Behind the Scenes of an International Film Shoot

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is a world-travelling early retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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“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?

Wrong.

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.

Our director, Tim, who I was beginning to suspect is a vampire because he never sleeps.

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.

How the Hell does this thing work again?

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.

“Not this one, or this one, or this one. You’re cut, you’re cut…all of you are cut.” (photo credit: By Deutsche Fotothek‎, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6547015)

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.

Getting mic’ed up with no clue of how many bodily functions I was going to share that day.

#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.

Holy shit, is that someone important? (Spoiler alert: Nah, it’s just 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:

The film crew setting up in a seaside cafe.
Me at 7am in the morning, surprisingly not looking like a zombie.
Wanderer getting mic’ed up.
The crew setting up the balcony for the interview shot.
Tim, checking over equipment and briefing the crew.
And…ACTION!
Tim briefing the crew at our 10th filming location.

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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31 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes of an International Film Shoot”

  1. You glorious bastards had a film crew chasing you around while you’re living the dream?!

    Way to make a difference! I bet it was nice to blow the crew’s minds with something directly applicable to their lives rather than whatever unrelatable craziness they usually film.

    1. It was a pretty surreal experience. I hope hearing about FIRE has helped them with their finances in some shape or form. One person was thinking of getting into bitcoin, so I’m glad we ended steering him towards long term, safer investments instead.

  2. “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.””

    Aaaand I’m dying of laughter. Thank you so much for sharing the behind the scenes info! I took a lot of film classes in college, but hadn’t even considered how different documentary film making would be. Absolutely loved the video and am so happy to hear the FIRE is still spreading!

    1. Thanks, APL! We’re super impressed with all the work that went into filming too–Wanderer also took a film class a couple of years ago, but none of that prepares you for all the logistics crap and paperwork that needs to happen for a film shoot. Very eye-opening.

      And yes, very happy that the FIRE is spreading! It’s no longer just US and Canada, it’s international!

  3. This is great!

    Did you get to pick the script for the 60 second video, i.e. decide what you were going to speak/talk about during the time?

    1. Good question, SK! The director had a list of questions for us and we filmed a 45 min interview session. Then they skillfully cut the answers together so that it’s as succinct as possible.

  4. Very nice, and great purple eye makeup Kristy! With miracle baby I never get a chance, you look lovely!

    Great teaser to the longer documentary-can’t wait -any idea when it’s coming out?

    1. Thanks, TM! The Playing with FIRE documentary is coming out in April during financial literacy month. And if you’re backer of the Kickstarter project, you’ll get to see it earlier in March.

  5. Very cool stuff!
    Thank you for sharing the behind the scenes details.
    It’s is indeed crazy how short the final product is! And it’s really only 50 seconds since the last 10 are just the outro

    1. Yup. It takes a lot of expertise to figure out exactly what to keep and what to cut. I totally would’ve screwed it up if I made the video. Good thing, I’m not in film.

    1. Thanks, Mr. Tako! I’m just as shocked as you are. I was like “you want to fly to Portugal to film us? Why?” and at Penguin: “you want us to write a book? Why?”

      *shrugs* It’s just like Wanderer said in the video “everyday we wake up and we can’t believe this is our life now.” If you had told me 5 years ago, while I was stressed out from work, that all this crazy stuff that would happen, I would’ve thought you were nuts!

  6. Congrats, it looks like you guys are already on FIRE yourselves! What is your plan to handle what is likely to be an even larger increase in popularity (w/ potentially a horde of paparazzis following you) once the “Playing with fire” document will become mainstream? 🙂

    As a drone pilot amateur myself, I 100% agree with your statement that “Drones make everything better”. The technology packed in these flying camera have reach a level of miniaturization and sophistication that they can fit into a backpack and will soon making the recording of complex shot as easy as pushing a button on your smartphone. I know, scary right?

    If you are curious, check out our “Drone footage” page that includes our most popular aerial videos from the place we have been slow traveling to: https://www.nomadnumbers.com/drone/

    Did you know that the shot we got of the famous pyramid in Tepoztlan (see video from: https://www.nomadnumbers.com/weekend-trip-tepoztlan-mexico/) was done by taking off from the town which was ~300 meters below it?

    1. Wow. That looks amazing, Mr. NN! How do you get the drone through security when you guys travel? Do you have to have a checked bag? Are there any places in Mexico that you had to get special permission to film using a drone?

      1. Thanks. It’s still a work in progress. 🙂

        We never had any issue to check it in at the airport (carry on only though since lithium batteries should never be checked in).

        As for location we ask beforehand. While the US has a ton of “No Fly Zones”, we found Mexico to be much more flexible but it might be a matter of time until we need to ask for a permit which will make filming as amateurna real pain in the but as it will require more planning.

        1. Keep up the good work on your infographics, photos, and drone videos! It all looks amazing 🙂

          Yeah, I’m noticing more and more “no drones allowed” signs in sight-seeing areas in Europe and SE Asia. Hopefully Mexico continues being lax about it.

    1. Thanks, Amanda! Yeah, after that pee incident, I couldn’t look the sound tech in the eye for the rest of the shoot. *sheepish grin”

  7. Glad to see that you are getting more and more exposure. More people need to be aware of how they can achieve FIRE. The Quest for FIRE, coming soon to a theatre near you (or Netflix – seriously, given some of the stuff they have “green-lighted”, you might be an excellent and really worthwhile candidate for one of their documentaries).

    It is very interesting to see how the whole documentary process works. In a sense, it is not unlike how many industries have re-shaped themselves to have parts of the team wide-spread and far flung across the globe. My guess is that the film industry was probably an early adopter of this approach in that film crews (or videography perhaps) would be local, hiring out to whomever needed them, and the design, production, and post-production team would be somewhere else, and LA would seem to be a major centre for all of that. And of course the talent, like capital, can be anywhere that it chooses based on what is best for it.

    In a way, what everyone has to go through makes your message even more important in that if one wishes to be able to do what they want to do and where they want to do it then it should not be constrained by having to take on drudge work just to pay the bills. Settling for just a paycheque is a very limiting and short-sighted strategy. People are sacrificing their most important assets, time and intellect, to things that take them away from what they want to do.

    At any rate, good work on your part and I hope that the number of people who adopt your philosophy and methods continues to grow. Just out of curiosity, in your current blog posts, you sometimes refer to equivalent financial stuff in the USA versus what we have in Canada. Is there much to be gained by taking this same approach for other countries such as, for example, Japan, France, the UK, or elsewhere?

    It would be of immediate interest to your readers living in other countries but might also be of interest to someone in the UK who might be interested in working in Vietnam. How would they save and invest? This is not to suggest that you would become experts in an equity market investing strategy or accounting practices in other countries but it might open the door to having guest columnists contribute, perhaps in an interview format.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful and detailed comment, Alex! There are lot of similarities between US and Canada when it comes to investing and taxation sheltering strategies (hell, our RRSP and TFSA is basically copied from them) . I agree that it would be helpful to dive into the international investing and expat investing realms to see how you can use geographic arbitrage to your advantage and how FI is applicable internationally.

      We’ve already done guest interviews about investing in Brazil, Dubai, UK, and Germany. Investing as a Japanese resident is something we figured out during Chautauqua. So going forward, we’ll look into putting an international investing section and getting more guest posts from experts in different countries. Thanks for the helpful suggestion! You rock!

  8. I love this blog and all that Wanderer and FireCracker are doing. You inspire me. new immigrant to Canada trying to find my foot and join the Fire trail using side hustles income from my blog https://mindsetnuggets.com, freelancing and my 9 to 5 job. I’ll keep grinding to see how fast I reach FI. You can check out my blog for a feedback.

    I can’t wait to watched your full documentaries. Cheers.

    1. Thanks, MN! Cool article on your site about the top 5 programming languages to get a job and their salary ranges! Love your hustle!

  9. Wow, great video! You both are inspiring and the FIRE message is truly spreading. Thanks for keeping your post real with back story details such as bathroom noises whispers from hubby.

    1. hey Barb! Great to hear from you! Where are you now? I sent you an e-mail from Wanderer’s inbox a few weeks ago. Not sure if you got it?

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