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Cole Seidl March 8th, 2010 10:08 PM

Most affordable way for a film crew to travel
Hi there,
I'm currently making the budget for my first feature film. Unfortunately, I decided to make things difficult for myself, and am making a film that requires quite a bit of international shooting.

I am going to shoot US for Marseilles, France, for most of the scenes, but am going to need some basic footage in Marseilles and Cannes. Airfare is quite expensive, even If I only bring my primary actor, DP, and one extra crew member with me, I can only seem to manage for about $6,500. And that's without food or a place to stay.

Does anyone know of a more affordable way to travel to Europe for a small indie film crew.

I thought, perhaps I could convince A shipping tugboat or Oil Tanker to take us along for a cheaper price, but am not entirely sure if that's even possible.

Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Brian Drysdale March 9th, 2010 03:25 AM

Flying is the cheapest method, time of year and how far in advance you book make a big difference. There are budget airlines which operate in Europe, which may prove cheaper. when you're across the Altantic. You book these flights on line, but be aware of hidden extra costs like baggage (anything that isn't cabin baggage with some airlines), taxes, etc these can quickly add up. If you plan to use these, you can fly into London, Dublin etc rather than just into Paris or the south of France.

Camping may be the cheapest for accommodation.

Allan Black March 9th, 2010 03:51 AM

Three words .. green screen.


Richard Alvarez March 9th, 2010 07:56 AM

How will your audience know for certain - the actors are IN Marseilles?

I'm trying to understand a scene that ABSOLUTELY requires you shoot in Marseilles. As you have already determined - it's possible to substitute American locals for most of what you need. ANY interior can be built or duplicated in a soundstage. Establishing footage from virtually anywhere on the planet can be found or purchased. Is there some specific FAMOUS IDENTIFIABLE spot that you MUST shoot your actors on? If so - do you have permission to shoot there?

Best bet - rewrite the scene.

Cole Seidl March 9th, 2010 09:31 AM

We're shooting all the French interiors U.S. and We're shooting the majority of the exteriors U.S. There are simply a couple location that I can not get in the U.S. Which are key to the story.
And ironically, I am actually using greenscreen for a different short scene in spain.

Camping sounds like it would be the best bet for accommodations, as long as I can find camping grounds. Thanks for the info everyone, I'll search around for some of the European flights, and am already in the process of rewriting as much as I can.

Allan Black March 9th, 2010 02:23 PM

I wouldn't go there, weather conditions for a start. Try getting emails off to outfits like this .. note Paris and Marseilles, note 'great sense of humour.'

Froggie Production - film production services in France


Cole Seidl March 9th, 2010 03:01 PM

Thank you for that. I think that will be extremely helpful.

Bill Thesken March 10th, 2010 01:48 AM

Check out a mini van. It's a ride, hotel, and storage for gear bundled in one.
Hopefully you're filming a comedy, since we all liked the 'Merry Christmas, Craig!' short.

Richard Gooderick March 10th, 2010 02:30 AM

Flights from London to Nice can be quite cheap.

You want to make sure that you don't end up in Cannes when there is a major festival or market on. The prices shoot up.

February is the cheapest time of year which is not a lot of help to you now, unless you can shoot next year.

I wouldn't camp. Where are you going to put your kit? What happens if it pours with rain? You could piss your crew off big time.

Maybe look for an apartment that you can all stay in and cook your own food. There are a lot that get rented out during festivals so if there isn't a festival on (I'm talking about Cannes) you should be able to get a good deal. And rent a minibus for transport. I don't think you can do it cheaper than that.

My sister just cycled round the world and is presently on a freighter across the Atlantic. You could do that but it would be more expensive than flying I think!

Brian Drysdale March 10th, 2010 10:48 AM

I'd only regard my camping suggestion as a last resort if you're really stuck, an apartment (perhaps away from a main resort) would be much better and a hired vehicle (which you need anyway with gear, otherwise you're into taxis). Any camping should be done at a proper site, with a large tent(s).

If you really need to do the camping, make sure the crew and cast know and discuss it with them and how the other options have fallen through. It's only something for extremely low budget films with people who volunteer to rough it. Surprises will make people extremely unhappy. Crews normally expect hotel or bed & breakfast accommodation, ideally without sharing rooms.

Gabor Heeres March 10th, 2010 10:54 AM

Cole, do you have any choice on your departure airport? I can have a lookup for you how to fly cheap. And about a cheap but safe way to stay: what about youth hostels?

Paul R Johnson March 10th, 2010 04:20 PM

Don't forget that food and drink is much more expensive than the US, and fuel is expensive too - not as bad as in England where petrol is around $8-9 a gallon!

A typical restaurant meal for one will run out at $35 or so, and even a McDonalds meal will run about $8!

Wherever you stay, you need mains electricity (which is 230V 50Hz)

Budget proper hotels will be around $70-100 per night for a room, Branded hotels will be $120+

I don't think there is a budget way to do this?

Cole Seidl March 10th, 2010 05:43 PM

I appreciate all the feedback.
I know the two other crew members rather well, so sharing accommodations will be do-able.
We'd be leaving from Minneapolis, which is unfortunate, right smack dab in the center of the continent.
This is going to be quite a challenge, however, I'm still confident it can be done.

And Bill, Thanks for the van idea. That may be my best option. Unfortunately, it won't be a comedy, but hopefully it'll still keep peoples interest.

Richard Gooderick March 10th, 2010 05:47 PM

Minneapolis. I spent a summer there as a student. Painting clapboard houses. A wonderful city.
Regarding food. If you use village restaurants and go for the set menu they can often be very reasonably priced and often very good. You may be pleasantly surprised.
The whole area is one of the nicest parts of the world. If your experience of French culture is limited you will be in for a treat.

David W. Jones March 10th, 2010 06:03 PM

Since you are asking these questions here, I'm assuming you have never shot a film in another country. Make sure you go through proper procedures with your gear and film permits before you even dream of going there for a shoot, or you may be in for a big surprise.

Just a thought... Why not write & shoot something you can actually afford to shoot?

All the Best!

Cole Seidl March 10th, 2010 07:05 PM

I wrote the screenplay not planning on making the film myself, but rather to enter into contests and just to have something else under my belt. But now, I'm kind of just looking forward to the challenge. I did write something a little out of my budget range, but it's not a massive leap, (by that I mean it's not an action/sci-fi adventure) It's pretty subdued, and pretty manageable. Except of course for this one obstacle.

Thanks for the feedback.

Richard Alvarez March 10th, 2010 11:54 PM

I'd still like to know what location is aboslutely necessary. Something that ANYONE who sees your film will Immediately recognize as Marseilles? Some image that universally comes to mind whenever anyone sees it? Something iconic like Big Ben, The Eiffel Tower, The Taj Mahal? What in the world would that be? Please elaborate.

Brian Drysdale March 11th, 2010 04:01 AM

A pretty common method is to use local people as crew. A good DP should be able to match the shooting style of your US DP. This means that you just need the actor and yourself to travel.

This happens all the time on major feature films.

Cole Seidl March 11th, 2010 11:18 AM

It is not that I am necessarily looking for a specific iconic image that people will relate to Marseilles, there are just a couple locations there (I was there a year ago, and I scouted them then) that are quite integral to a lot of themes in the story. I very well could shoot somewhere else, but I feel that the story would lose a lot it's heart if I did. It's really more of a picky directorial decision than a visual necessity.

I am hoping to using a couple good local people as crew. And luckily for me, the visual style of the scenes in France, is actually quite different from the scenes in the U.S. So I don't even have to worry about trying to recreate them.


Gabor Heeres March 11th, 2010 12:07 PM

Cole, when will the shoot be?

Ed Kukla March 12th, 2010 06:25 AM

do you really need the talent in these shots? If not then you can buy stock footage and not go at all.

Richard Alvarez March 13th, 2010 07:35 PM

You already have permission to shoot in these locations?

Philip Howells March 15th, 2010 05:02 PM

IMHO Richard's is the most important question raised so far. I have a home in France and one thing anyone planning to shoot anything outdoors in France should be aware of is that there's a popular mythology about the right people have to the copyright in their face.

I don't know what the law actually is and as far as I know there isn't an equivalent piece to Philip Bloom's piece on public/private shooting in the UK. However, anytime you lift up anything other than a compact camera be prepared to fight off rip off artists wanting money.

Rig a steadicam or put down legs and I think you'll need some permissions if the place you're in is public.

And finally remember that Marseilles has a not undeserved reputation. When they made French Connection they didn't stick a pin in a map of France to choose the place.

Finally just to add to Bryan's excellent suggestions re budget airlines, remember that all airlines but those especially don't care for baggage - seriously consider hiring your gear locally. I no longer do such jobs but for the past 10 years or more I never took anything standard away with me - always rented it on site. If you don't speak the local patois, the renter will often also be a good go-between.

Gabor Heeres March 16th, 2010 04:58 AM

Cole, just for your information. On a Dutch website I read today's news that lowcost carrier Sun Country Airlines starts flights from Minneapolis to London Stansted Airport with a fuelstop in Gander, Canada, from the 11th of May. From Stansted you have several flights every day with European lowcost carriers Easyjet (to Nice) and Ryanair (to Marseille). Check it out as it is probably your cheapest way into Marseille.


Richard Alvarez March 16th, 2010 08:35 PM

Cole, sometimes you have to put on your PRODUCER'S hat, and tell the DIRECTOR he can't have what he wants... it's not in the budget. Then tell the Director that you respect his creativity and you have GREAT CONFIDENCE that he will find a way to tell the SCREENWRITER to rework the scenes around what you have.

It helps if you can do this in the shower - so no one will hear you.

Dan Brockett March 16th, 2010 09:01 PM

Hi Cole:

I shot a project in the South of France last year. Frankly, I don't see how one could do what you are trying to accomplish on the budget you have available. I was shooting a doc with a consumer looking camera as well and I agree, if you are going to go "official" with lights, a crew, tripods, etc. this is going to cost you a pretty penny as well as a lot of red tape. That was one surprise I took from France, I thought people would be a lot more laissez faire about shooting there as they were in the UK when I shot there.

You will definitely need your own vehicle, public transportation in the Cannes/Nice area was more crowded than Manhattan. Trying to do that with gear would be a joke.

Don't forget to factor in road tolls, they are quite expensive and really add up if you are covering large portions of the area. Fuel, last Summer, was about U.S. 5.00 per gallon for diesel. Food is what will also kill your budget. Rent a place with a kitchen and go to the supermarket, that is what we did and we ate very well for not very much money. Don't forget, the entire Cannes/Nice area is the playground of the rich, but not nearly as much so in Marseilles. Are you only shooting in Marseilles? Or all over the south?

I learned that the only ones more exacting about their permits than the French would be the Germans.

I wish you luck but it is going to be difficult to pull off.


Sareesh Sudhakaran March 19th, 2010 02:12 AM

Are these scenes the most important to your story? if not, don't let the 'directorial voice' talk. Just divide your total budget by your scenes and then figure out if these particular scenes are eating up too much of your budget, time and sanity. This exercise will let you know if you really really want to take that effort.

I'm sure with a little bit of scouting you'll find the same location and mood close by - for less than half the cost. this cost saving will also allow you to focus more on the acting and being more relaxed in production. Your sense of undertaking challenges won't be always appreciated by your cast and crew. Keep this in mind, and don't be surprised when you are left alone when the s**t hits the fan.

I would stick to the advise given above, and on my own experiences shooting in multiple locations on a budget - you'll get your backgrounds, but your foregrounds will let you down when you sit with your editor in post production.

Rewrite the script. All the best.

Cole Seidl March 19th, 2010 01:07 PM

Thanks everyone, for the info, links, and suggestions. I do appreciate it.
I will find a way to shoot without the travel if absolutely necessary, however, I do want to make the best movie possible, and if there is a way to make it work I will.

Thanks again,

David Heath March 19th, 2010 01:47 PM


Originally Posted by Gabor Heeres (Post 1500232)
From Stansted you have several flights every day with European lowcost carriers Easyjet (to Nice) and Ryanair (to Marseille). Check it out as it is probably your cheapest way into Marseille.

I'm not sure how much equipment you are intending to bring over, but a few words about baggage.

Firstly, airlines such as Ryanair seem to hate baggage. Or at least, they certainly charge heavily for it - you get no checked allowance at all for the basic fare, not even a small suitcase. They only allow each passenger to check in two items MAX, at a rate of 15 per item per flight, and a max weight of 15 kg per bag. Exceed the weight, and they will charge you a further 20 PER KILOGRAM for excess - so 2 20 kg bags will cost 230 per flight. See Checked Baggage Allowance and Ryanair Fees for details. By the time you take all the extras into account (checking in fee, administration fee, no meal included.....) "low cost" airlines can end up more expensive than a conventional carrier - it's how they make a profit. Be absolutely sure you take all extras into account when budgeting.

Secondly, for professional filming equipment, you should officially have a carnet to take it between the US and Europe. (An export/import document.) The question then is what constitutes "professional filming equipment". A single soft bag with small camera won't get noticed the way half a dozen flight cases (lights, tripod, sound, batteries.....) will. Just be aware of it......

Graeme Hay March 21st, 2010 05:08 PM

I don't think flying a crew to France is reasonable, if you absolutely need your actor in france, just send them and hire someone to do the shooting. Yeah you won't have direct control over what happens (you can call it and perhaps get video quickly sent in low-res) but its expensive to fly and visit another country.

Now that said I travelled (for my own enjoyment) to Europe in September and took over 5000 photos of everything. Now I'll greenscreen in those places if I need to, sure it will be a bit corny but a 10MP photo is larger than 1080p by a long shoot so people aren't going to notice unless the background isn't suppose to be static.

Sorry, I didn't visit Marseilles.

As for people in the shot = September was pretty low in tourists, plus that is what photoshop is for.

Kenneth Burgener April 13th, 2010 08:23 AM

Have you looked into home exchange? I went to Seattle for three weeks, we exchanged houses and cars. Very cheap way to go. look at HomeLink USA International home exchange, house swap, homeexchange information


Cole Seidl April 13th, 2010 08:50 AM

Yeah... that's a good idea. I will definitely look into that.

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