Thang Ho – director, producer, and founder of multiple companies – is fiercely passionate about independent filmmaking and making the independent film industry in Atlanta better, and is taking real steps to make that happen. To that end, his latest venture is Guerrilla Gear, a gear rental company specifically designed to support independent productions.
To understand Ho’s passion for his work, you first need to understand his background. Ho has traveled and resided all over the world. He grew up in Vietnam and attended high school in New Zealand before coming to the U.S. for college in Boston, Massachusetts. He got a business degree, but soon found he was looking for something more creative. In all of his endeavors – from his time in a dance crew to a 6-month backpacking trip around Europe – he felt drawn to document his experiences with a camera.
“I became the photo and video guy,” Ho said.
He made his first film after being rejected from a Boston film school.
“Making that film is what made me realize that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Ho explained.
He picked himself back up from the recent rejection and applied to SCAD. Once he was accepted into the film program, Ho moved to Atlanta, which he’s called home for seven years now. In his time here, he’s directed and produced a number of films, commercials, and music videos and started his own production company, HOCA Studio. Additional to his work with HOCA Studio, he’s jumping into a new venture – the gear rental company he wishes he’d had access to when he was just starting out as a filmmaker.
“Guerrilla Gear is a company that I created with my partners Blake Studwell and Vishvesh Bakshi. We wanted to create a gear rental company that specifically has a program where we can support independent films in Atlanta with the goal of providing the best working gear and the most updated technology in terms of camera and lighting so that the Atlanta’s independent films quality can improve and give voice to the good, visionary filmmakers in town.”
One long-term goal of the company is to bring more above-the-line jobs to Atlanta. Their philosophy is that, by providing high-quality equipment for productions, they can help grow the independent filmmaking industry in Atlanta. Eventually, they believe this will translate to Atlanta filmmakers having a bigger and better presence in the wider independent film scene. By addressing a major issue for indie filmmakers – lack of easy access to quality equipment – Ho believes they can increase the quality of productions and attract more writers and directors.
Ho and his partners launched Guerrilla Gear earlier than planned when an opportunity arose to buy a truck for a great price and to sponsor the 2023 Atlanta Film Festival. At that time, they hadn’t settled on their name yet. It took them months and a lot of back-and-forth to settle on Guerrilla Gear, which Thang says captures the spirit of the company: it’s playful but also references the guerrilla filmmaking style wherein filmmakers do whatever it takes to make their films.
“I think that, as indie filmmakers, we want to have all the toys…we want to have gear for ourselves, to make our independent films. We didn’t want to be dependent on asking for favors all the time,” Ho described with confidence and foresight that now is the right time for this new venture.
He wants Guerrilla Gear to be a one-stop shop for folks looking to shoot a project. He believes that his experience as a polymath in the filmmaking craft have helped him create a unique company that really works for independent filmmakers.
“The experience that I have is also as a producer; I’ve produced a lot of these things so I understand what producers are looking for in these vendors. I’ve worked with a lot of DPs so I understand what DPs are looking for in a gear vendor, and I have great relationships with a lot of G&E people in town…another thing that the company does is, also, we have built a roster of…talented camera and G&E crew in order to go with the packages as well.”
Building this roster of talent is a unique approach, which Ho sees as another way to foster the creative talent in town. Guerrilla Gear might, for instance, send someone out to work on a commercial shoot, and then later rent them the same gear for a passion project of their own. Consequently, folks will be able to gain experience on commercial sets that they can bring back and use to the benefit of their own work.
Though Ho and his collaborators make all of this look easy, the logistics of running a company like this can get tricky. The difficulties lie in things like insurance to storage to maintenance. It’s also challenging to navigate taking on the right balance of commercial and independent projects in order to stay true to their mission while also paying their bills. Ho knows that there are many other gear rental options in Atlanta, and he feels the pressure of that competition, but he knows that Guerrilla Gear is on of the only ones dedicated to independent filmmaking.
Ho is also confident that the community he’s built here will support him and the business.
“Right now, there’s a community that’s really connected to each other,” he said. The independent filmmaking community is tight-knit, finding quality professionals to collaborate with or hire is easier now than in the past few years. “I have fallen in love with the community that we’ve been able to build, and I think that’s rare and hard to find…anything that I need, if I post it on Instagram, usually there’s an answer.”
At the end of the day, Ho explains that the filmmakers who call Atlanta home just want to “make good stuff”.
However, working in independent film in Atlanta is not without its challenges. Ho sees two primary challenges for the community right now: a lack of organization and a lack of development opportunities. Atlanta has plenty of people with professional experience, who have the technical skills they need to be successful working on a set; however, until the city has the formal organizations and development opportunities found in major markets like New York and LA, Atlanta’s film scene will continue to be seen as just a large workforce, not a group of talented, creative filmmakers.
“The biggest problem in Atlanta is perception,” Ho said.
Writers, in particular, are relying on the hope that if they write a good script, it might have success. Ho’s worry is that good writing is not always enough. A set still requires experience and knowledge about the market, two things that can be hard to find here. Ho emphasizes that this problem is not exclusive to Atlanta, and that another thing that local filmmakers need are more grants and additional funding opportunities for their productions.
Nevertheless, Ho is not letting these obstacles stop him, and he has big plans for the future of Guerrilla Gear. The company will primarily be focusing on two things: growth and education. In the short term, they want to grow their inventory, grow their clientele, and start supplying features in addition to shorts. In the long term, they hope to expand Guerrilla Gear to include an educational platform, drawing from their network of talented DPs, G&E folks, and camera people for workshops.
In the meantime, both Thang and Guerrilla Gear have many projects in the pipeline. In the next few months, seven or eight shorts supported by Guerrilla Gear will be premiering. Thang himself has also produced four shorts under the HOCA Studio umbrella that will all be out in the next year – Last Black Dinosaur, Preview, Anemoia, and Spray Bottle.
AFPZine readers can find more information about Guerrilla Gear at guerrillagear.co or on Instagram at @guerrillagear. Additionally, readers can find Thang on Instagram at @bythangho and HOCA Studio at @hocastudio.
Emma Warner is a film curator and professional living in Atlanta, GA. She is currently Coordinator for the Artist Accelerator program at Sundance Institute and a Programming Fellow at the Athena Film Festival. You can find her on Instagram at @_emmahope.