“I am with the production team at 60 Second Docs. We recently learned about your story of how you two were able to save and invest your money to the point where you could retire very early. We were absolutely amazed and know our audience would love to learn more about you, so we’d like to make you the subject of our next short documentary…if you are interested, let me know.”
When this e-mail dropped into our inbox, our first thought was “Wait. We’re nomadic. How exactly are they going to film us?”
Turns out, being nomadic turned out to both good and bad. Good because this would be their first international shoot and the amount of cool travel shoots would be one of a kind. Bad because, well, apparently, if you’re trying to film internationally with an overseas film crew, all the while dealing with the language barrier, time difference, legalese and paperwork, an international shoot quickly turns into a logistical nightmare.
Let me back up a bit.
Before we agreed to the film shoot, we did some research into 60 Second Docs—turns out they specialize in creating compelling short documentaries, averaging 7.9 million views per video across all social media platforms. Their motto is “Life. One minute at a time.”
Awesome. It’s going to be a simple, 60 second documentary, easy peasy. No big deal right?
Even though the final product is just 60 seconds long, the actually filming happened over 2 whole days in Aveiro, Portugal, and the prep work that went into producing it stretched out over a two whole MONTHS! And this doesn’t even include the time it took to edit, cut, and polish the whole thing after the shoot.
I had no idea that for every second you see on screen, there’s easily 100X the time going into creating it. I have so much respect for filmmakers now.
Wanderer was just as shocked as I was. Neither of us could’ve predicted the sheer amount of unused footage, logistics, and paper work that went into this. To add to all that complexity, we are a moving target. That meant we would travel through 5 different cities over the span of two months before the team got the greenlight and logistics sorted out to film.
Our director, Tim, spent 8 hours on Christmas day talking to lawyers and sorting out contracts, trying to work out a deal with a local Portuguese film crew, only to have it all fall apart at the last second.
On our end, we were scrambling around, scoping out filming locations and trying to get release forms from restaurant owners and our Airbnb host.
It all finally came together near the end of January, and Tim flew in the day before the filming to walk us through the schedule.
I was expecting an hour or two of filming in 2 or 3 filming locations. We ended up filming from for 13 hours (7am to 8pm)—over 12 different filming locations!
It was the first time since we retired that we had to set an alarm. So needless to say, I was pretty sure I was going to be a zombified, incoherent mess. But surprisingly, I felt pretty energized the whole day.
I’m not going to bore you with every little detail, but I will tell you about the surprising lessons I learned from behind-the-scenes of an international film shoot:
Lesson #1: 99% of documentary footage isn’t used
Since the shoot was international, Tim had to get as much footage as he could, because after he went back to L.A there would be no chance for do-overs. That meant getting hours and hours of footage, knowing that he wouldn’t even be using 99% of it.
Apparently, when it comes to making a documentary, compared to a scripted film, there’s way more unused footage, because you need to capture everything then sort through the pile to pull out the story. And you have no idea the direction it’s going to go until you try it.
As someone who’s an A-type, obsessive planner, the idea of doing work, and then having 99% of it get thrown out completely messed with my head. I’m so in awe of what Tim does, and I’m 100% sure there’s no way in HELL I’d ever be able to do it.
Lesson #2: Being the “talent” isn’t always glamorous
Lights, camera, action! Getting to talk about yourself in front of a camera, while bystanders watch and speculate over whether you’re the next Jennifer Lawrence, is just about the most glamorous, ego-boosting thing ever right?
Well, yes and no. While it does boost your ego to be filmed, it’s also really REALLY embarrassing. Like, a-whole-room-of-people-just-heard-me-pee embarrassing. Yeah. That happened.
Because what I didn’t realize is that, being filmed for 13 hours requires me to be wired up to a lapel-microphone—which means it’s a huge pain in the ass to get unwired every time you need to go to the bathroom. And despite being told by the sound technician he’s heard some pretty bizarre “secret” conversations and bodily functions throughout his career, I still forgot to disconnect the mic one time when I had to run to the bathroom between takes. So yeah. Super embarrassing.
It also didn’t help that Wanderer kept whispering things like “you look ravishing—and by that I mean I’m going to ravish you later..” when he thought the camera wasn’t rolling, only to have the sound tech say, “Ahem. I heard that.”
If you ever get filmed, make sure you DISCONNECT your mic whenever nature calls or your stupid hubby thinks he’s being funny.
#3 Drones make everything better
When Tim first told us he needed to secure a drone for the shoot, I thought it was overkill. But when the drone technician (yes, they actually hired one), started operating the thing and taking footage, we were blown away by all the cool shots he got. Even though 99% of the shots didn’t make it in, the drone shots sure did.
No wonder every time we stopped to figure out the next steps at each film location, the drone technician would say, “you know what this scene needs?”
(everyone in unison while rolling their eyes) “What?”
Him: “A drone shot!”
Apparently, when you’re a drone technician, every single problem in life can easily be solved by a drone. Who knew?
#4: Having a film crew follow you around automatically gives you credibility
I was amazed by the number of people who took photos of us getting filmed, even though they had no idea who we were. Which just goes to prove, if you have a camera pointed at you, people automatically think you’re a big deal even when you’re not.
In fact, after the filming we got an e-mail from a new Portuguese reader asking us to analyse their finances. Apparently, they had seen us getting filmed, and out of curiosity asked one of the crew members why. After hearing our story, they jumped on our blog and reached out to us.
#5 FIRE is spreading—even to the film crew
Brad and Jonathan from ChooseFI like to say “the FIRE is spreading, my friends” and they’re right.
After making the Playing with FIRE documentary , crew members on that project reported massive changes in their lives. Some were inspired to pay off their student loans, others increased their savings rates, and some simply said “Holy shit. I need to get my finances together.”
And the same thing happened here. After the film crew heard our story during the interview segment, they immediately cornered us in between takes to ply us with questions about investing, the 4% rule, and financial independence. Wanderer remembers the camera man saying “This just blew my mind. I’m questioning my whole life now, thanks for that.”
So, no matter where in the world you are, the impact of FIRE is immediate. People are waking up to the fact that they can take control of their lives by taking control of their finances. They are realizing that freedom comes from becoming financially independent and living life on your own terms.
So yeah, it’s been quite enlightening (and sometimes embarrassing) being able to see what happens behind-the-scenes of an international film shoot.
Here are some pictures we took during the filming:
And here’s the final product of all that hard work:
Huge thanks to Tim, his coordinator Ryan, the entire Portuguese crew, and the 60 Second Docs team for putting it all together.
And now to wait with baited breath until the FIRE documentary comes out…
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