Here's some basics which you may already know and can learn about from many places.
Telephoto / longer lenses flatten the subject. Think of a very long shot of a city skyline - the buildings may appear to almost be on the same plane even though some are closer and others further away. A mild telephoto, say a 80 to 100mm on a 35mm imaging area, is considered best for portraiture because it will mildly flatten facial features.
Wide angle lenses do the opposite in that they make things that are near appear much larger than things which are far away. In this sense they stretch space. As an example if you are shooting an interior it's very easy to unintentionally make it look like the carpet or flooring is your subject because the closer to the camera, the more of the frame it takes up. Going back to the portraiture example, wide angle lenses are best used for a comic or surreal effect. Put one close to someone's face and it will appear that their nose is huge.
The "point of view" of human vision is best simulated with a wide angle of approximately 90 degrees field of view. Again using 35mm as the reference that would be a 28mm or slightly wider lens. I personally love shooting wide in industrial subjects because getting close and/or having the object move by has a very three dimensional feel to it.
Longer lenses (and longer zoom settings) tend to have a more shallow depth of field while wider lenses tend to have a very deep depth of field. Of course the F stop used has a great deal of influence on this also.
Speaking of F stops, the "faster" lower number F stop on the lens, the larger the glass, hence the higher the cost.
The long and short of it is buy the best lens(es) you can afford.
It's kind of a general question and Nick Griffin did well to graze over the subject for you but I do want to bring up one point.
If you are renting lenses for a project, make sure to take your locations into account. If you're shooting a cramped house you could probably forgo some of the longer lenses unless you're shooting close ups (CUs) or extreme close ups (ECUs).
If you're inexperienced, bring your camera with you if you can (If it's a DSLR for instance) or rent a director's viewfinder if you're renting a cam like a Red MX later on.