5 Things to Think About when Planning Film Shoots Abroad
From Marrakesh to New York City and Santiago to Beijing, this year we have been working on a huge global production for our client ABB on their Formula E campaign that has taken us to multiple cities around the globe.
With a maximum budget allowance of 3 days per location, these shoots had a lot to achieve in a very tight schedule. Time restrictions, tricky visa paperwork, and working with a new local crew in each city could have been a nightmare, but we put our experience into practice and captured some amazing content that to date has been viewed more than 49 million times!
Here are our top 5 tips for planning low budget foreign shoots to help your production run smoothly.
1. Fixer – A local fixer is a “must have”, especially if no one on the crew speaks the local language. Besides the language barrier, you will also want someone who knows the city well, has great contacts and has a good sense of the local culture. This knowledge will not only save you time when trying to find the right locations, but also can get you good local deals.
2. Film Permits – Depending on where in the country you are planning to film, the process might not be as straight forward as you think and film permits can take an eternity to get approved. Try to allow as much time as possible to start the applications and check the requirements with your fixer and the relevant governmental institution (usually the local film commission). Even if you do not have all the details of your shoot confirmed, if you know that you might be filming in a certain location, try to get the ball rolling as early as possible. You might still need to give some details later on, but they will be aware of your intentions and can confirm the information you need to get your permit.
3. Carnets – Always double-check if you need a carnet for the country in which your shoot is taking place. Leaving is too late can result in express service fees, which aren’t cheap. When preparing the carnet, communication with your Director Of Photography is crucial, as that they will know what equipment is needed. Get a kit list from them, liaise with the kit hire company to get all the info that you need for your carnet; which usually is the origin of each piece of kit, weight, serial number and price.
4. Local crew – Hiring local crew comes with perks. You do not have to spend money on flights or accommodation and you get the bonus that someone else besides the fixer speaks the local language. However try to do as much research as possible on potential candidates, and get as many references as you can. This might be tricky if you are working in a very remote location, where film crews are sparse, but this research can save your shoot. The last thing that you want is a soundman that cannot operate a boom or is confused about how to work with a certain piece of equipment that your DOP is bringing along. If you cannot find a local crew that you feel confident with it might be best to spending a bit extra to fly your own crew over.
5. Footage back up – This one seems obvious. However, always have in mind that you will need at least two hard drives whilst on site. One to use as a master, and the other one to use as back up. And when possible keep them in two separate places or with two different crew members, just in case one goes missing. One of the worst things that can happen to your production is to lose your hard-earned footage, so always try to back up your files at least twice a day. Just imagine if a day’s filming disappears, because the footage was accidentally deleted or your crew leave the back up for later and you find only corrupted files on one of your cards.
The latest episode of our branded content series The Pioneers is available to watch here: https://new.abb.com/formula-e/pioneers
Gustavo Restrepo Marin, ABB Formula E Branded Content Production