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Old 02-08-2010, 01:59 PM   #1
LastChancey
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Guerilla Shooting in Nairobi

Hi, indietalk! This is my first post, but I've hovered around for a few days.

So I moved from the L.A.-area to Nairobi, Kenya a few months ago for a missionary job. I'm planning on shooting a feature in the area in December 2010, and have already acquired excited actors (who will work for free!), and am getting commitments on a very basic crew who will also help with security, as some of the areas we'll be shooting in are rough neighborhoods (for example: Mitumba, the largest slum in Africa). Anyway, all technical details are coming together slowly but surely, and meanwhile, I have a question for those of you who have done low-budget work guerilla-style.

The majority of the story takes place in city streets, slums, third-world housing complexes, etc., and I'm 100% confident that I won't get any hassle about permits/waivers from the police. That's just not how they roll down here, unless you've got a nice, fat budget and you're waving your own flag, in which case you're not going to be filling out any paperwork - you're just going to be slipping bribes, and grumbling at the same time. Which I am absolutely not going to do. However, while I am confident that I can actually make the film without legal hassle, I'm wondering if this will come back to haunt me if/when I am trying to get into film festivals/distribution deals.

I read some article online of questionable authenticity that said there are a few companies that will take a guerilla film of that sort under their wing, but I have trouble believing that anyone is going to risk getting their ass tangled up in a lawsuit with some Parks&Rec. hotshot who spotted their favorite statue in the background of a cheap porno. Purely speculative, that was.

So - will I have to go door-to-door with my guerilla-made flick or is anyone going to give it a look?
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Old 02-08-2010, 04:36 PM   #2
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Old 02-08-2010, 05:01 PM   #3
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Wow, your ambitious. Its not clear if you have lots of LA experience or if your a complete noob.

Welcome

oh, and bless you for you service.
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Old 02-09-2010, 01:13 PM   #4
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I don't know if I'll end up double-posting here... I already tried to respond to this, and got the "a moderator must approve this" window, but after a day, nothing seems to have posted. I'll see if this one goes through.

In response, I must be honest with you - most of my movies have been 3-10 minute shorts, and although I've tried to be ambitious with my scripts and photography, I'm not terribly proud of most of my work. Most of the time, I've relied on family and friends for all my cast/crew, and as such, a lot of potentially awesome shoots have been ruined by people showing up late (or not at all) and using up my window of access to certain equipment or locations, and by plain bad acting. But I do think that I have a good sense of photography, and I know you can't determine anything by reading this on a forum, but I know that I have the imagination and determination to combine riveting story elements and unique visual technique to get a cool movie. I've been writing short stories, novels, and web stuff for 10 years now, so the screenwriting process comes pretty naturally to me. I've only been seriously pursuing film for a few years, and only in the last several months have the stars aligned to the magical place of having FREE access to all the equipment and talent I could ask for in a low-budget production.
For instance, on the missions compound where I live, there's a lumber workshop (where I have already designed/built my first dolly) and a metal workshop (which I'm using to design one of those cheap DIY "steadicams"), a ton of great, high-watt stage lights complete with powerful portable generators, a fleet of trucks and vans for transportation and traffic shots, a drama team with some really talented unknown actors, and a lot of locals who are more than willing to run security and scout locations with me for free (or maybe the bus fare of less than one dollar USD). On top of that, all my catering needs are covered by the compounds's cafeteria, which serves decent food all-you-can eat everyday for guests and employees alike. Also, there's a huge computer workshop where I can get as many monitors, keyboards, and hard drives as I need for editing.
So all of my budget (about $250 USD, which goes a much longer way in Kenya than in the US) is reserved for transportation, paying people who need to get paid, and any minor software/plug-in purchases that might be necessary in post. ALL FOR FREE, provided I pick the right times and dates to go around asking for favors and getting my hands dirty in said workshops.
I basically wrote a story AROUND what I see and what I have. It's about real life, not terribly sensationalized, and while there are some demanding action scenes, I have the luxury of lots of time for rehearsal. My actors live nearby, if not on the same compound, and work in relative proximity to me, so when I want to rehearse a scene or even do some basic choreography, we have as many weeks as we need to do that. Like I said, my shooting schedule begins and ends in December, and everything else is just: 1) finish writing, 2) cast minor roles, 3) scout precise locations, and 4) work out the scheduling.
So, anyway, I hope that relieves some of your concern over my noobiness. Yeah, I'm not the most experienced, but I have so many incredible resources at my fingertips that I'd hate to not make full use of them and get back home to the US in the next few years and say to myself, "damn, I wish I'd been more ambitious."

At any rate, my question still stands - and I just realized that there's a "festivals" thread, although I'm still not sure this applies there - with such a guerilla/undercover approach to filmmaking, will any distributors or festivals look my way twice? I feel it worth mentioning that I AM planning to shoot on handycam HD, but if it's 100% worth it to up the ante in the camera arena, I do happen to know that the only RED rental agency in all of East Africa is a few minute's drive away. I don't even want to THINK about their rates, but if a movie shot in HD doesn't stand a chance, I'd have to consider raising enough funds for a condensed 1-2 week shoot renting the RED.
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Old 02-09-2010, 01:15 PM   #5
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*sorry technical problems*
the one real technical hurdle to overcome is that the compound doesn't have high-speed internet. Go figure.

Last edited by LastChancey; 02-09-2010 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 02-12-2010, 11:52 AM   #6
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That sound like a great situation, with enough risk to make it very exciting for a young guy willing to take risks.

Seems to me that you might be tempted to be lazy in pre-production planning... as everything is "easy access" ... you might not be as detailed oriented as you were when you had to be extra careful with every moment.. But thats just how I think I would react in your situation, might be different for you.

As to your original question.. I have NO idea of how filming on the edge of legality might be viewed by potential production companies...

You could be sure to keep recognizable images from your film to reduce the risk.. but other than that.. meh..
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Old 02-12-2010, 11:57 AM   #7
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I work for a company that does business in countries where "governmental ethics" aren't quite the same caliber as the U.S. That said, my company is very ethical, we end up spending MORE money for services than our competition because we will NOT work in the "wink and a nod" mode. If you want to cover your butt, you might take the same approach.. just because you CAN do some shooting by having the guard turn his back for $20, doesn't mean that you SHOULD. Likely you can get the permits above board, but will still have to deal with unethical individuals at low levels..
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Old 02-12-2010, 01:37 PM   #8
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Good advice. Actually, the missionary organization I work for has a "no bribery" policy, and we are expected to stick to that even in the most extenuating of circumstances. For instance, if you get pulled over without your seatbelt on, the policeman will always offer to cleanse your record with a few thousand shillings, with the alternative being spending a night in a Kenyan cell. Not a nice way to spend a night, but we're expected to take the fall. So I have no intentions whatsoever of doing anything illegal, but doing things hyper-legally can lead to bribery on even higher levels. If you go to a regional manager and ask to use his parking lot for a scene, he might ask you for 10,000 shillings whereas if you just showed up, filmed your scene, and scrammed, he wouldn't think twice about it. So I suppose I'll continue researching this issue in relation to festivals/production companies, etc.
The absolute worst thing that can happen is that I have an unfinished five-minute example of how NOT to make a low-budget movie, but it would still be far more gain than loss, since it costs me next to nothing, anyway. And the experience alone would probably greatly improve whatever my next effort would be.

In terms of pre-production, I'm afraid you pegged me. I knew going into this that I'm the sort of guy who just dives head-first into a big project and drowns. I hate diagramming scenes, scouting locations, etc. BUT I've forced myself to slow down, write the script, and study movies by directors I admire. In doing so, I've actually found myself ENJOYING pre-production. The conceptual phase alone is very exciting, and as I'm beginning to move into the commitment phase of getting actors, equipment, locations, and consultants together, the excitement is really starting to build. I'm pretty good at freehand drawing, so I'm looking forward to putting together a storyboard, diagramming my camera setups, and especially plotting the entirety of a chase sequence in downtown Nairobi (mixed with shots from lower-key locations where I can get away with more). I'm also a fairly gifted musician, having played in some major symphonies with some players from around the world, so I'm planning to compose some of the more violent score pieces (I'm a percussionist), and outsource the softer pieces to some colleagues who play stringed instruments professionally. The only element of pre-production that I'm not sure how to handle is scheduling. I would, in a perfect world, shoot the whole film in December, but that would mean that my actors stay relatively close during the holidays rather than visit family and friends in the interior of the country. So I will try to get as many shots done in as short of a time as possible, but shoot the less critical stuff before and after as pickups. But December is still 10 months away, so I have a long time to get this plan ironed out.
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Old 03-07-2011, 08:15 AM   #9
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I'm in New England, film student and screenwriter, wish I had the funds to go to Africa I don’t right now. I have a feature length narrative film coming up in the next few years in Kenya and Nigeria. I’ll go then wish I could go to a temperate jungle.

On another note, can anyone film an event that potentially will occur in June in Nairobi? A migration of wildlife.
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Old 03-07-2011, 03:14 PM   #10
licenseless
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LastChancey View Post
Good advice. Actually, the missionary organization I work for has a "no bribery" policy, and we are expected to stick to that even in the most extenuating of circumstances. For instance, if you get pulled over without your seatbelt on, the policeman will always offer to cleanse your record with a few thousand shillings, with the alternative being spending a night in a Kenyan cell. Not a nice way to spend a night, but we're expected to take the fall. So I have no intentions whatsoever of doing anything illegal, but doing things hyper-legally can lead to bribery on even higher levels. If you go to a regional manager and ask to use his parking lot for a scene, he might ask you for 10,000 shillings whereas if you just showed up, filmed your scene, and scrammed, he wouldn't think twice about it. So I suppose I'll continue researching this issue in relation to festivals/production companies, etc.
The absolute worst thing that can happen is that I have an unfinished five-minute example of how NOT to make a low-budget movie, but it would still be far more gain than loss, since it costs me next to nothing, anyway. And the experience alone would probably greatly improve whatever my next effort would be.
.
just a heads up... i am sure you have traveled before... but the idea of NOT paying a bribe to me in other countrys is not that good of an idea

first off... just from my experiences and many of my friends who do the same thing as me... Bribes are there to remind you that you are not at home in your country...

I think it is disgusting... but (i dont know how kenya is) in india the phillipines and many other country's in between if you dont pay a bribe... spending a night in jail... might be the least of your worries...

a good friend of mines wife is from india... and since he likes nice clothes and watches... he has to go buy by cheap crap just to go to india with his wife... she is an "untouchable" and he is american... if he wore his normal clothes it would be possible that he get asked for money out side of town... (her family lives in some remote area in the mountains were floors are dirt) he has been forced to give his watch up and his shoes before... and now he doesnt go there with anything of value...

living in the middle east showed me that 20 riyals (like 5 bucks) is worth handing over to a witness after some one hits your car in an accident... both times this happened i was still in the right... and the witness knew this... but because i am not muslim... if the witness didnt speak up i would have had to pay full damages...

just understand... bribes aren't what people think bribes are... bribes are there because of (for a lack of better words) racism...
you are white... and from a 1st world country... and you are not in a 1st world country any more and you will be expected to give your money away because you have more than you need already...

its no joke on the racism part... my good friend from japan is of philipino decent... he is 100 percent american... a us soldier at that hahahahah... but because he looks like he could be a local hire when we went to qatar... he was always told to get out of the way... even if he was standing next to me talking to me... if i was in the way it would have been... "excuse me sir"

just be very freaking carefull if you plan on not paying bribes...

i cant stress this enough... the horror stories i have been told really really are true... and some of the times i think to my self... why the F$&# didnt he just give him the 20 bucks... thats all it would have been...

sorry to take away from your story ... but i am really hoping you take what i say into consideration...

especially in the slums... just have bribe money in your sock for that final oh sh!t moment if you are back into a corner... or just keep it in your show to remind your self to run faster... but please dont keep it there long enough to end up on al jazeera

good luck man...

Quote:
Originally Posted by wheatgrinder View Post
I work for a company that does business in countries where "governmental ethics" aren't quite the same caliber as the U.S. That said, my company is very ethical, we end up spending MORE money for services than our competition because we will NOT work in the "wink and a nod" mode. If you want to cover your butt, you might take the same approach.. just because you CAN do some shooting by having the guard turn his back for $20, doesn't mean that you SHOULD. Likely you can get the permits above board, but will still have to deal with unethical individuals at low levels..
it happens... its unfortunate... but it happens...

Last edited by licenseless; 03-07-2011 at 03:23 PM.
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