Filming abroad on location, requires some good organisation and logistics.
Carnets, insurance, visas, passes, in-date passports, medical jabs, tickets, currency, equipment, transport, accomodation and ground agents are the usual prerequisites. All before travelling to your location.
There are different levels of logistics, depending on the type of filming, so it can be easier depending on project and risk strategy:
1) Self-Shooter – one man crew – relying on a single DSLR and if recording in public places, don’t use a tripod or professional looking sound/lighting equipment. In private places/buildings with owner’s permission, you’ll be ok to use a small tripod (for hold baggage) and sound mics. Playing the tourist is best. But if you look like a ‘crew’ (with the client and interviewee) outside, without the necessary permissions, you’ll be stopped. Depending on the country, you could be required to pay ad hoc ‘fees’, fined, or just taken to prison. To be truly safe, depending on your risk strategy, it might be safer to complete all the neccessary documentation.
2) Small Crew – two or three crew – will require all the documentation and logistics listed at the start of this article.
3) Large Crew – more than 3 crew – will also require additional logistics for daily catering, location transport and security for equipment. Depending on the crew size, it can also be easier and cheaper to hire a villa/apartment with it’s own staff (cook, cleaner and 24/7 security guard).
It’s a detailed, item by item, document for video/photographic equipment, and can be freely available, or from chambers of commerce. It’s basically a temporary export/import document that allows you to pass equipment into and out of countries without having to pay import/export duties. It will require item serial numbers, value, place of manufacture. Best visit:
You will need 4 copies, each to be signed by Customs/Duty officers at all points/ports of exit and entry:
1 – For export – out of UK
2 – For import – into X country/destination
3 – For export – out of X country/destination
4 – For import – back into UK
Embassies – check their website, or best to visit personally to speak to staff and get permission forms – you will need a Carnet for all kit (with serial numbers, values, place of manufacture etc.) and Visas for crew.
Then individual Location Permits – all BEFORE you get there.
Best also to speak with the FO/Country desk to get names of British Consulate / Business section locally there. With prior contact, it’s best to have a local ‘handler/agent’ on the ground. A fixer. For transport, accommodation and jack dash (cash).
Extend your exisiting Public Liability Insurance documents to include destinations and dates. It may also be cheaper to get your crew to individually extend their own personal insurance (including medical).
PASSPORTS & VISAS
Don’t assume all your crew and talent have UK passports of origin. Do ensure they have all have 6 months left after they return – check country stipulations so you are not stopped at port of entry! Visas are often necessary outside Europe, so do check with the embassies involved.
GROUND AGENT & LOCAL PROVISION
Depending on location – even in Europe – a local English speaking ‘fixer’ is very useful, especially if they can provide transport. We usually make contact with a local production or facilities company to provide heavy equipment (lights, generators etc.) if they are needed. At the very least for small productions, use the hotel business centre and/or concierge. And cover activities off before you depart the UK. So much time can be lost in waiting for access to locations, when it could easily have been set up ahead of your departure.
DATA SECURITY & BACK-UP
Provision for data back-ups via cloud also needs to be checked. Again, don’t assume Wi-Fi is always available, as it’s often not.
FINALLY … BUT PROBABLY NOT
Arrange a meeting at the embassy in London to go through all preparations – specifically Visas and permits. And try to obtain an official letter/document from them for use at customs/immigration arrival. The bigger and more official the ‘stamp’, the easier your journey.