About a month ago, our crew embarked on a journey to Amsterdam, Netherlands to shoot an event for one of our biggest clients. To pull this project off without a hitch, we needed logistical planning and acute attention to detail in the months leading up to our departure. This post will cover how we prepared for the project and will highlight some of the lessons we learned along the way. We hope that by sharing our experience, we can help other film crews better navigate their next international project.

1) Fill out a Carnet Form – Other than a passport, a Carnet is the single most important piece of documentation required when traveling internationally for a film shoot. It’s important to note that not every country requires a carnet form. In our case, the Netherlands did require it. The US Customs and Border protection website describes a Carnet form as “an international customs document which allows an individual traveler/business to temporarily export or import goods for commercial purposes to and from a country without having to pay duty or value-added taxes on the goods.” Filling out a carnet form is incredibly tedious. It requires you to document every single piece of equipment going with you. When I say every piece of equipment, I mean it. We’re talking SD Cards, cords, batteries, adapters, all of this must go on the form. The carnet form requires you to include the name, country of origin, weight, and serial number for each item. Filling out the carnet form is a delicate dance that requires extreme attention to detail, organization, and plenty of time. We recommend beginning to fill out the carnet no later than 1 week prior to departure. It would be a good idea to include the suitcases on the carnet form and listing each item within the suitcase. In the event that the customs agent needs you to locate an item you’ll know exactly which bag it’s in.

Another thing we learned about the carnet is the importance of finalizing the scope of the project sooner rather than later. Oftentimes, a change in scope can require different tools. Perhaps you want to throw an extra tripod in at the last minute or bring another lens. The need to fill out a carnet does not allow for this luxury. Once the gear list is finalized and the carnet is printed, nothing can be added. Again, start filling out the carnet no later than 1 week prior to departure, and submit your carnet no later than 3 days prior to departure. Our last bit of advice is to hire a professional who processes carnet forms for a living. It will be an added cost that will save you time and provide you with peace of mind. If you need a contact you can email us at info@fogcoastproductions.com.

2) Make sure everybody has a valid passport – One of the very first things you should do after winning the project is make sure all members of the crew have a valid passport. A new passport can take up to 3 months to process, so if somebody on your crew has either an expired passport or no passport at all, you might find yourself scrambling leading up to the shoot. Luckily, there are certain services that allow you to expedite the process. This blog post will not touch on them, but just know that it’s possible. Another thing we learned is that many countries will not allow you to travel if your passport expires within 3 months of the departure date. We learned this the hard way with somebody on our crew. Luckily we found out about it a couple weeks before leaving and had to get his passport expedited through a same day appointment.

3) Outlets & Voltage – It’s not as simple as bringing a bunch of US-to-Europe adapters and calling it a day. Different countries run on entirely different voltages. If a particular piece of equipment is designed to run on a different voltage than the destination country allows, you’ll need to bring a voltage converter. Even the smallest piece of equipment can blow a fuse if it’s plugged in with the improper voltage.

4) Create a media pass (free bags!) – Chances are that you’ll be traveling with many bags filled with lots of gear. For each checked bag the costs increase, and when traveling with many bags these costs can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. A little hack our DP taught us was to create a media pass to show the checking agent. After paying for each member of the crew to have a checked bag we got all of our “extra” bags completely forgiven just by showing his media pass. On the way back home the checking agent also gave us a discount on the extra bags.

5) Check the entry/exit requirements for the country – Many countries have travel restrictions nowadays with Covid. In our case, the Netherlands was requiring all people entering the country to have a negative covid test, regardless of vaccination status. Luckily this restriction got lifted just 5 days prior to our trip. However, a negative test was still required to get back into the United States. Make sure you check for any travel restrictions prior to leaving for your trip.

6) Arrive to the airport EARLY – The traditional rules of the airport do not apply when traveling with lots of gear and a large crew. There are additional steps we need to take in order to make sure we make it to the gate on time. Our recommendation is to arrive at the airport no later than 3.5 hours prior to departure. This will give you time to allow the customs agent to check your carnet form and gear, check your bags, get through security, and have time to make it to the gate.

7) Pack the most important gear in the carry on – This is a must for all air travel, whether or not you are traveling internationally. Let’s face it, there are just some things that have to go under the plane such as lights, tripods, stands, etc. As you reluctantly pass over your gear to the checking agent you can at least have some peace of mind knowing that you have the essentials in your possession. Your cameras, lenses, SD cards, hard drives, and batteries are the 5 must haves in your carry on bags. In the off chance that your gear gets lost or damaged in transit, the good news is that you’ll still be able to shoot.

8) Padding – Make sure you add lots of bubble wrap and padding around your gear to protect it. Have you ever seen how luggage handlers toss those bags around? Yeah…not pretty. Try to avoid metal on metal contact and exposed screens on reference monitors and cameras. If you’re like us, you order a lot of film gear online…and with that film gear comes bubble wrap, lots of bubble wrap. Hold on to it and use it next time you travel with your gear. Don’t have any laying around? Get some Here.

9) Arrive a day (or two) early – Nobody likes feeling rushed. Give yourself some breathing room and arrive a day or two early. By doing so you’ll ensure that any flight delays or cancellations won’t derail your shoot plans and that you’ll have time to replace any forgotten gear. It’ll also give you some time to settle in, enjoy the destination, and maybe even have some time to pre-light your shoot prior to production. Trust me, your client will understand.

10) Have Insurance – Any video professional should have production insurance whether they travel or not. Many companies and venues require that you have insurance before you even step foot on location. Having insurance when you travel is especially important because it covers your gear in the event that it gets lost, stolen, or damaged. And that’s something you can’t fix in post ;)

Written By: Andrew Klein, Executive Producer, Fog Coast Productions