Guest blog by Marvin Blunte
Filming in any location can be difficult, but the jungle always adds another layer of complexity. I am currently shooting in the Thai Jungle during monsoon season and I wanted to pass along the following ten tips to anyone considering filming in similar conditions.
- Get your jabs.
It doesn’t matter if it is in the jungle of Thailand or the jungle of Africa, there are diseases there you definitely don’t want to catch. Ask your doctor what shots you will need before travelling. Your doctor will also be able to tell you if you need to take Malaria pills based on your location. Malaria pills are not fun, but then again neither is Malaria.
- Bring Desiccant Packets.
Jungle usually means hot, wet and humid. None of these are particularly good for sensitive camera and audio equipment. Bring Desiccant packets (a.k.a. Silica gel) to put in your gear cases and let them suck up the moisture. You can usually find them in camera stores such as B&H.
- Bring Rain Gear.
Somehow people always forget about this one. Your expensive camera and audio equipment is not waterproof. If you don’t have fancy store bought rain gear, garbage bags and elastic bands usually do the trick just fine. Pack a bunch of them.
- Pack some unlubricated condoms.
No respectable audio gentlemen would be caught in the jungle without at least a few dozen. Use these to protect your audio transmitting mic packs. As soon as it starts to rain everyone always runs to cover up the gear, but they always forget about the subject that is wearing a mic dancing around in a puddle. Drop your mic pack in an unlubricated condom and avoid the water damage insurance claim later.
- Bring a tent.
If you and your crew are sleeping outdoors this is a no brainer. But if you are sleeping indoors or in a covered shelter you should still bring a portable mosquito tent. Not only will it protect you from mosquitos, but it will protect you from all of the other things lurking in your room like giant spiders, flies, lizards, ants, squirrels etc…I use one from a company called Sans Bug. Literally one of the best investments I have ever made.
- Bring extra everything.
There is nothing worse than having a great shoot day thwarted by a bad cable or missing screw. In a remote jungle this problem multiplies itself by ten. You might not be able to afford an extra camera body, but you can probably spring for some extra coax cable, ¼ inch screws, XLR cables etc… Your $20,000 camera package is kind of useless if you lose the screw for your tripod plate. Pack as much gear minutia that you can possibly fit in your bag.
- Bring a GoPro.
Documentaries are a slave to the action and the weather. No amount of rain gear on your fancy camera is going to protect it in a torrential downpour. So what should you do if something important happens? Get down and dirty with a GoPro. Normally they are used as specialty action cameras but they can save the day in a pinch. They are relatively inexpensive, water proof, and surprisingly good in low light. You should always have one standing by.
- Bring a Headlamp and a Multi Tool.
You would be surprised how much you will use a headlamp and a decent leatherman. Seriously, don’t film in the jungle without these two items. In fact, don’t film anywhere without these two items – ever.
- Bring the right footwear.
The word “jungle” is a pretty broad term so it might seem tricky to plan for the appropriate footwear. You are pretty much always covered with a good pair of waterproof hiking boots and a pair of closed toe water shoes like Teva’s.
- Have an emergency plan.
Let’s face it, things can happen. Be prepared for the worst at all times. Know your closest hospital and have a plan to get there if need be. If you are filming in an area without cell reception, spend the money for a satellite phone in case you find yourself in a jam. Make sure you know how to identify your location and have someone that can help on speed dial.
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Onwards and upwards!