Shooting abroad can be a serious hassle if you do not prepare properly. But if you follow a few guidelines, traveling with a kit is far more likely to go smoothly. Prepare and be prepared. The tips below address the most frequent problems we see.
The countries listed below require carnets if you're traveling with location production equipment. A carnet is essentially proof that a bond is held in your home country on the equipment and it will not be released until the equipment is returned to your home country. It is meant to stop people from taking goods from a country where they are relatively cheap and selling them in a country where they cost far more because of duties, taxes or other reasons.
The easiest way to get a carnet is to phone a company that processes them and they will post the bond for a fee. If you do not know a company that offers this service, ask for a recommendation from someone who does and who can vouch for speed, reliability and efficiency. The charge varies depending on how quickly you need the carnet and on which country you're visiting. Typically the charge will include:
Administration fee charged by the company processing the carnet
Local Chamber of Commerce fee
Charge for posting the bond
The bond required varies from country to country and is a percentage of the stated value of the equipment. The charge for posting the bond depends on the declared value of the equipment. Different people take different approaches to the declared value. Some use the new value of the equipment. Some list the used value. Some use an artificial low value to save on the charge for the bond. I recommend you seek advice on what value to declare. The values declared on a carnet have no bearing on the insured value of the equipment.
Once you have a carnet, make sure you have it signed and stamped every time you enter and leave a country. If you fail to do this, you will have to present all the equipment on the carnet to a Customs inspector once you're back in the UK – there is a fee for this – and you risk a fine. If you've hired the equipment, you'll need to hire the identical equipment to show Customs and this could incur hire charges and arranging for the exact kit with the serial numbers listed on the carnet to show the Customs inspector can be a major hassle . This can so easily be avoided by ensuring the right forms are signed and stamped on every entry into and departure from a given country.
Also extremely important is returning the carnet documents to the issuer immediately. If you send them by post, send them registered and phone to make sure they have been received. I know of a couple of cases of carnets apparently being returned to the issuer and apparently not received. The result was a hefty fine and a lot of trouble trying to reassemble the equipment on the carnet for a Customs inspection so the bond would be released.
The bottom line is the bond is only released once the equipment has returned to your home country and the carnet has been returned to anyone processed it with all the paperwork correctly done. This is essential.
Countries Requiring Carnets
Below is a list of countries that require carnets for camera kits. The list excludes EU countries because if you're traveling from the UK and staying within the EU a carnet is not necessary.
Algeria, Andorra, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Canary Islands, China, Croatia, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, India, Israel, Japan, Korea (Republic of), Lebanon, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, New Zealand , Norway, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkey, United States, United States.
Countries That Do Not Require Carnets
If you're traveling to a country or countries that do not require a carnet you should take a pro-forma equipment list. This is a list of all the equipment you are traveling with and should include the manufacturer and model number, the serial number, the country of manufacture and the value. Once again the value can be replacement value, used value or an artificial low value – at your discretion. This list should be on company letterhead. Take several copies of it with you, ideally with a company stamp on it.
In addition to the pro-forma, there is one other piece of paperwork you'll need – an HM Customs and Excise C & E 1246 form. The heading on this form is "Returned Goods Relief: declarations to be made when using duplicate lists." These can be downloaded from the HM Customs and Excise, now part of HM Revenue and Customs, web site http://www.hmce.gov.uk . On the home page, click onto Forms, leaflets and booklets. Once there, go to "Forms published in respect of matters formerly deal with by HM Customs & Excise." Follow the list down to C & E 1246 and print it out.
Complete the form and take it and several copies of the equipment list with you when you check in at the airport you're leaving from in the UK. When you check in, let the airline attendant know you have a "Returned Good Relief" list and need to have Customs stamp it. Customs will generally only want to see the highest priced items such as the camera, which you should hand carry, and you will need to take these items through the boarding pass checkpoint and to the Customs counter on the other side to get this stamped. If Customs wants to see everything you may have to hire an airport porter to take the equipment around. The stamped form and list prove you left the UK with the listed equipment so that when you return to the UK you can show it to Customs and you will not have any problem getting the equipment back into the UK.
Excess baggage charges can make a production manager shake violently and look like the terrified victim of a maniac in a horror film. They can be outrageous. For example, BA charges £ 30.89 per kilo for all baggage above 20 kilos if you're flying economy class to Sydney. That's each way. So if you're traveling with 150 kilos of kit and personal luggage and there are two of you with 20 kilos of baggage allowance each, that's 110 kilos of excess baggage at £ 3397.90 each way. Sometimes you can negotiate but often the person you'll be talking to will apparently take great delight in the pain these charges can cause.
So how do you beat these charges? First, travel light. If it will not compromise your shoot, consider taking an LCD monitor instead of a Sony 9-inch monitor. If you can, keep your lighting kit portable. If possible, carry on the camera with the wide angle lens attached and wrap the standard lens in something protective so that it can be carried on with the camera and wide angle as well. Then send the case for the wide angle empty – this also reduces the chance of losing your wide angle lens to theft or mishandling. If possible, try to carry one or two camera batteries onto the plane as well. And make sure there is one tape in the camera and at least one spare in the carry bag. This means if your luggage gets lost, you'll at least have a camera with lenses and some batteries.
Before you fly, ring the airline and tell them you will have excess baggage and would like to prepay. Try to negotiate a better rate, particularly if you fly with that airline frequently. At the very least this pasts another problem I've seen many times. The crew arrives to check in and no provision has been made for excess baggage costs so they're faced with putting significant charges on their credit cards. A few times I've seen this happen and no one in the crew had a credit card that could handle the charge so they missed their flight.
Another option is to use a specialist company that guarantees to save you serious amounts on excess baggage charges. One such company that's been brought to our attention recently is Media Onboard. We have not used them yet so I can not vouch for them. However, they claim to be able to save as much as 70 percent on excess baggage charges. The company has arranged "huge discounts" with several Star Alliance airlines for anyone traveling with the "tools of their trade." These airlines include Lufthansa, Austrian and United Airlines. Anthony Miller of Media Onboard's business development team says "current users have found the savings to be so significant that it has altered the way that they plan and budget for overseas productions." My suggestion is to visit their website, http://www.mediaonboard.com , and call them to check out their service. If they do what they say they can, their service will be extremely worthwhile. If anyone does try Media Onboard, please let me know how it went.
Transport to and from Airports
If your crew is flying, make sure you budget for the cost of getting them to and from all the airports that they'll be using. These costs can be high in some places, especially if the crew is traveling to several airports on the same trip. Some hotels will provide complementary transport to and from the nearest airport – just make sure you confirm this service and book it in advance. If you're lucky enough to fly business class, some airlines include a limo to and from your hotel. Again, book in advance. If you need to use a taxi, make sure you check what the fare should be from the airport to your destination and make sure the crew knows this before they fly. Ideally, provide the crew with some local currency so changing money does not become a last minute hassle.
Local Equipment Hire Facilities
It's a sad fact but equipment does break down or get lost in transport or stolen. When this happens, it helps a lot if your crew has a list of local gear hire companies ideally with maps on how to get them and a list of kit they offer. Before the crew flies, check with others you know for references of companies operating in the places the crew is visiting or go on the internet to find them. For a quick check, go to http://www.mandy.com . Phone or e-mail these companies before the crew leaves to confirm what they have, what they charge and how you can pay them. The easiest option is to deal with companies that accept credit cards. Also, have your crew take photocopies of your insurance policy pages that outline the equipment hire coverage you have and some business cards of who will be processing payment in the UK if it's not done by the crew on location.
I'm sure much of this is obvious, especially to anyone who's traveled, but we still see things go wrong or budgets unexpectedly increase because some of these tips were not followed. The main points are:
get a carnet if you're flying to a country that requires it
make sure the carnet is stamped and signed by customs every time the equipment is taken into and out of a country
if the country or countries you're visiting do not require a carnet take several pro-forma equipment lists and a C & E 1246 form (except within the EU)
sort out excess baggage arrangements before the crew gets to the airport and try to get the best deal possible
travel as light as you can
do not forget about transport costs to and from airports
identify equipment hire companies operating in the places the crew is visiting
An Addition to Last Month's E-Zine
Mark Holmes of Prokit in London distributes the Wally Dolly and he advised me that the units sold in the UK include four meters of track and a hi hat, rather than just the standard three meters of track.
Last Month's Lyrics
No one got the answer to last month's lyrics question: who wrote: "I've never seen a night so long, as time goes crawling by." The answer is Hank Williams and the song is "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Two people guessed Johnny Cash. He sang the song on one of his last CDs but he did not write it.
This Month's Question
Moving away from lyrics to fiction, who wrote this line: "From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. The first person to e-mail me with the correct answer gets a bottle of champagne. It will not be Dom Perignon but it will be a decent bottle.
And if you have any questions or comments please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
Until next time, happy shooting.
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