Once you’ve experienced travel, as Ibn Battuta put it, “You become a storyteller after having been rendered speechless.” This holds for the everyday tourist just as much as it does for the first-time director. The process of filming abroad, be it a documentary or narrative feature, exposes the filmmaker to new ways of life while also providing him or her with (ideally) interesting material. As a filmmaker, there are a few things you should bear in mind as you set off on your adventure. Here are six suggestions to consider when shooting a documentary on the road.

1. Do Your Homework

Research needs to be done before packing your bags. To kick off your trip preparations, check out some travel blogs or video blogs. Doing some research before an international trip might help you better understand the local customs and traditions. Learn more about the culture’s key values through your investigation. What is the level of religious observance there? What are some of the area’s signature dishes?

It’s also a good idea to look into equipment transportation regulations. Depending on the nature of the documentary you’re making, your equipment needs may be simple (only a camera) or extensive. However, you should research the laws and traditions of each country. Avoid unnecessary delays at security checkpoints by having your gear pre-cleared in advance.

2. Get Help from Residents

Locate friendly locals who are up for the role of tour guide once you arrive. These helpful individuals are essential to the accomplishment of any endeavor, be it the filming of a movie or the completion of any other task. No blog can compare to the insider knowledge of a lifelong resident. 

They are your finest resource for learning about the local customs, cuisine, and more. If you wish to interview with a local, traveling with a local can help you overcome the language barrier. Try to hook up with a local filmmaker or locate a company that rents out video equipment. You can learn a lot about the best locations for filming and general filming advice from these contacts. Involving people from the area in the planning process will result in a higher quality result.

3. Spend Time Relaxing

Make sure you have a good time. Putting in a full day’s work demands enthusiasm, dedication, and stamina. When you maintain a balanced diet and sleep schedule, you feel refreshed and ready to take on the next day of filming with greater ease. Energy expenditure is high when travelling. However, shooting films on the road is taxing on both the body and the mind.

The manner of your film and your motivation to make great videos can be profoundly affected by this. Keeping a happy attitude and sleeping well will help you communicate better with others and last longer on long shoot days. What’s the point of being a nomadic filmmaker if you can’t soak up some local colour? Take some time to observe the world around you. It’s possible to gain personal and professional growth through exposure to different cultures.

4. Show Cultural Appropriateness

Keep in mind that you are a visitor to a foreign place. Be courteous in all interactions throughout your travels. While it is important that you get your film made, it is also important that you respect the local culture and customs. For instance, it’s polite to obtain permission before shooting on private property. Having a guide who can communicate with the locals on your behalf is an additional asset when filming there.

Respect for local customs and laws is vital, so do your homework beforehand to avoid running afoul of any regulations. For instance, drones have just emerged as a fantastic tool for cinematographers.  However, unless you get a license to do so, you cannot use them in places like Bahrain, India, Belarus, and others. Drones are prohibited from being used anywhere near or on the Taj Mahal.

5. Don’t Forget the Basics

What to bring is an additional consideration. You will likely be lugging your bags everywhere, so it is important to only bring what is necessary. However, you shouldn’t put too much in your rucksack or you’ll end up exhausted. 

Consider packing some food beforehand. You should pack ready-to-eat protein options like granola and trail mix in case you forget to eat while filming. Then you should prepare to put away your camera gear. Find a camera that can be easily carried about and used when travelling. Waterproof, lightweight, and tiny video cameras that provide high-quality footage are now widely available on the market. 

Then you’ll need to pack lenses of several focal lengths to capture the scene accurately. Make some space for a supply of batteries and some sort of moisture protection; frigid regions are hard on batteries, and damp air can damage electronics.

6. Try Out Different Methods of Shooting

You may only have a few opportunities to shoot in foreign locales, therefore you should try out various shooting methods to maximise your time there. For instance, you may implement tracking-style camera motion.  To keep viewers engaged and ensure they get something out of viewing your film, try mixing things up visually.

For tracking, a stabiliser may be necessary, however panning and handed movements are also viable options. Remember that variety is the spice of life as you plan your shot. Plan to get both A-roll and B-roll shots. Having alternatives to consider is beneficial. There are urban, rainforest, nightlife, and off-the-beaten-path scenes available for editing.

7. Submerge Yourself in It

When filmmakers need to get their work done when on location, they should also make the most of their time away by fully experiencing the local culture. These changes may never arise again, so seize them with both hands. Get to know some locals or bring a travel journal to record your impressions of life in the area.

Plan some leisure activities into your schedule so you can relax and enjoy the trip. Don’t forget your camera gear, but don’t let it prevent you from relaxing on a cruise down the Seine, hiking up Mount Vesuvius, or lounging on the beaches of Langkawi. Inadvertently, these experiences can enrich your knowledge of the region and inform a more compelling documentary.

Shooting Locations Abroad

For aspiring young filmmakers, nothing beats the experience of travelling abroad. You’ll grow as a person and have some incredible material for your documentary if you go to different countries. Use these 7 suggestions before you leave on your trip.