Guest Article: Filming Abroad
Enjoy this guest blog post by Aaron Free about the experience of shooting videos while traveling abroad. Want to submit a blog post? Get in touch!
With less than a week to prepare, I was informed that I would be traveling to Mexico to film. I was ecstatic to get to film outside of the country, yet very apprehensive as I had no idea what to expect. The goals of the trip were several: film a yoga series on the beach for one client, film several episodes of a cooking show for another client, gather footage for the development where we were being hosted, and shoot a mini documentary all in one weekend. I was immediately overwhelmed.
The destination was Santo Tomas, Sonora, Mexico. Santo Tomas lies in a secluded area, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Sonoran Desert. This land has a vast and rich history that is too much for me to go into here, but is now an isolated piece of heaven with beautiful condos, houses, and mansions that are available to rent or buy. I was there with a yoga retreat hosted by Santo Tomas Retreats.
I flew from Houston to Phoenix where the retreat met up to caravan down into Mexico. We crammed all of our luggage and film equipment into a small SUV and squeezed into the vehicles. Driving south through the desert was absolutely stunning to me, as I had never been in a desert environment before. Thankfully, I was able to get acquainted with some of the people I would be spending the weekend with on my way down.
After a five-hour drive we arrived at Santo Tomas. The ever stretching desert full of cacti and flowers colliding with the clear blue ocean took my breath away. As soon as I unpacked my gear I was prepping to shoot. I had a lot of ground to cover while I was here. I filmed an interview first with the Founder/Managing partner of Santo Tomas with my lovely director, Leeanne. Halfway through the interview it hit me. YOU are in a foreign country filming as part of your job. This is what you have always wanted. I was overwhelmed with joy and was more motivated than ever to really make this trip worth it.
I hardly slept the whole trip as I wanted to capture every moment. I still do not feel like I had enough time to truly capture the magic of Santo Tomas. I could have spent months there and still feel that way. That was the challenge I experienced. Words, pictures, and film do not do justice to how beautiful and energetic the place is. HOW do you capture a feeling like that?
Filming in the desert had challenges in and of itself. Never have I had to carry gear across rolling sand dunes that reach as high as 60 to 70 feet. I got quite the workout. I was super cautious around the sand and saltwater. Always remembering to rinse off my tripod and any other support rigs after they got near saltwater. The heat was not a major issue due to filming in early April. It was actually a very pleasant 69 degrees during the day. At night it dropped pretty low and I found that I had not packed any type of clothing for the cooler weather. I managed and still enjoyed the nights very much. Being so far away from any light pollution whatsoever led to some intense stargazing sessions, and I even had the pleasure of watching the moon set over the Sea of Cortez- an experience that I will never forget.
In this trip I learned not to be scared. Get out there and film. Nothing can hold you back if you are truly focused. I would have never done this on my own and now it’s all I want to do. Not only did I capture a truly remarkable place, but I met beautiful people that I will never forget. I look forward to filming in many more destinations and learning something from each of them. I will carry this experience with me forever and am eternally grateful for the opportunity.
How do you prepare to film when traveling? Where do you dream of filming? How are you going to make that happen?
Aaron Free is a Cinematographer and Filmmaker with Empire Creative Studios in League City, TX just south of Houston.