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Old November 3rd, 2008, 06:51 AM   #16
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been there?
I've done a few shoots - Mumbai, Bangalore and Goa.

I specifically went with unobtrusive kit (PDX-10, ECM-77, little LED lamp - friends LitePanel I think) as the main issue was to avoid being taken for a Journalist. This profession seemed to be quite possibly the worst case scenario for getting a quick visa. Business visas can take weeks in the UK. Tourist ones can take days or less if you've got the cash.

Paperwork and administration is a national passion, and the folks at Mumbai airport are particularly proficient at it. It seems to boil down to either Keep It Really Simple or Do It Properly. Don't go off half-cocked, so to speak. I could insert anecdote about a team member who almost got banged up because he appeared to be travelling with too many watches (three)...

... Then there's the tales of how many people it takes to move a ladder, the set that was made out of teak, Indian Health & Safety at Work exampes - lamps with bare ended wires held into sockets with matchsticks, Mumbai traffic (it's like brownian motion with 2-stroke cars). Usual rules apply about filming official buildings, police or police-type people, etc. I've been lucky enough to have a great ground agent who can smooth the way in those 'have you got a permit' situations, though they were engaged by my clients.

Another thing that caught out an American colleague - electricity is 230v 50Hz when it's working. Watch your power supplies (his ThinkPad went pop).

If you're shooting on a slightly bigger budget, India's got a huge film industry, so getting lighting, dollies and cranes is easy - though it's mostly of a certain, erm, vintage.
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Old November 4th, 2008, 10:13 PM   #17
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The timing of this post could not have been more perfect for me as I too shall be going to India, in January, probably with a DVX100b, a mic, and a small cheap tripod, as a tourist (who wants to shoot an experimental documentary over four months' time). So, thanks!
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Old December 16th, 2008, 04:50 AM   #18
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A quick note of caution - I recently arrived at Delhi airport with a Z7 in carry on luggage. I passed through customs and immigration fine, but as I was on my way out of the terminal an official (apparently randomly) sent me back to have my luggage scanned again. On seeing the camera the woman on the scanner told me to go back and see the customs people, who had a bit of a think and then told me I had to cough up 36% of the value of the camera. A jetlagged discussion followed and 20 minutes later I was allowed to go with no money passing hands. It seemed to help that I was doing some filming for a charity (semi-true), and asking to see the customs supervisor moved things forward. As ever the golden rule for all border crossings is to remain calm and polite at all times. Still, it was a lucky escape..
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Old December 24th, 2008, 09:39 AM   #19
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Very helpful thread, as I am leaving in 3 weeks to film at Dharamsala and at a yoga ashram in Southern India.
I am carrying an Ex-3, Miller Solo combo, so I have entry worries. I bought a fairly plain looking kata bag instead of my flashy cases. I will try and get the legs into my regular luggage (one checked bag).

I hear that a business or journalist visa is a nightmare hassle - can take 2 months! I have another team member already there, so I will travel alone.

Any more points I should be aware of?
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Old December 26th, 2008, 04:37 PM   #20
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Any more points I should be aware of?
Be aware of local customs and sensitivities; for example: do not pass anything to a local with your left hand. The left hand is used EXCLUSIVELY for something very personal, in terms of personal cleanliness. This would be seen as a very obscene insult.

Also, realize that the caste system is alive and well and that certain persons will not believe that they need to stand in line (or queue as my British friends would have it) and will promptly walk to the front of it. Look around and do as others do.

Take hand sanitizer and use it frequently.

The usual cautions around food and drink. Open it/peel it yourself, bottled water only, well cooked food only, avoid the roadside vendors (even though sometimes that is the most appealing looking food), be aware that eating beef in particular is generally not a good idea due to the reverence of Hindus for cows. In fact, a very large number of Indians are vegetarian.

Don't even TRY to drive yourself. There is a skill and luck that only the locals have that allow them to make their unique form of traffic etiquette work.

Enjoy yourself. We met so many amazing people on our trip.

Get a local "fixer". Trust me.

Sunblock and mosquito repellant are NOT optional. We used Watkins lotion exclusively. High DEET content, easy to apply.
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 06:13 PM   #21
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Hi

It’s my first post on this forum (for a couple of months I’ve been silent observer) so let’s begin!

I am staying in India since August 2008 so I think I can share with you my experiences about this country.

Steve Mullen brought a lot of useful info – thanks for that!!!

First thing – visa.
There are legends and myths about people NOT connected with any bigger TV/film production network who managed to get journalist/business Indian visa. So if you do it on your own – take a risk and go on tourist visa.
As it has been said – look of professional filmmaker with huge metal cases full of equipment is like a magnesium for customs services. Better use soft bags, hide tripods (in parts if possible) to main luggage; you can hide your lenses there also( in safe cases of course). It’s generally safer to take your camera in/as a hand luggage – if anyone have ever seen how Indian airport worker are “taking care of “ any luggage, he/she knows what I’m talking about.
I’m usualy flying with all my basic equipment, and I had only one control – I had shotgun mike in a metal box in main baggage and guys asked me to open bag. “What’s that” they asked, “ Microphone in metal box” I andwered splendidly. And that’s it – no problems.
Now, after terrorist attacks in Mumbai, controls are more strict, but still one could bring (not nessesarily legal) stull through security check.

There are – as with almost everything in India – strict rules about proffesional/official using cameras. More about this you can find i.e. on official Indian Embassy pages, like this:
Embassy of India Berlin

Generally – feature and documentary making in India has to be reported to Government of India minimum one month before arriving to Asia. After paying “Script evaluation fee” of about $200 (for documentary nothing) you are obliged to present Indian authorities you detailed plan for your shooting in India: where are you planning to stay, film, travel; who are you going to meet; how long, why, etc. With some bigger projects ( i.e. feature films) you have to get permission to film in particularly unstable places, regions (i.e. North Eastern India , Kashmir); Indians have right to send with you Officer who’s job is to “help” you with possible problems in field - real reason: control what and where you’re shooting, who’re you meeting and report everything (what can even end with holding your premission!!!) and of course making your life even more difficult.
However, here is the best part – as official text says:

(...)nothing detrimental in the depiction of India or the Indian people shall be shot or included in the film(...)

and your finished film after checking will be approved of disapproved (if it has any scenes which are not common with the interest of the Republic of India, whatever it means).

Check this out: “(...)we further undertake to delete and destroy the portions of the film that may be found objectionable on such scrutiny by the Government of India(...)”.
Hmm, I thought India is a democratic country…<sigh>…

Thus it is better to go to India as “tourist”.
I don’t think that even authors of “Born to Brothels” had any permission – with this kind of scabrous topic there won’t be much left after scrutiny :P
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 06:37 PM   #22
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If you’re planning a small project it is better to take your own equipment to India, because even in big cities there’s a problem with renting it.
Of course if you consider taking cheap tripod – do not do this – you can buy in every bigger photo shop tripod for equivalent of $25.
Lighting equipment has very limited accessibility. In Mumbai it was almost impossible to rent a small light kit. There is no problem with bigger lights (1KW plus!), but I thought that in the capital of Bollywood it would be much, much easier to get any kind of film stuff.

If you really need equipment, and there is nothing to rent – Singapore with loads of stuff is not so far away :P

Shooting – Indians are everywhere and are very curious especially about foreigners with unknown electronics. I heard a story from one friend, that during shots on the beach in Mumbai (2 cameramen, 1 boom operator, 3 guys for lighting, interviewer and actors) there was a gigantic crowd of 300-people (!!!) surrounding and following the crew along the beach. They must have had terrible problems…
In India very simple and innocent situation can easily get out of control, so be very aware what’s going on around you. Two starers can in seconds become furious crowd, so watch out!!!
It’s good to have at least one person speaking Hindi or other local language.

General tips about India you can easily find on travelng portals, usually just follow your common sense.
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 07:24 AM   #23
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Thanks for the good info Daniel.
You confirmed most of what I am thinking - I leave for India in 3 weeks to shoot for a month. I am taking basic stuff - Ex-3, Miller Solo sticks, etc. I will carry the Ex-3 and check the tripod inside a regular suitcase - and check a second bag for my clothes. Once outside the airport, I will pop the tripod back into it's own soft-case and trash the suitcase.
I have a 2nd crew member that could also take the tripod in his case - either way we will split this up.
I shoot in China and Japan every few months, and never have a problem taking pro-looking equipment and cases throught the airport. In fact, China is one of the easiest countries to film.
I will also recruit a local talking person as well - I usually ask in the hotels - quite often its a family member of the hotel owner.
Do you think keeping the same car and driver is a good idea? I will be in Dharamsala for 10 days, then travelling down to South India for 2 weeks.
Again thanks.
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Old January 3rd, 2009, 09:27 AM   #24
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Do you think keeping the same car and driver is a good idea? I will be in Dharamsala for 10 days, then travelling down to South India for 2 weeks.
Again thanks.
We are big fans of retaining a single car and driver as long as practical. It allows for some level of bonding that MAY help you out IF you ever end up in a really bad bit. My driver in Jamaica saved my life. Literally.

As well, makes sure to take at LEAST a change of underwear, socks and T-shirt in your carry on. Wrap the camera with them if you need to. At least that way if you are separated from your checked bag, you can do the in sink laundry thing thing until you and your bag are reunited or you can make it to a local shop for clothes.
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