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Filming in Chernobyl


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#1 Adam Kesher

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 10:09 AM

I'm currently outlining a script for a film that takes place in Chernobyl and Pripyat during, shortly after and several years after the catastrophic events. I don't want to reveal anything about the story at this point, but I can promise you that it's gonna be one hell of a scaaary ride.

Now, I would like to know how radioactivity affects film stock, electronic equipment and, most importantly, the film crew. The idea is to shoot exteriors in the actual area in which these events took place (although evacuation sequences with thousands upon thousands of people will be archive footage) and most of the interiors on sound stages here in Sweden.

Since a portion of the film takes place just days after the accident and subsequent events, we would have to renovate some of the buildings to make them look a bit nicer, as well as cutting the grass that grows between the blocks on the concrete road. A better idea would be to shoot these scenes in a whole different place. What do you think?

The rest (most of the film) will take place in present time, but we would still have to modify the town a bit, e. g. change smashed windows and such, since the idea is that noone has visited the town after the disappearing of some rescue workers in 1986.

I plan to shoot on 35mm with ARRI cameras and Master Prime lenses (preliminary). I would also like to test the UP 8R lens, because it would fit perfectly into some of the shots I've planned.

I guess the main point of this post is to ask you, is this a possible project (don't worry about legal permits and stuff)? Will my crew remain healthy after wrap or will they grow an extra set of eyes? How will radioactivity affect the film (rolls are to be kept in the area only for short periods of time, I will have three 2nd ACs working on shifts with taking the film to the set and then to a lab as quickly as possible). And finally:

Would YOU do it? :P

Best regards
/Emil

Edited by Emil Larsson, 16 December 2006 - 10:13 AM.

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#2 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 10:34 AM

don't worry about legal permits and stuff


:blink:

I think this is the main problem, and the fact the permission would be given or not, should certainly be linked to the safety of the site...

I would try to go there and take photos, from the air only eventually and totally build a set somewhere else, that being Sweden or Germany, Poland or Tchequia, considering you are based in Sweden...
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#3 Max Jacoby

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 10:34 AM

I read an article about Chernobyl a couple of years ago and if I remember correctly it is still mostly off limits. The radiation will take some 600 years to decrease to tolerable levels again. One needs a special permit to go into the contaminated area and is not allowed to step off the road, because in the radiation is much stronger in the soil.
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#4 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 10:44 AM

I guess the main point of this post is to ask you, is this a possible project (don't worry about legal permits and stuff)? Will my crew remain healthy after wrap or will they grow an extra set of eyes?


Well, you'd need permits anyway, since the area is still completely off limits, unless you want to be shot by the army. No one can get close to the reactor or to the city without permits and you would have army officials with you all the time (I know because a friend of mine wanted to shoot a documentary there, and gave up after discovering how risky it would have been).

Secondly, you and your crew's lives would be put in danger. The level of radiation is so high it would be crazy to spend even a few hours in the area (and there are a few problems because it looks like the structure they built around the reactor is not safe anymore..i.e. it's leaking).

Edited by Francesco Bonomo, 16 December 2006 - 10:46 AM.

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#5 Tim J Durham

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 10:57 AM

I guess the main point of this post is to ask you, is this a possible project (don't worry about legal permits and stuff)? Will my crew remain healthy after wrap or will they grow an extra set of eyes? How will radioactivity affect the film (rolls are to be kept in the area only for short periods of time, I will have three 2nd ACs working on shifts with taking the film to the set and then to a lab as quickly as possible). And finally:

Would YOU do it? :P

Best regards
/Emil

The entire crew (3) of the film "Chernobyl: A Chronicle of Difficult Weeks" by Vladimir Shevchenko has died since (1986) from radiation poisoning. They were the first ones to attempt filming there and wore radiation suits. 20 years hence, radiation levels would only be somewhat reduced but not to the point where I'd consider working there.
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#6 Adam Kesher

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 11:10 AM

Oh dear, that doesn't sound too good :(

The reason I wrote "don't worry about legal permits" is because I wanted to have answers that were focused on the technical issues concerning filmmaking in this contaminated area. Tim's answer however has put me off totally. A new approach, I guess, would be to film all the exteriors in one day (one-day excursions to Chernobyl are made on a daily basis, so I guess that would not involve too great of a health risk) and all the sequences with acting would be filmed elsewhere and in studios.

Still, I don't want to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Does anyone know if the radiation levels are high enough to damage film cameras?
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#7 Tim Partridge

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 11:22 AM

George Romero shot a bit of one of his recent LIVING DEAD movies there, didn't he?

There's not much left to say about Chernobyl that most of those sensationalist TV movies haven't touched on (check this one out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101569/ ).

Personally, if this movie MUST be made, fake it all on a backlot/miniatures/CG/bluescreen or nothing. Joe Public can't tell the difference anyhow.
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#8 Mike Medavoy

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 11:24 AM

One day might be enough to put your health at risk in that area. I'm not sure but definitely check out all the consequences before you and your crew go there.
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#9 Adam Kesher

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 11:32 AM

Yes, this movie HAS to be made :D

It's not about the accident itself, nor is it about the horrifying consequences that mankind's terrible environmental politic will have on this earth (and so on)... It's a nice little horror flick, a marriage between 28 Days Later (with better cinematography and end), Blair Witch Project (with better cinematography, sound, script, acting, story etcetera) and several other good films, PLUS it actually has some unique features in it, believe it or not! The language spoken will not be english with poorly impersonated russian "accent", but rather genuine russian and ukrainian, and in the present-day part, polish.

Okay, to make things a bit more clear: The main story is about a group of adventurous polish dudes and chicks who manage to sneak into the area and get past the guards that, eh, guard it. They are "professional" adventurers, so they have professional equipment (HD cameras and such). We alternate between seing the story from their perspective and from a more cinematic one (I have great plans for this). So anyway, they manage to make their way into the deserted town Pripyat, only to discover it is not as deserted as it seems. And then they have to fight for survival and so on. I don't want to give out more details than that so of course it may seem a bit mainstream and boring, but that's just for safety reasons. :P

Oh, and another thing. No one in this film will perform any sexual act. Now, THAT'S something you haven't seen before in this type of movie ;)
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#10 John Holland

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 11:52 AM

Hi think you really have lost the plot , making movies is mostly about cheating , if this story of yours was set on the Sun , happy to go there and kill the crew , just as long as equipment is not damaged !!! . John Holland , London/
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#11 Adam Kesher

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 12:03 PM

Hi think you really have lost the plot , making movies is mostly about cheating , if this story of yours was set on the Sun , happy to go there and kill the crew , just as long as equipment is not damaged !!! . John Holland , London/


Yeah I sound like a real monster, don't I? Of course I don't want to endanger any crewmembers, but the whole point of the topic is to explore the technical difficulties in this project. I've read articles about excursions that are being made every day to the site of the accident, tourists that come within a distance of only 100 metres from the actual reactor, and they seem to survive just fine! Now have in mind that Pripyat is located three kilometers from the power plant, and the risks decrease a bit, am I right?

So remember; I don't want to kill my crew, in fact, I love my crew. They are my number one concern. So let's assume I go there myself and shoot those shots, can we focus on the equipment then?
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#12 JD Hartman

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 12:32 PM

Yeah I sound like a real monster, don't I? Of course I don't want to endanger any crewmembers, but the whole point of the topic is to explore the technical difficulties in this project. I've read articles about excursions that are being made every day to the site of the accident, tourists that come within a distance of only 100 metres from the actual reactor, and they seem to survive just fine! Now have in mind that Pripyat is located three kilometers from the power plant, and the risks decrease a bit, am I right?

So remember; I don't want to kill my crew, in fact, I love my crew. They are my number one concern. So let's assume I go there myself and shoot those shots, can we focus on the equipment then?


In a previous post, it sounded like the safety of the equipment was your main concern. After all, what good is exposing your crew to ten lifetimes (or more?) the maximum "safe" radiation exposure, if your equipment and film are ruined by Beta or Gamma radiation? Just because the town is 3km away, doesn't mean it is any less dangerous. Radioactive particles were carried on the prevailing wind. That's why detection equipment in Scandanavia recorded the event before the former USSR admitted having an accident.
If you move ahead with your plans and decide to have a location scout, don't forget to pack your lead-lined underwear. And have everyone sign a waiver, absolving you from any future liability. Because there will be a price to pay for you film and the crew will pay it with their lives. Even the "Atomic Man", a US worker who lived for many years in an accident contaminated him, eventually died from radiation related illneses. It isn't a pleasant way to go.
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#13 Matthew Bennett

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 12:36 PM

Blair Witch Project (with better cinematography, sound, script, acting, story, location etcetera)

Whats left??What a strange way to compare your film.. it's like this film ... only completely different!


re: project
Don't kill the crew, I feel bad for them already, nobody likes to die from radiation.

So, when they get to the ghost town are there mutants there? (that would be cool!)
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#14 Adam Kesher

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 12:50 PM

Whats left??What a strange way to compare your film.. it's like this film ... only completely different!
re: project
Don't kill the crew, I feel bad for them already, nobody likes to die from radiation.

So, when they get to the ghost town are there mutants there? (that would be cool!)


Yeah the point is to point out that Blair Witch Project is not a very good film at all. The only thing that the two films will have in common is the "perspective", i. e. the audience will experience the events partially through the lens of these adventurers.

I WON'T KILL THE CREW! Goddamn, read the previous post! Safety comes first but as I said before; this topic is mainly about what would happen to equipment. I am very aware of that radiation is not very good for humans, but from what I've read on the fantastic Internet, the radiation you are exposed to after spending just a few hours in the area is not even as high as a chest X-ray. Okay, that's still pretty bad <_<

Well, it just wouldn't be a horror film without mutants, now would it? :P The originality lies in the way that the mutants are portrayed, they are not mindless crazy killing machines, they have in fact built a somewhat functioning society (well, to an extent they are able to) and take care of each other. They just don't like visitors...

Edited by Emil Larsson, 16 December 2006 - 12:51 PM.

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#15 Sakari Suuronen

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 12:56 PM

Did you mean this?

http://www.kiddofspeed.com/


Remember, that there are loads of good places to shoot in scandinavia that virtually deserted.

Check out also Estonia and maybe other baltic countries. If you do a little scouting you can find deserted places with a soviet "feel".

Hope this helps.
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#16 Matthew Buick

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 01:24 PM

Oh brilliant, thaks dor giving the plot away. <_<

The actual reactor, or what's left of it in encased in 5ft of lead lined concrete, people can go in wearing a Haz-Mat Suit, bet only foe 8 minutes at a time, afterwards they have to spend 5 hours away from the site.
Out of all the deaths only 53 were down to radiation, all of these people suffered from a Thyroid condition, still I'd verify this information with your local council.

Why not get actors that can speak english and have them act it out that way, that way the accents will be genuine.

My two cents pence,
Matthew Buick.
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#17 Adam Kesher

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 01:41 PM

Oh brilliant, thaks dor giving the plot away. <_<

The actual reactor, or what's left of it in encased in 5ft of lead lined concrete, people can go in wearing a Haz-Mat Suit, bet only foe 8 minutes at a time, afterwards they have to spend 5 hours away from the site.
Out of all the deaths only 53 were down to radiation, all of these people suffered from a Thyroid condition, still I'd verify this information with your local council.

Why not get actors that can speak english and have them act it out that way, that way the accents will be genuine.

My two cents pence,
Matthew Buick.


Aww poor thing, you wanted to see the film did you? Well tough luck

Just kidding :D For real, sorry. You're one of the funniest (in a positive way) members of this forum and I like your posts, so I apologise for spoiling the film somewhat. The good news are that everyone will know that one or another form of mutants inhabit the town before they actually see the film (the poster will say that a few hundred people refused to leave their homes, instead they hid in various places until the heat was over, and a fairly smart person will then be able to ad up 1+1 and understand, to a certain extent, what they are about to encounter.
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#18 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 05:28 PM

Still, I don't want to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Does anyone know if the radiation levels are high enough to damage film cameras?

I think the cameras will be fine, but the crew will be dead.
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#19 Adam Kesher

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 05:30 PM

Okay. That's bad.

What do you think about the story? (the little things I've revealed)
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#20 Max Jacoby

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 06:51 PM

Asking a bunch of film people on an internet forum about radiation is not going to get you any solid answers either way. The only way you can find out for sure is if you contact the authorities. Once you know the kind of radiation that is around you should talk to scientists about how it affects filmstock and equipment.
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