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Inside Out: Shana Hagan

By Shana Hagan

Photo: Shana Hagan

Sometimes I feel like I never unpack. As a documentary cinematographer, I’m so grateful for all of my travels and am humbled by the incredible stories I’ve been privileged to shoot. Though I try to have some sort of standard gear bag packed and at the ready, there’s no single bag that does the trick every time. I find myself adapting the bag or case or backpack I choose to the current job, the travel schedule, the logistics, the gear, etc. 

That said, one of the bags I ALWAYS have with me is my beloved CineSaddle—the “Marsupial” version. I’ve had to refill it four times in the past 10+ years with special Australian Styrofoam beads (the kind that don’t make noise when getting squished). It’s my security blanket. I use it for low-angle shots, as a way to shoot from the hip with it slung over my shoulder, to prop up a monitor, or as a pillow in the airport on long layovers. My version (the Marsupial) has a zipper pouch where I can stash a battery, media and sunglasses and zip it closed for safekeeping. It’s well-loved and I never leave home without it. 

On jobs where I’m shooting with my C300 Mk II, I love using my Think Tank “Turnstyle” 3-hole sling bag. I bought it for a job in Morocco, where I was shooting without an AC. The bag allowed me to have my lenses, media, batteries, etc. on my person. It has pockets galore, adjustable rigid inserts and a slot for an iPad. I also love that the bag just swings around on your body when you need to access your lenses. There’s no need to take the bag off to access the contents, which I love. It’s quick and efficient and a great way to stay light and nimble for the run-and-gun vérité that I love to shoot. 

When fully packed for my Morocco shoot, I had several key items in this bag with me at all times. I love my headlamp; it’s super useful when wrapping at night. I always bring a media pouch and extra battery. And there are oil-blotting papers to help de-shine your interview subjects; camera tape, double-tipped Sharpies, my trusty Leatherman SuperTool and dark chocolate, of course. Add in hydration packs, sunscreen and eyedrops to stay healthy while shooting, and my lucky “Life is Good” hat. There’s also my coily earpiece to listen to audio. It’s crucial for me to listen; it’s how I connect to the story. Oh, and Bongo Ties! I often carry a couple of new, unopened packs of Bongo Ties when I travel internationally to give to our local crew as thank-you gifts. And my cheaters—these things are a life-saver. My Clic Goggles are incredibly durable cheaters that intentionally separate at the bridge of the nose (there’s a cool magnet that clicks them back together) and are so easy on/easy off. All the cool kids are wearing them!

Lastly, I always carry a couple of sentimental things with me to keep me grounded. Two handkerchiefs—one of my Dad’s and one of my Mom’s. My parents are no longer living, but I take these two handkerchiefs with me on every shoot in whatever bag I’m carrying. It’s a nice way for me to share my adventures with my folks. And I also carry an actual compass from my days as a young Girl Scout. I rarely use it, but I keep it in whatever bag I take as a way to remember where I’ve come from and where I’m heading. 

1.         Think Tank Sling Bag

2.         Canon EF lensing

3.         Extra battery

4.         Altoids

5.         Petzl Headlamp

6.         Think Tank Pocket Rocket media pouch

7.         Travel adaptors

8.         Wet Ones

9.         Oil-blotting papers

10.       One of my Dad’s handkerchiefs, one of my Mom’s

11.      My lucky “Life is Good” Hat 

12.       Small core camera tape

13.       Sharpies (double tipped!) 

14.       My Leatherman Super Tool

15.       Dark chocolate

16.       Sunscreen

17.       Bongo Ties

18.       Single ear coily ear-piece

19.       Hair ties and small carabiner

20.       My cheaters

21.       Hydration packets

22.       Eyedrops

23.       Hoodman

24.       Microfiber lens wipes

25.       Compass

Shana Hagan is an award-winning documentary cinematographer whose work includes the Academy Award-winning Breathing Lessons (1996), Shakespeare Behind Bars (2005), Generation Wealth (2018), Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018) and the CNN documentary We Will Rise (2016), which documents Michelle Obama’s global initiative promoting young women’s education in developing nations. Shana’s current projects include Michael Apted’s 63Up and a project profiling Maestra Marin Alsop.