SHOOTING IN FAR EAST
Traffic is terrible in Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, and Hong Kong. Making moves in
the middle of the day or during rush hour not wise. Get out of town early and
return late. The subways are often faster if you are not carrying a lot of stuff.
Production companies tend to chauffeur you around, but a suggestion that you
wouldn't mind going by underground might save a lot of time and van rental.
The air was awful except in Tokyo where they have gone to great lengths to not
kill themselves. The smog doesn't help wide shots. A rain will clear the air,
but only for a few hours.
When you are working with a production house and they have other shoots going,
you might find yourself with a less than the best crew. Most companies have
staff people who are usually very good. Free lance production people seem to
not be as good. I am saying this from a small sample of experiences.
Shooting in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Bangkok with a small crew on the street, but
not blocking traffic was a pleasure. Once the size and scope of your shooting
requires permits and dealing with the bureaucracy, things get difficult. In
Bangkok though we got some things done that would have been difficult if not
impossible elsewhere. (Elephants down the main drag.) Maybe with more production
and the abuse by production things may change things there too.
Casting is always a hassle. Korea was the only place that we couldn't use people
off the street. The available Westerners were far from the best. People working
for the US government are a different breed. In Hong Kong people have so much
to do that they don't have time and you don't have enough money to keep them
from doing their own things. The professionals are very expensive and not especially
great. The "Professional" Korean talent wasn't bad. Many we didn't get to see
more than pictures. There, the problem was wardrobe, makeup and communication.
The Thais, Koreans, and Japanese were very punctual. Hong Kong not so much so.
Customs. We traveled all the equipment with us and had little problem. We did
have the extra support of working for the airline that transported our equipment.
We got our stuff out easily even in Bangkok where they don't recognize a Carnet.
Having things in their proper cases and at the same weights would make a more
thorough search less likely when an inspector finds things in order that he
does check at random. Usually they look at 2 cases and let you go if things
are in order. Be nice and expect some confusion and delay. They are just trying
to do their job too.
The amount of personal stuff that you take can hinder you when going in as a
tourist and can leave little room for stuff to buy. It's nice to have a jacket
in many places, but if you are as busy as we were there isn't much time to play.
The point and shoot cameras did much of the recording of our escapades. The
bigger cameras often stayed in the hotel. Except for one roll, my stills were
for production. We found one-hour facilities everywhere.
You should take all the medicines that you might need. Insist that the rest
do too so that you don't have to lend your out and then need them yourself.
Even vitamin C can be hard to get in countries with national health services.
It is just as dangerous to pop a few antibiotics for the sniffles on location
as at home. Not taking a whole dose can make something not knocked outcome back
with a vengeance. Sleep, not eating too much and care with the food can keep
you healthy. It's sometimes difficult to be gracious and yet feel that you may
be eating something that won't agree with you. Some local people drink a lot
and expect you to keep up. I am not sure that they would honor being an AA story.
We didn't have time to study how to get along in Korea and it may have effected
our success in getting along. The footage was good, but a nightmare getting
it. It was freezing (Oct.20) and rained and getting what we needed not easy.
More on this on the section on communications.
Things that I didn't use, mostly because there wasn't time to make a shot perfect.
There was often just enough time to get the shot and forget the fine-tuning.
Neutral grads. Fast lenses neutraled down. 800 mm. Video assist. Next time a
Video Walkman and some Watchmans would be the video unit. The hassle and power
drain of the bigger units was too much.
I wish that I had brought some 12-volt lights. Maybe the American Market 6 lite
units with day light filters. Generators were a hassle and a couple of 6 lites
would have been enough in the gorilla situations. Getting batteries may not
be a hassle, but chargers and cases for the batteries would probably be and
should be brought along. Getting things like that and transformers and adapters
is difficult. No matter what you bring in plug adapters, you won't have all
the right ones. The shaver 110 outlets are only big enough for a Lap Top Computer
or a video camera battery charger. I would suggest a a Video Walkman so that
you can do your own casting and some tests. Few countries have a NTSC system
in the hotel room to look at things on a large screen.
Of course more prep everywhere would have made it a lot easier and would have
improved the footage, but it wasn't to be and make the finish schedule. We worked
as separate units in some countries and together in some. I think that being
separate and spending a little longer in each country might have been wise.
© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.