lot of high profile DPs and directors sign up and use our site which is really cool. Greig Frasier who’s an ASC DP and shot Star Wars: Rogue One, used our anamorphic lens test. We did a huge lens test last year which he used to help decide the lenses he needed for his next film. As a fellow DP, it was one of the coolest thing that could happen.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the educational arm of ShareGrid?
ShareGrid isn’t just an online marketplace, we also believe that education is extremely important and we love to educate the community. We create a lot of articles, tutorial videos and educational content around the filmmaking process and with film equipment. 

To give an example of how important we see education, within the last year we have completed two lens tests which, when combined together, total 20 brands of lenses and over 80 lenses altogether. Each time we shot the same model under the same lighting conditions with the same camera and same camera moves. All of the lenses at one time with different apertures and focal lengths. You can then compare four of the lenses at a time on our lens test website using our quad player and judge the quality of each lens side-by-side live. And it’s all completely free! 

Especially as a lot of new filmmakers take lenses for granted. They don’t know how much of a tool a lens can really be for your storytelling. More often than not, the lens is more important than the camera. So when they can compare lenses side-by-side and really see the differences, then they can really pick a lens that is the best tool for their storytelling. It’s helped a lot of people make some difficult decisions and as a creative myself, that always puts a smile on my face. 

So, we’re doubling down on that kind of content and we’re really excited about what we’re doing with our YouTube page in general. We hope that we can continue to inspire artists to simply create amazing and compelling stories.