20 Questions with … Paul Friedman, LensProtoGo (Updated)

by James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Paul Friedman, founder of LensProtoGo, combined his dream of running his own business, with his passion of Photography, to great one of the preeminent online rental businesses in the film industry. A one stop shop for all a shooter’s cinematic needs, LensProtoGo recently joined forces with LensRentals.com to expand their reach. Here’s Paul’s crack out our 20 Questions, and one has the answer to the age old question … whether to buy or rent!

  1. Describe LensProtoGo and what you do?  LensProToGo rents camera gear to professional and amateur filmmakers and photographers all over the US. We ship it all in Pelican cases right to your door or wherever your next shoot is located. Our staff is made up entirely by professional shooters so we can help you when you have questions and provide you with the best service experience of any company anywhere on the planet.

  2. Give us some backstory. What did you do before you started LensProtoGo? I spent about 15 years in the corporate world in various analytical and planning type of roles. It was always my dream to start and run my own business. In 2003, I started to really get into photography and then the idea to start the business came along in 2006.

  3. How did you get started in this business? ​ After I became really involved in photography, I started my own photography business shooting wedding, portraits and events. I thought that renting gear would be a great way to supplement my photography business and allow me to leave the corporate world. It was a big gamble as our three daughters were all in elementary school at the time!

  4. How do you compete with some of the bigger established brick and mortar rental houses?  ​We never really tried to compete with the established brick and mortar stores. Most of the country does not live near a brick and mortar store and it’s not convenient to get to one for many of those who do. Our goal was to make it easy and affordable for anyone in the country to rent gear whether you lived in a big city or not. At this point, of course, we’re larger than nearly all of those stores because our model makes sense to so many different kinds of shooters.

  5. Isn’t it a challenge for users to rent gear without being walked through it? ​ Not really. Our goal is to always get you into the most appropriate kind of gear for your goals, budget and skill level. We never want to rent gear to you that will cause you to have a poor experience. If you do need any technical help though, we’re staffed entirely by pro photographers and filmmakers who are happy to help you with whatever issues you are having. For larger orders, we will have our own in-house tech assemble the kit for you and walk you through any issues that he sees.

  6. How large is your inventory? What categories does it cover? ​ We really do have everything from cameras, lenses, lighting, audio, support, motion control, stabilization, batteries, memory cards, etc. I terms of the size of our inventory, we really don’t talk specifics but between us and our sister company Lensrentals, we do have the largest inventory of any rental house in the country.

  7. How do you handle insurance? ​ For some customers we do require a COI. We also do offer an optional protection plan which covers you for accidental damage less a 10% deductible.

  8. What do you think of the peer to peer rental model populated by companies like ShareGrid? I think the peer to peer model is very interesting.  I think it’s best used if you want to try out a piece of gear that isn’t critical to a project you’re working on.  For professionals however, it’s best to rely on a company with a proven track record of reliability and can help you out at the last minute should you have any kind of emergency.  We can also be your one stop shop for everything that you need versus trying to piece a whole package together from many different sources.

  9. Who are some of your customers and why did they choose LensProToGo? We have many different kinds of customers.  Certainly the lion’s share of our client base at this point is the working professional filmmaker or photographer.  They come back to us time and time again because they know they can rely on us for top quality gear, shipping to wherever in the US their shoot is, and very fair pricing.  They also know they can rely on us for unbiased advice to help them assemble the right kind of kit for their project.  We have plenty of serious amateur customers as well who want to try out different types of gear.  All of our customers enjoy our thorough but easy website, complete transparent pricing and clear communications.

  10. What kind of solutions do you offer? We offer different solutions for every kind of customer, from offer pre-made packages to mostly custom orders based on the particulars of your shoot and needs.

  11. You recently merged with LensRentals.com, how does it benefit your customer base? We’re all really quite excited about our merger with Lensrentals.  Separately, we were both very strong companies, fully committed to serving the needs of our customers.  However, our strengths were slightly different and now we are able to combine those strengths to provide many more benefits to all of our customers.  For instance… Lensrentals has always been amazing at logistics.  Shipping a huge quantity of gear safely and accurately to all parts of the county is one area where LR has always thrived.  From their amazing packaging and clear customer communication, they have always made the process safe and easy for all of their customers. Being the largest camera gear rental house in the country, Lensrentals has a massive inventory to satisfy the needs of all kinds of filmmakers and photographers.  On top of that, Lensrentals has always had a second to none approach in the repair maintenance and quality of all of their gear.  With an in-house team to fix many typical problems with cameras and lenses, we are able to keep our standards of gear performance higher than any other rental house. Now, as we are able to combine all of these aspects of our companies (superior packaging and logistics, huge quantities of well maintained gear, top notch service and two locations in Memphis and Boston) we are better able to serve all of our customers, no matter how big or small all over the US.

  12. How much of a challenge is it to keep up with the fast pace of the technology sector? Technology is changing very rapidly and it’s always a challenge to keep up. Thankfully, we have all the right people in house to evaluate gear and make the proper buying decisions. That fast pace of technology is yet another reason why it’s a good idea to rent! Why spend thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars on a camera that will lose value extremely quickly? Move the burden of that depreciation to us.

  13. How does equipment maintenance factor in? What are the challenges? We’re very particular about the quality of our gear. If it’s not up to our standards then it won’t leave the building. We’re very through about cleaning and testing all of our gear to ensure it will work flawlessly for you. Our staff has to keep up with that pace of technology so we know how to properly check and maintain the gear.

  14. What do you think of VR? Where is it going? I think the jury is still out on VR. Honestly, I really don’t have any great insight here, and am playing a wait and see game.

  15. Give us a success story and a horror story? We always love to hear back from our customers that their shoot went well. Sometimes our advice helps them not only with gear selection but on how to shoot and we love to hear back afterwards that our advice was spot on! Sometimes (ok – every week), we’ll get a frantic call on a late Thursday afternoon that a shoot just came up and our customer needs a whole kit of gear across the country by 10:30 the next morning. And then we make that happen. That’s a great feeling for us when we can get orders out within minutes in order too come through for our customers. In terms of horror stories, we really don’t have many. There are times when our shipping carrier drops the ball and we have to overnight replacement gear so the customer has what he/she needs. That’s not a horror story, that’s just us doing our jobs and coming through for our customers.

  16. What do you recommend for shooters looking to rent cameras for the first time or who are seeking to rent a camera above their experience? I would say to check out our website and if you have any question, just give us a ring. We love helping people and we certainly love helping new customers find the most appropriate gear. We want you to have the right gear and to have an amazing experience with us.

  17. What does the future hold? It’s really an exciting time in the film business, as state of the art grows and expands to give our clients new tools.  The future is bright.

  18. What’s in your camera bag? One of the running jokes around here is that I don’t actually have my own camera bag or a kit of gear. In the early days, I would designate a camera to be “mine” but then two days later, we would get too many orders and we would have to ship it out to a customer. I’m in the fortunate position that I get to shoot with whatever we have left on the shelves. I’ll shoot Canon or Nikon usually but I do love shooting the Fuji XT-2 for travel since it’s so small and light. In general, I love shooting primes more than zooms.

  19. PC or Mac? Mac all the way.

  20. Film or Digital? Digital for sure. I’m too impatient for film.

UPDATE: LensProtoGo is also offering our readers a 15% discount on equipment rentals. Head over to lensprotogo.com and select your rental package, then enter DIGITALBUZZ15 at checkout! Offer good until April 7.

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About James DeRuvo 801 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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