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Inside Out: Rita Baghdadi

By rita baghdadi

Documentary filmmakers have to be ready for anything. As the saying goes, the minute you put down the camera, the most amazing thing happens. In order to stay nimble, I wear everything I need on my body, which is why I have two fanny packs! I’m hoping this becomes cool one day so people stop making fun of me. I use the Chrome one to hold all my camera gear like extra cards, batteries and tools, even a small lens. When it’s full, the top lies flat and I can rest my camera on it, and leverage shots from-the-hip. The second fanny pack is smaller and holds my personal items like phone, ID, money, pen and notepad, etc.

Sometimes I need to be able to shoot for multiple days without downloading or charging. When shooting in 4K, I like knowing I have at least 1TB of card space per day. I also always bring my own card reader and hard drive. One lesson I've learned, after getting robbed, is to immediately put full media cards in your front pocket.

Sound, in my opinion, is even more important than visuals. That's why I always have a quality mic on my camera, regardless if I have a sound person with me or not. And of course, I always wear my earbuds. At the end of the day, I like to write down what stood out to me, and I find myself looking back at those notes throughout production and post. 

I bet #Shittyrigs was started by a doc DP. We so often have little resources and no time! But there’s a solution to every rigging problem and bongo ties and gaff tape are easy companions. For lighting, I’ve been enjoying the bi-color Quasars, which run on battery and they’re magnetic so I can stick them anywhere. I also always bring diffusion and some gels for anytime I get to play with an interesting pop of color.

Lastly, let's talk about self-care. International air travel and handheld cinematography for hours on end are a strenuous combination on the body. Every day I am grateful for this wildly fulfilling work, but I would not be doing it at all if it weren’t for yoga. That’s why I carry a travel mat with me wherever I go. It doesn't exactly fit into one of my fanny packs, but with some bongo ties I could probably make it into a backpack...  

  1. Fanny pack #1—for camera gear

  2. Extra batteries, extra cards and a Hoodman

  3. Tape and bongo ties 

  4. Microfiber cloth and tools

  5. Fanny pack #2—for personal items

  6. Phone 

  7. Passport with Global Entry & TSA PreCheck—an absolute must to avoid lines.

  8. Sunglasses—I love how small these fold up. 

  9. Cedar oil and olive leaf extract—The cedar oil is in lieu of deodorant, and I swear by olive leaf extract to keep my immune system strong.

  10. Notebook, pen, my favorite picture of my husband, Jeremiah, and a lucky charm.

  11. Cash—For some reason $2 bills are still a crowd pleaser.

  12. Panasonic ErgoFit Earbuds—These are only $8 and I keep one in every bag. 

  13. Travel yoga mat 

  14. Card reader and a shuttle drive 

  15. 12” Quasar lights

  16. Diffusion and colored gels

  17. Refillable water bottle—no more plastic!

  18. Sanken CS-2 microphone

  19. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8—one of my favorite workhorse lenses

  20. Adapters

  21. Eye mask and earplugs—even though I have given up trying to sleep on planes...

  22. *Not pictured* Zacuto shoulder plate with grip relocator

Rita Baghdadi is an award-winning documentary director/producer and cinematographer. Some of her work includes My Country No More, the Netflix original Circus of Books, City Rising and Served Like a Girl. She is currently working on her next feature, Sirens.