CHICAGO318 W. Adams, Suite 1600Chicago, IL 60606312.585.7649
KANSAS CITY4600 W. 51st Street, Suite 300Roeland Park, KS 66205816.868.8320
August 15, 2023
When it comes to shooting video internationally, Scenic Road is well-versed. We’ve had international video production shoots in Asia, Europe, North and South America, but up until last month, we had never shot in Pakistan.
We often get asked what it is like to travel for video work like this, and about the logistics it takes to make it happen, so here’s a brief recap of this trip, and after that, look for tips you can take with you if you’re considering an international video production shoot.
We received an inquiry from an international advocacy, education, and research association, who wanted us to tell an impactful story in Pakistan.
Given the region’s reputation for volatility, we first turned to our internal teams and floated the idea to get crew buy-in.
We decided that additional research was needed, so we turned a producer loose on finding information from the state department and other sources. It was important to look for travel restrictions by region, as Pakistan’s different areas have varying levels of safety and restrictions for travel.
We contacted various producers with experience in Pakistan, as well as “Fixers” who offer boots-on-the-ground assistance and expertise to ask about safety, local customs to follow, and pitfalls to avoid.
Our research affirmed our view that we could take on the project safely, so we proceeded with the logistics of shooting a video production in Pakistan.
This included filing for our visas, researching and booking our flights (with as much insurance toward refundability as possible), and hiring the local team we’d need: a translator, fixer, driver, and security personnel.
At the same time, we were coordinating the shooting schedule with three different families in three different regions of Pakistan, necessitating us to change our travel plans at least three times.
From coordinating team schedules and sourcing your crew on the ground to applying for visas and your carnet, you’ll want a minimum of 4-6 weeks. (Yes, Scenic has done it in less than 10 days but there’s a reason I have gray hair now.)
Double-check whether you need a separate visa for a layover in some countries, and remember that you can’t fly within six months of your US Passport expiring. You might think it’s un-expired up until that date, but you’ll be stopped at the airport and prevented from flying.
Be prepared to arrive 3-4 hours early. Double-check your airline’s baggage limits, including each leg of your journey.
Many airlines have limitations of less than 50 lbs (know your Kilograms) per bag, and limit the number of allowable cases in total so your team could have to fly with much less equipment than you’re used to on domestic video shoots. If you use different airlines for different legs, be sure to check those limits, too. You don’t want to pack 300 pounds of gear and find out you need to pare down to 100.
Don’t expect your local airport crew to understand your carnet or your equipment.
Expect to spend a long time going through each and every item, explaining what it is and does, and putting it back through the X-ray machine. Don’t automatically assume you can source your gear locally.
Rental houses are much (much) harder to come by, and even if you find it, the camera equipment is often not as updated as you can find in the U.S.
This will ensure you have as seamless an experience as possible. For instance, women are separated into separate lines at the airport in Pakistan. Women don’t often travel alone here, so stay close to your male counterparts or crew members to draw the least attention.
While areas of Pakistan vary in terms of acceptable clothing, and some areas are more progressive, it’s easiest for Americans to be conservative in attire and wear head coverings (for women), long sleeves, and long pants (men and women) even in the height of summer.
Understand that your language matters and that you should be respectful at all times (swearing is a production crew’s first language, but it won’t go over well here.) Always check your destination for local holidays or large events that could disrupt your travels or plans. In addition, those same times are riskiest in terms of probability of terror attacks.
We can sometimes have a very Christian/American-centric view of holidays and I made the mistake of booking our trip too close to Eid ul-Adha. We were able to adjust our schedule (again!) to avoid potential issues due to the holiday, but in an ideal situation, you know these things at the start of your planning.
Certain areas could be unsafe or restricted, and disobeying the rules of the road could have uncomfortable consequences. Make sure you map out rest areas or safe gas stations to stop along your route and don’t assume they’ll all have facilities. Which leads me to…
Be sure to check for necessary vaccines well in advance of your travels. You could need booster shots.
We each got polio boosters to be safe, and these were not readily available. Some treatments such as Malaria pills require you to start before you are in the location of possible exposure.
Layer your clothes and wear breathable fabrics. It can get very hot in summertime and you will sweat through.
Bring toilet paper and a sealable container to stash it to dispose of it later (toilet paper isn’t an everyday thing there and plumbing isn’t set up to handle it).
Bring bottled water with you as dehydration is a real risk, as is getting sick from unclean water. Many homes do not have potable tap water.
We had roadside naps outdoors at a gas station, danced exuberantly with young girls, weaved in and out of Karachi street traffic while screaming for our lives, and were over-served the most delicious and copious amounts of homemade food, drinks, (non-alcoholic as that’s also not a thing here), and dessert.
We were treated extremely kindly and the families’ open-hearted, full-fledged generosity was beyond humbling. We are so very grateful to have experienced it.
Here’s our video shot in Pakistan for the International FOP Association. It’s a worthy cause.
Donate if you can or share the story to spread the word.
And of course, if you want to let Scenic Road handle your next international video production, reach out today.
Check Out “In Pursuit of a Cure: Parveen and Annaya” on YouTube!
Our fixer and translator prepping our interviewee. Kids clamoring to see us inside our van. Kevin making friends with the local kids. Kevin getting in the dirt to get the shot. Mom and daughter on a day at the park. Part of the family and our crew. Karachi streets
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