Written by Kianna Best on Feb 16, 2023. Posted in Interviews

Chief Productions country hop with Qatar Airways

Manchester based Chief Productions set off on a country hopping round of journeys to capture Qatar Airways’ newest on-board safety video. With a network of more than 150 destinations, the airline's production settled in Cape Town, London, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles, Sydney, Maldives and the centre of the worldwide hub, Qatar. Sending Postcards from Qatar to the World is no easy feat. The Location Guide had the pleasure of speaking to director Nate Camponi and executive producer and ceo of Chief Colin Offland to find out just how such an international production was orchestrated.


What was the process for getting 7 locations shot in one month?


NC : Getting a film done in ONE international location can be challenging enough, but shooting over so many locations ultimately comes down to the ability to look far enough into the future to make sure the team in each place has what they need to be a valuable part of the filmmaking process. Sometimes that’s easier said than done...


I’m pretty good at having the whole job in my head, visually, which makes early creative decisions quite straight forward for me, but there’s only so many hours in the day. When you’re essentially making 7 films on the bounce, it quickly becomes about partitioning my time across each section of the shoot to make sure I'm making solid decisions that enable the team to begin shooting. Without that discipline, you just slow the process down.


Throughout the process, the storyboard - all 139 frames of it - was constantly being tweaked and amended to meet various client requirements. This sometimes had rather large knock-on effects creatively, so I had to be in constant communication with the local production companies to reduce the impact of those changes across all the departments and ultimately, the final film.


Colin, my producer, is a bit of a genius when it comes to balancing a schedule that complex, but it just comes down to good old fashioned graft 24/7. There wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t think about how full his phone and inbox must have been when he went to bed every night…



 How did the local film commissions aid filming in the respective countries?


CO: On this occasion we didn’t require any assistance from the local film commissions. Chief and the team have incredibly filmed in over 100 countries and have established trusted fixers and production contacts in most countries, and these people are the most important ingredients to any successful filming overseas. In addition, other than when we were in the Maldives, most of the filming happened in the big film hubs so crew, cast, equipment, art department etc are all readily available via the local production service companies that we hired. In the Maldives we negotiated with the uber luxe private island resort called Soneva Jani to be allowed to stay and film on their island so no external permissions were required. Here we flew with a very small crew out of Doha, and had everything we needed self-contained.



How valuable were the relationships with local production companies in getting this project shot?


NC: Imperative. As the director, there was zero room for error or weak links across the whole schedule, so the local companies were crucial to keeping things moving. We were always thinking two locations ahead about every single detail - from the places we were physically filming, down to the colour of the actor’s shoes.


You need to be able to rely on the talent on the ground to interpret your vision correctly, which can be very tricky when working across multiple timezones. So we needed local companies who could be proactive and ensure we were waking up to creative suggestions that we could feedback on while people slept. It’s actually very efficient once you get the wheels turning, but it’s constant - there’s no time to rest.


It used to be that the production didn’t feel ‘real’ until you landed in whatever country you were filming in and met the line producer and talent on the ground, but Zoom has changed that to a certain extent. You can arrive feeling like you have a bit more of a relationship with the local company, which became more and more comforting the deeper into the shoot we got.



What challenges did you face when having to navigate filming in multiple locations?


NC: It’s all about looking ahead creatively and trying to keep everyone making the same film, which is a huge challenge across all those time zones. You can't lose sight of the bigger picture or make a silly decision because its 1am - you just don’t have the luxury of that.


There were challenges every day, but the biggest one for me was the only one you can’t control – the weather. Colin did a superb job of setting it up in such a way that we had a bit of leeway here and there to give us the best shot at good weather and largely, we were successful. But Sydney had some of the worst rainfall they’ve ever seen whilst we were there - it was torrential and lasted from our initial recce all the way to the shoot, weeks later. It was a bit of a challenge to get our heads around that, but sometimes you get a bit unlucky or the schedule is impossible to amend, and you have to shoot through it, which is what we did. The show must go on.



 With such an extensive travel plan in regards to filming in so many locations in a short period of time, how was the environmental impact controlled?


CO: This is always a concern and on this production there was no alternative viable creative option available but to visit all these destinations. We travelled with the smallest team possible and hired as many local people as possible.

Although I don’t whole heartedly agree with the theory of carbon offsetting, we did donate and cover our tracks this way, however we believe behavioural change is what’s required to confront and tackle these issues.


How were technological arrangements made along the travels?


NC: We sourced as much as we could locally with each production company. However, I really wanted to guarantee visual consistency, which can be tricky when you’re working with different lighting conditions, times of day and locations. We decided to travel with the camera body and lenses to retain the look and feel we’d set at the beginning. The lenses were a set of old Leicas, which can be tricky to source in some countries, so we decided to not risk mixing lenses and to take them with us.

Col and I brought key crew members - production manager, director of photography, focus puller, production designer and editor - to ensure we had control over those elements. Luke, our production manager, assisted Col with logistics. Sean our focus puller made sure the kit was properly managed through airports. Simon Hawken, the DP, worked with each gaffer and lighting team to get the clean, high-key look we wanted. Marc, the production designer, made sure the aesthetic of all the propping and design of each location was retained across 7 different art departments.

Travelling with an editor was something we tousled with for a while, but realised it was really important to be reassured the story was working as we planned. There was zero chance of revisiting any of these places once we left, so we had to wrap each shoot knowing everything was in the can and the story was working. Editors can pair the size of their kit way down now and to a certain extent, work anywhere, so he was hugely valuable to us across the whole project.



When having to stick to the project task at hand, how did you simultaneously maintain the essence of the filmed locations?


NC: We were lucky enough to be given a creative concept that required us to shoot at some of the most recognisable locations in each country we visited. The Tower of London and the River Thames, the stadiums and museums in Doha, the stunning overwater villas of the Maldives, the Ferris wheel and Lions Head in Cape Town, the outdoor pools and Opera House in Sydney, the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur and the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles. It’s pretty hard to lose the essence of the locations when you’re working in undeniably iconic spots!



Images courtesy of Chief Productions


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