Nothing like a handful of veteran producers on stage at AICP Week to offer sage advice on the challenges and rewards of shooting overseas.
PSN recently had the pleasure of hosting a frank and insightful discussion with producers from Sibling Rivalry, m ss ng p eces, and The Mill+ during a Lunch & Learn session filled with anecdotes from the production trenches. Click here to tune into the complete and unedited panel moderated by AICP Board Member and PSN Production Liaison, Carolyn Hill, and fed live on Facebook.
A compilation reel showcasing the work of PSN’s exclusive Partners in 50 territories worldwide kicked off the hour-long chat about the challenges each producer has faced overseas, and how they’ve worked with clients, agencies, and service companies to deliver on the brief. Click here to watch the reel full screen.
The conversation then got underway with a head-first dive into why leave the comforts of home to shoot abroad. Executive Producer and Partner at m ss ng p eces Dave Saltzman offered, 'We've had the opportunity of working with global brands like Google or Starbucks that really want to show off their international understanding, and how broad they are, and how connected they are to communities around the world.'
Creatives, however, are more often drawn to unique locations as revealed in the 2018 PSN survey 'What Matters Most Shooting Overseas' you can click here to read.
'The biggest conversations are about budget, talent, and brief,' observed Sibling Rivalry Executive Producer Shelby Ross. 'How far does the client want to travel? We could recommend a Romanian solution, a Mexico City solution. And at the end of the day, we might just shoot in Minnesota because it's the client’s backyard. We weigh those options all the time, and we try to offer the best budget to travel for this or for that, but, at the end of the day, it's a power play, who wants to have the power in the room. What are the smart solutions? How do you appeal to the cost consultant while appealing to the client and the job at stake both creatively, budgetarily, and whatever other reasons there are in there?'
Saltzman added that it’s more than a race to the bottom for cheapest production costs. 'There are realities to traveling around the globe. Time, consumption-wise if you’re traveling and conscientious about the climate, logistical considerations when you’re talking about product. It’s not just money or talent. And I think people forget that.'
The decision to shoot overseas almost invariably calls for local shoot support. It may start focused on one country but also be open to other options. A critical first step in considering the most suitable location is producer preparation of a shoot brief that must be shared with local partners in complete confidentiality.
'One of my concerns is what IP do we have, not a lot except for our approach. So, if we bake in the approach that we think is appropriate for the project, it might be a competitive advantage, so we work with the Network to follow-through on that approach.'
It is a meeting of the production minds worldwide, brought together in a one-stop shop at PSN, that can confirm the feasibility of a producer’s approach as well as determine where best to achieve it.
'The word ‘network’ really does something in this case,' continued Ross. 'For years and years we’ve been talking to your friend about who shot there and there, and who you worked with. You follow these chains, and if they lead to a dead end, you’re fu**ed. So, I think the question that you’ve solved for a lot of people is how we find reliable, pre-vetted sources where we can just pick up the phone and pick up a conversation like they’d been family.'
We are honored and thankful at PSN for the trust of fellow producers. Read my blog entitled 'Who’s got your back on a location shoot?' and the related article in The Location Guide for more about what to watch out for when shooting abroad.
Reflecting on a recent experience in Morocco, Senior Content Producer at The Mill+, Nic Barnes, shared that the risks out there are very real. 'We did have people confirmed for our project, but there are so many other things shooting there at the moment. So, they’re like, I’m going to take the job that’s 30 days’ long instead of only 2 days, and chances are I won’t work with you ever again, so it doesn’t matter.'
Ross recently wrapped a project where PSN Partners assisted worldwide. 'We did 55 days in 15 countries. It was travel-prep-shoot, travel-prep-shoot kind of thing. Having pre-vetted Partners in places that we’d never been to was the saving grace.'
All three producers acknowledged it’s on them to communicate the local ground truth to their clients so as to prevent unpleasant surprises.
'I feel like most clients and agencies appreciate the transparency,' concluded Barnes. 'If there are going to be difficult times ahead, such as moving from location to location or holidays. A lot of people will take that on board. No one wants to be working through the US holidays. They don’t really expect people to do it in other countries. So, I think that most of the time people appreciate the transparency, and you can find a workaround.'
'As long as it’s said in the right way,' added Saltzman. 'You can say whatever you have to say, but you have to choose your words wisely.'