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Making it in one piece…

9 July 2015
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We cannot stress enough how important it is that when you are planning to fly to another country… with film gear… it all comes down to preparation, preparation, preparation. Having had the opportunity of flying all around the Caribbean, we have shot various types of commercials for different resorts. Each time we fly out it takes a ton of preparation to ensure an effective and smooth shooting experience. But the focus of my comments today… is making it to your destination in one piece. If I can give my 5 points of emphasis for proper packing and preparation it is the following:

Understand the clients Brief Outline and USP’s.
I know it sounds like a no brainer. We should always know what these outlines entail for the final product. But what you now have to do is think outside the box and obtain as much information about the location as possible. We usually provide a questionnaire for each project. This will allow our clients to answer all the important questions that may have been missed out from the briefing. Ask for photos of the location. A checklist of the shots needed. Storyboards and concepts need to be flushed out and ready to execute. Understand the unique selling points and the vision that your client is looking for. Each detail to their briefing you need to mirror to what is really available on the other side of the world. Sometimes clients may not have the whole picture as they perhaps have never been to that resort or location. Or perhaps they don’t visit it often enough to have a fresh mind as to what is really available. Therefore, this detail segways into my next point…

Schedule meetings with the liaison from the other country.
You need to begin scheduling meetings via phone, and or Skype with your liaison whom you are meeting at your film shoot. They know more about the location since they actually live in the area. They see the location on a daily basis and know the locals that can become great strengths to the success of the production. Based on the briefing with your client, you need to go through that briefing with your liaison. They will tell you straight up what can and or cannot be done. Make sure to cover all the angles and or potential hiccups that need to be covered. Each shot should be explained and what you need in order for that to happen. They can tell you if that’s possible. Again, so important to start making contact with your liaison. If the budget is there, even fly out beforehand to visit the location and your liaison. That way you know firsthand more of the details of the location and you may even develop some more ideas that will become helpful for your shoot. This is highly recommended but not always the case. Also, make sure that your client provides you a letter of authorization which lists out your staff and crews full names. The letter has to explain the purpose of the shoot and their role and contact information. This has helped us out every time.

Equipment Prep.
Now that you know the vision, outline and needs of the shoot, it will make your prepping of the equipment much easier. You will know if you need to bring a drone and or hire a local professional to help you with some aerial coverage. Whether bringing a slider, lighting and or glide cam. Most importantly, what kinds of lenses this particular shoot requires. Will you need to bring your Go Pro? How about goggles so you can see underwater for any required shoot. Or how about electrical adapters. You know, the universal ones. Outlets vary based on the country you are going to.

Equipment Registration & Insurance
Now it is important that you have all of your equipment registered within your countries customs officials. For example, within Canada we register free of charge our equipment with our customs officials. They are so helpful. Each equipment piece should have a sticker with a signed off customs card that you will be holding onto. They go through each items and sign them off according to their serial numbers and description. This is important as a safety precaution so that when you come back into the country from your shoot, you don’t go through any hiccups with customs. You will be able to present your customs cards which you got filled out prior to flying out and prove that these items are not only yours but the same equipment left and came back into the country. Of course, get insured. Makes sure that you have: Health and Travel Insurance & Equipment and Company Insurance. You just never know.

Visas & Brokerage
Some locations can be very cautious with you working in their country. For example, you don’t need a work visa in the Caribbean if your shooting for a brief period of time and at the resorts. Just double check and make sure what the policies are with the countries liaison and film department. Thus far we had not had any issues entering and exiting. It’s completely different if I was planning on staying for along period of time. Do make sure that they provide you with a permission letter which you will need to bring with you just in case customs needs to take a look at it once entering. Also brokerage. Oh brokerage 😉 They have been our saving grace. Some will certainly take advantage and charge you an arm and a leg. But as part of your conversation piece with your liaison, inquire from them their recommendations as to brokers they trust and or have worked with. They will make sure that your equipment gets signed off by customs and that everything is checked. We have had some close calls in the past but our brokers were present at the airport when we arrived and they were also present when we left. Just make sure that no matter what you do… look for your broker. Before checking out with customs and before you even check your baggage at the counter when you are exiting the country where you shot at. It’s a tedious procedure but trust me, it’s worth it.

Finally, if I could recommend one last piece of advice… bring your travelling binder. Having everything in there. Your permits, broker documents, letter of authorization from your client, health and travel documentation, your script, concepts, contact information for each person you are meeting with, etc. etc. This binder will be your go to binder as I assure you you will be pulling it out quite often.

So there you go. Those are our PGP tips so that when you are going to film abroad… you make it… in one piece… and… in peace 😉



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You have the idea. We have the talent. PGP honours your brand and its story. We pride ourselves on understanding your vision, and using our skills to accent it. PGP Studios is a Film & Video Production Company catering to the Greater Toronto Area. With a passion for storytelling, we have produced various commercial and promotional content for clientele such as Sunwing Vacations, Cineplex Entertainment, General Mills Canada and many other amazing companies.

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