Here's everything you need to know before heading on a foreign shoot

Written by Josh Edwards

Shooting abroad is challenging. By doing the necessary paperwork and research beforehand you can ensure things run a little smoother.                   

How to film abroad.

As already discussed in a previous article ‘Why filmmaking in a foreign country is a crucial part of your development’, you’re effectively making what is already a very challenging process to begin with even harder when travelling abroad for production.

There are a, perhaps overwhelming, number of issues to consider and tackle to ensure everything runs smoothly for you and your crew. Here, I’m drawing your attention to some of the most important.

Know the country

First things first, know your destination inside out. Read the government advice and paperwork again and again until you know everything there is to know.

There are a few key things that will crop up for any international film production. First and foremost, visas. What visas are available for you and your crew in your country of choice? Can you work there? How long can you stay for? How much does the visa cost? You will need to know all of your crew members nationalities and passport details for this one.

Next, permission to film. Most countries have some sort of permit that you will need to apply for. It may be in the native language of the country, so consider a translation in order to fully understand the requirements and restrictions placed on you by that government. The process of applying for a permit may vary depending on the location and could include a fee.

Of course, you will also need release forms for any individuals being filmed. Ensure that they legally consent to the release of footage in which they feature. Again, you may need to have this waiver translated.

Take the time to seek out any local tax incentives too. Many countries across the globe are actively looking to entice production companies to use their cities and nature as the backdrop for their next film. You could be entitled to things such as cash-back rebates or a discounted airfare. This can really help the budget and make you feel a little more welcome too!

Filming abroad is challengingFilming abroad is challenging.

Consider hiring a fixer. Having a local onboard with your crew is going to ensure a much smoother experience. They know people and can pull strings, they understand the local customs and culture, they can translate accurately and perhaps they can even drive or carry gear. They are priceless and the success of your production potentially relies on them!

Furthermore, consider partnering with a local film production company who could help you out with the above, as well as connecting you with local talent and crew.

For help with all of this, I recommend getting in touch with a film commission, perhaps linked to AFCI. AFCI Member Film Commissions serve as a general resource and clearinghouse for information throughout the region and assist with everything mentioned here.

Create a production calendar

Now that you know the country and assuming you already know your brief and what you’re shooting, you canplan out your production calendar. Where do you need to be and when? Ensure you know every second of every day.

From experience, it’s best to build a bit of flexibility into the timeline. As you’ll find out, travelling often means encountering unforeseen problems and challenges. If your schedule is too rigid, one misstep could unravel the whole thing and cause a lot of stress and pain. Be flexible and prepare to adapt. I’d recommend padding things out with 24 - 48 hour windows.

Planning your filming schedule is essential.
Planning your filming schedule is essential.

Book in advance

The following should all be researched, organised, booked and paid for in advance.

Most importantly, flights. The earlier you book, the cheaper the fare (keep the budget in mind, always) and the more likely you are to find flight times and routes that suit your needs. You’ll also want to find out about baggage allowance. Different airlines operate on different rules so do your due diligence and find out what will work best for your production. You’ll be carrying a lot of equipment and you don’t want to get stung unnecessarily.

Filming abroad.

Next, check whether you’ll need a carnet. This is an international customs and temporary export-import document, used to clear customs without paying duties and import taxes on merchandise that will be re-exported within 12 months or less. The chances are with all the gear you’re bringing, you will need one. Research and organise well in advance of your trip to ensure there are no nasty surprises or hiccups.

Likewise with accomodation, ensure it’s booked well in advance to lock in a budget-friendly price and secure have the rooms and space you need. You’ll want to hit a sweet spot between comfort and price here. Too pricey is going to burn through your budget, but you do also need to ensure you have a safe, comfortable place to relax and refresh at the end of each day. Not to mention somewhere you can link up to the internet to dump and backup all of your footage and a safe location for you to store your equipment.

Speaking of safe locations, if worst comes to worst and you do have a problem with equipment being damaged or stolen, you’re really going to need some good insurance. Take the time to shop around and find a good deal that has you properly covered and gives you peace of mind. When things go wrong, you need someone to have your back and protect the production from heading south financially.

Any more tips and things to think about? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: Production

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