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10 Things You Should Know about Shooting in a Hostile Environment

Posted by Brad Spinsby on August 20, 2014

Directors of Photography are often asked to work in challenging locations or in tight spaces, but sometimes the job requires shooting in hostile environments. Some DPs make their career out of shooting in dangerous places and war zones. Here are 10 tips on how to work in a hostile environment.


As with shooting in remote places in the world, a fixer is an important crew member when in a hostile environment. Fixers can help navigate local customs.


The more your crew members are entrenched in local current events the better, especially the fixer. Worldwide news camera operator and Crews Control certified DP Jon Björgvinsson says, “Through the fixer or other possible source, be in touch with the latest development on the ground.


Local travel and a driver is a must. Jon Björgvinsson says, “A good driver and a reliable means of transportation is definitely also an asset if you have to get out of undesirable situation. But often a vehicle that does not attract more attention than the local means of transportation would be better suited than something more sophisticated.”


Danger came come quickly and violently. Be very aware of your surroundings at all times in case there is the need to hide or flee suddenly.


Not all Directors of Photography are comfortable shooting in hostile environments. Choose your DP wisely. Most hostile environments are not comfortable, but the DP needs to be comfortable handling many different situations with each one unique to the circumstance, location, or crowd.


Insurance is very important. Jon states “Have good insurance and, more importantly, keep someone you trust well-informed about whereabouts and any changes you make to your program or itinerary.”


Planning for the worst is the best solution. Carry a medical kit on location wherever you travel. Also make sure you have some first-aid training and know how to use the gear in your medical kit. Medical gear that you don’t know how to use is just dead weight.


Consider your accommodations in a situational basis. Jon Björgvinsson says “Choose carefully where you stay overnight. In some cases being grouped with other members of the press is an asset; in other cases the press is targeted.”


Keep your kit to the minimum and travel with as light of a load as possible. If you can stow some gear in a backpack it will be more beneficial to you in regards to moving around. Be prepared to leave gear behind in the case of a dire emergency because your safety is more important than your equipment.


Make sure to protect your footage and keep it stored in a safe location.

Many times when shooting in a hostile environment experience and gut instincts are what keep the video crew safe. Please share your experiences about capturing stories in hostile environments on our blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn account or Twitter feed.

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