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shooting in sierra leone


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#1 Joel Schwartzberg

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 12:59 PM

I'll be shooting tape in Sierra Leone this next week. I believe I'll be somewhere up-country. Does anybody out there have any such experience? I'm looking for any heads-up advice!

Thanks,
Joel
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#2 Sam Taylor

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 08:32 AM

Dear Joel,
Sorry I can't give you any advice, but I am interested in the same question for a potential future project, so i'd be grateful for advice from you when you come back. So if you can post any practical details on e.g. safety, equipment security, local know-how, or other practical details that would be awesome. Thanks and good luck. May you have a successful shoot, avoiding "rebel" activity!!, Sam
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#3 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 05:29 PM

We spent time in Ghana and they were not too keen on the place - but that was a while ago and maybe the situation has changed...

It had the usual poblems - loads of poor poeple doing nothing and a small group of very rich expoliting them
It is surprisingly Muslim
They had a messy civil war - that just finished - but it is still full of ex soliders with nothing to do (which is not good)

Tell us when you come back

thanks

Rolfe
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#4 Dan Goulder

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 06:44 PM

I'll be shooting tape in Sierra Leone this next week. I believe I'll be somewhere up-country. Does anybody out there have any such experience? I'm looking for any heads-up advice!

Most of the Sierra Leone catalogue was shot in Techniscope.

Now for the serious part: Sierra Leone is considered one of the deadliest places on Earth. (Maybe that's the topic of your shoot.) So, look both ways before you cross the street.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 August 2006 - 07:59 PM

Hi,

I wouldn't go there.

I would also be deeply, deeply concerned if I didn't know exactly where I was going a week before departure.

The real question is - what is the nature of the production company. Is this a large, properly-funded organisation who are liable to take their legal and moral responsibilities seriously, or one random guy from the country who's going to drive you round the offroad tracks in his Ford Fiesta.

Ask the following questions, among others.

- Are you going to be following the rules of the place you are in? You do not want to be at the mercy of the "justice" system in some of these dodgy African bungholes. Even if bribing your way past checkpoints is the usual way in your location, these rules can change very suddenly when there's a non-local ethnicity or a camera about. Immigration documents must be in perfect order - and I suspect you can't get them in a week.

- Are you insured? Be very sure you are covered for medical expenses including repatriation. The horror of having a leg blown off by a landmine will be redoubled when the local medicos wipe the last guy's blood off the rusty scalpel with a rag. If anything unfortunate happens you want the helicopters to be a phone call away. Also, many people in those kinds of countries will be firmly convinced that anyone from the west is from a gigantically rich family, and is thus a good kidnap victim. You want many millions of dollars' worth of insurance to cover everything from a dropped filter to the helicopter home.

- What're you doing for transport? If you're going "up country" or anywhere outside the range of reliable conventional communications, and you are, if you are injured and the car breaks down, you die. Two big, well-maintained vehicles with lots of spare parts and consumables and drivers who know what they're doing. Not some person's town car.

- What is your exit strategy. If it all goes poop shaped, and you find yourself stranded in a dangerous situation with people you may not trust, do you have the ticket home in your hand? Can you get from where you are to the airport? Are you a thousand miles from anywhere with no transportation you can control? Who is in charge of pulling the plug in case any situation gets too dodgy?

- Communications. Upcountry safaris will not be under cellphone coverage and landlines and shortwave are unreliable. You will probably not be in a financial position to fund your own sat phone, but any such expedition might need one.

- Safety. If you are going anywhere that might be considered "a war zone", you will need a specific guide for that situation - not a local who's used to it. You should have taken a hazardous environments course. Are there at least two first-aid qualified people on the team, with the equipment they need. Is there a well-defined exit strategy in case of more serious injury.

What you are effectively asking for here is for your sponsor to provide the same sort of infrastructure as a military organisation. As documentarians we are the only people other than trained and supported combat troops, and of course the unfortunate locals (and they die in droves), who willingly go into these places. Do not do so without the proper backup.

I have refused three jobs, which were otherwise very attractive, because I was unhappy on these grounds.

Phil
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