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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old July 4th, 2011, 11:30 PM   #1
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cross-border weddings. hassles?

Hi everyone.

I'm from southern Ontario and I just shot a wedding in Rochester, NY. It was my first out of country wedding and it went off without a hitch.
In the week leading up to the wedding I started getting really nervous thinking about getting rejected at the border and banned or taking away my gear or whatever, basically I was coming up with worst case scenarios and trying to find solutions in very little time. I had an invitation to the wedding, a hotel reservation, and a part-time "real job" I can refer to when asked what I do for a living. The only problem I foresaw was if they decided to randomly search me and find my tripods and stuff and second guess my intentions at this wedding.

Well I crossed the border both ways easy as ever, they didn't even look at the invitation or reservation, just waved me on through. so no harm no foul on that one, but what Im curious about is what you guys do when crossing the border to shoot a wedding? what precautions do you take? have you ever been turned back? is "wedding" a magic word to get you waved through with no hassles?

I feel like I should've just rented all my gear down there and stay an extra day to return it. Kinda a bummer if you want to just show up the night before and shoot and leave that night like I did, its not like its a vacation or anything!

So what're your thoughts on cross-border shooting? What should I keep in mind next time?
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Old July 5th, 2011, 12:20 AM   #2
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

David, I realise your question is aimed specifically at the Canada/USA border and I'll let those qualified reply.

However, if anyone's working outside their base customs jurisdiction (and for this purpose the EU counts as a single jurisdiction - in theory anyway!) the simplest solution is an international carnet. Mind, the word "simplest" is relative because in my experience it's not simple at all Basically you declare all your equipment before leaving base, and obtain an indemnity against any and all customs charges (in the UK it used to be usually through the local Chamber of Commerce). Even with such documentation I've had a crew held in Indian Customs for 3 days, in the CIS (former Soviet Union) for 2 days and in Turkey for 24 hours so it can be messy.

I'm talking history of course and these days with the complications of airlines and cameras etc I'd always recommend renting locally.
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Old July 5th, 2011, 02:02 AM   #3
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

Philip, I am assuming that along with a carnet that your crews had all the necessary visas & work permits. The OP is talking about sneaking into the US to work illegally.
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Old July 5th, 2011, 02:10 AM   #4
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

Nigel, of course, sorry I missed that aspect and concentrated on the equipment side alone.
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Old July 5th, 2011, 07:50 AM   #5
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

I've always wondered about that aspect of it as well. I've never done a "destination" wedding, and would be terrified of getting caught in the lie at the border, being refused entry and thus ruining someone's wedding.

What do people say when asked about the thousands of dollars worth of equipment they're taking over the border? "Oh, just a hobby...no, no, not working..."

Just last week I crossed briefly into the US to take shots of some old houses because I'm involved in a documentary about the builder (who was mostly active in Canada in the 18th C). Just that made the border guy grill us about whether we were getting paid, was this a job, etc, etc. He almost didn't let us in and we were doing nothing illegal.

Scary.
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Old July 5th, 2011, 08:28 AM   #6
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

It's a toss coin when entering the US Border, one thing is very clear though. The US do not want business taken away from them. I managed a pool of technicians in the past and they told me the best answer is " I am supervising a shoot or a set-up with the local Technicians". I guess you can say you are collaborating with a local wedding studio. Some officers would just let you pass through, some would dig in further, which company did you hire locally and for which show. Sometimes I wish Canada has the guts to do the same, a US AV Company can just cross the border, do a show, no questions asked.
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Old July 5th, 2011, 09:08 AM   #7
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Schuurman View Post
So what're your thoughts on cross-border shooting? What should I keep in mind next time?
I turned down a Canadian wedding for this very reason. I don't want to have to sneak across the border to work illegally, and worry about whether I get caught. I don't need work THAT badly, that I will risk prosecution and other ill effects. I've been back and forth over the US/Canadian border many times, and the border patrol is second only to the TSA in terms of pleasantness to deal with (sarcasm).

And I'm not going to subject myself to being fleeced by either government so I can work legally. It's ridiculously expensive.

So to me, it's not worth the hassle legally or illegally.
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Old July 5th, 2011, 06:49 PM   #8
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

Interesting thoughts, basically there doesnt seem to be a decent way to practically take cross-border wedding gigs.

Just to be clear, I never lied to the border guards. I figured it would be in my best interests to have truth to everything I told them so I didn't purjure myself.

has anyone ever shot cross border and rented everything locally?
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Old July 6th, 2011, 05:30 AM   #9
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

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Originally Posted by David Schuurman View Post
Interesting thoughts, basically there doesnt seem to be a decent way to practically take cross-border wedding gigs.
I think there is, play by the rules.

If the provider is of such renown or personally known to the client that they are determined to have them cover the event then it should be made clear to the client that there are procedure and cost implications to working in a different country where there is no lawful right to work. The service provide should make themself aware of those implications.

If on the other hand the provider is commissioned on a lower cost basis which does not include a contingency for lawful entry/working status then it will be a matter of a gamble whether or not they will encounter problems with the border or tax services. Insurance may be invalidated as well if the trip is not fully legitimate.
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Old July 6th, 2011, 11:17 AM   #10
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

Quote:
I think there is, play by the rules.
I, and many others dont see the existing rules/paperwork/taxes/extra scrutiny as practical.
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Old July 6th, 2011, 12:11 PM   #11
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

David,

My experience was not with video but I do still have a foot in the door in the forest industry and was doing some consulting for a US company and was trying to do everything above board. Without rehashing the whole story, the company I was working for had to appeal to customs to explain why the work that I was doing could not be done by an american. I actually did cross and do work for them 6 times (once a month), and on the 7th trip, I ran into border guards that re-interpreted the way I was doing business, and not only refused me entry, but detained me for 4 hours while they fingerprinted, and photographed me etc.,

Bottom line... I would never think about trying it with video gear. Unless you're sneaking in in which case you'd be travelling light. Also if you have liability insurance, I will bet that they will not cover you for any work you do in the US. For example.. say a light stand fell over and wacked a wedding guest on the head...I've had insuance quotes from a lot of companies and it's always a question as to whether you do any work for Americans.
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Old July 6th, 2011, 10:59 PM   #12
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

I go across the border to attend our video association meetings and get grilled every time and asked if I bring any equipment (I don't). Since I do shopping at the same time that's my explanation now. I don't think that there is any legal way of crossing the border to do a wedding. I would imagine that flying to a destination wedding would be a bit different, especially if you're checking in most of your equipment as luggage.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 12:42 AM   #13
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

It's totally ridiculous...

I've posted the question before.
I've phoned up US customs.
You can't take away potential US jobs.

I would gladly pay the taxes if a procedure was in place to allow me to film..

I can't even begin to imagine how film companies manage the hassles...
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Old July 7th, 2011, 12:52 AM   #14
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

For those that do take equipment across the border, be aware that when you re-enter, customs may ask to see documentation that you already had your equipment before your trip. Otherwise, they'll assume you acquired your equipment across the border, and they will tax you for every piece of hardware you have! This happened to a photographer I know.

On a similar note, when my wife and I got married, mother-in-law brought my wife's jewelry over the border. The custom's officer accused mother-in-law of bringing in the jewelry for resale! He then took her to a little room, and emptied and searched all her luggage. He taxed her for all the jewelry, and the bill came out to more than $500. Needless to say, my mother-in-law was furious but couldn't do anything. What a welcome to America!
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Old July 7th, 2011, 01:22 AM   #15
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Re: cross-border weddings. hassles?

In these days of international trade agreements managed by governments and corporations, the only thing that can't be easily transported across US boundaries is a person's own labor. As labor is something produced by people rather than governments and corporations, these restrictions are not so surprising. Still, it is a little surprising how content people are with a double standard that allows material goods to be marketed from one country to another but limits where a person's labor can be marketed.

Hire local camera operators to shoot the wedding according to specifications that you communicate to them in person. You are not working in the country, but buying a service from a local company while there. I think this transaction would be similar to getting a haircut while abroad. Depending on how picky you are with your hair, the level of supervision you would need to supply to the camera operators could be about the same as for the barber.

Would the couple need to pay the camera operators directly for the shoot and you separately for the post work? In this scenario who buys the plane ticket and who pays for your lodging?

Last edited by Eric Olson; July 7th, 2011 at 12:31 PM.
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