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  • Writer's pictureAndreas

Foreign vs. Local Film Crews in Kenya

How foreign production houses can benefit from local film crews and save a lot of money!


So lets look into the different parts where foreign production houses can benefit from using local film crews for their Natural History Productions.


ADVANTAGES OF LOCAL FILM CREWS

With the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic, foreign production houses faced some difficult times. Travel restrictions and lock-downs brought all productions to a stand-still. But with deadlines ahead, there was only one solution to get the job done. And that solution was to use local film crews. So many of us residing in countries where most of the Natural History Documentaries take place, were contacted to film for different projects. Finally it seemed like there is acknowledgement from foreign production houses, that high-quality productions can be done using local talent and film crews.



PRODUCTION COSTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT!

Lets look into a very important topic. Costs! As every production house seems to have limited budgets these days, what is the actual difference for a natural history production in Kenya? Lets quickly look into some numbers. Based on a four person film crew, shooting in the Masai Mara for 21 days. I have only considered costs which have a significant difference between foreign and local crews.


Here are some average costs: 4 PAX, 21 filming days


Foreign Film Crew - 4 PAX

Local Film Crew - 4 PAX

Travel Costs: Flights & Extra Luggage for kit

$6550

$0

Accommodation: Nairobi & Masai Mara

$27.000

$12.000

Work Permits, Passes & Park Fees

$9000

$1300

Kit Import & Clearance

$1000

$0

Total Costs

$43.550

$13.300

Difference Foreign vs Local Film Crew

$30.250

The costs shown above are average costs but show the huge cost difference between foreign and local film crews. Its a staggering $30.250 difference for costs which benefit from local talents! This is for one part of a production which normally runs longer than just one month. If you multiply this by all the different shooting locations and over the production period of several years of a big series, you look into a lot of money production houses could save by using local talent and kit.


As many production houses are looking after their carbon footprint for their productions, there is another valid reason to use local film crews. For example, a small film crew of only four people flying from the UK to Kenya will produce around 10t of CO2e. Just to reach the film destination. Local crews are already at the destination and will lower the carbon footprint of a production!


FAST REACTION TIMES!

The advantages of using local film crews are many. Having talent on the ground enables production houses to realize fast reactive shoots. One example was the death of one of the last remaining super tuskers "Tolstoy" in the Amboseli Eco System. Within two days the whole shoot was organized, permits were arranged and the film crew was on the ground. This would have been impossible for a foreign film crew to achieve! With this short reaction time, scenes were captured which have rarely beeing filmed before. These pictures were then used for the multi award winning docu series "Secrets of the Elephants" from National Geographic and Disney+, a blue-chip Natural History Documentary Series!



INSIDER KNOWLEDGE!

Another huge advantage of using local talents and film crews is their detailed knowledge of the country itself. Local film crews know exactly what is happening in their country. Many of the behaviour filmed in major blue-chip documentaries have been discovered by people on the ground such as local film crews and talents who have direct access to areas and stories! Due to the lack of funding, most of the ideas are then pitched to overseas production houses. Using local talent and film crews can open up a pool of opportunities and new stories for foreign productions. As long as the local talent and film crews are later on involved in the production progress!


KIT MATTERS!

Everyone knows that "Blue-Chip Natural History Productions" always film with only the best and latest cameras and use only the newest technology to get the shots done. This meant in the past, that all the kit was imported into Kenya for the different film projects, as only a few of these "high-end" cameras where available locally. But things have also changed in the kit department. Right now there are several RED Helium 8k and even the newest RED V-Raptors, RED Komodo X's and other high-end cameras available in Kenya. There are even CN20s, the "must have" lens for wildlife film making, available with talented DoPs residing in Kenya. High-end sound recording devices like the Aaton Cantar X3 are also available in Kenya. So there is a lot of high-end equipment in Kenya and there is no need of flying kit around the world. This saves not only money, it also lowers the Carbon Footprint of a production!



SUMMARY

Looking at all the points mentioned above, the summary is simple:

  1. Using local talent can save production houses a huge amount of money!

  2. Using local talent will minimize the Carbon Footprint of productions!

  3. Yes, there is high-end equipment available in Kenya!

  4. There are professional film crews in Kenya!

  5. Local film crews know their country in and out!

  6. Benefit from local knowledge, but use the local talent afterwards!


Lets hope that in the future, foreign production houses see the value and benefit of using local film crews. With tight budgets in the Natural History World and with the growing debate about how to be as environmental friendly as possible, there is really only one way forward. Working together and implementing the ideas and promises which have been talked about in many workshops, meetings and film festivals!


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