Guide to Finding a Great Fixer in Colombia
Why Should You Hire a Colombian Fixer?
Over the past five years, Colombia has transformed into a world-class video and film-production destination, replete with stunning locations, favorable tax incentives and talented film crews. However, in spite of all the positives that filming in the country offers, it is still essential to work with a local Colombian fixer in order to ensure the success of your project.
Working with a vetted fixer in Colombia can make or break your audio-visual project. Before you jump into the magic of Colombia, here are some essential factors to consider:
1. Your Colombian Fixer Must be Multilingual and have a Global Cultural Awareness
Colombia is a Spanish-speaking country with a low percentage of foreign language speakers, therefore if you don’t speak Spanish, producing and directing in Colombia is likely to present a considerable challenge. It is essential to work alongside a multilingual fixer in order to ensure that you are executing your visual project with absolute confidence. It’s also vital that your fixer has a global cultural awareness enabling them to quickly grasp your brief, brand ethos and values. The ability to pay attention to the details and go above-and-beyond their basic job description are vital qualities.
At WhereNext, our international crew provides field and pre-production support in six languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, and Italian. This, coupled with our high levels of global cultural awareness, has allowed us to produce successful projects with partners from over 30 countries.
2. Colombian Fixers Must Have a Broad Network of Local Contacts
An accomplished fixer should also be able to handle and negotiate favourable deals with local vendors, production studios, transportation companies, hotels etc. To save you the hassle of bringing your own film equipment from abroad, fixers should also be able to source gear rental at preferable rates.
If you’re filming in potentially risky environments - such as remote wilderness regions or dangerous neighbourhoods - or working on a production that involves street closures or traffic control, it’s vital for a fixer to be well-connected to local government and communities. Keeping your crew and gear safe is a crucial quality of an experienced fixer: they should be fully aware and transparent regarding when it is best to travel discretely or be accompanied by a security team. In addition to these qualities, a talented Colombian fixer will have a solid contact list for highly qualified and reliable film crew members such as producers, creative directors, sound engineers and videographers. They should also be able to connect you to local talent, such as art directors.
To illustrate our experience in this area, World Nomads contracted WhereNext to provide pre-production and field production services in Colombia for a video series that addressed travel safety. One of the videos featured an interview with a gang leader in a notoriously unsafe Bogotá neighbourhood called La Perseverancia. Having the WhereNext crew and local police on the scene kept journalist Stephanie Hunt and Australian filmmaker Brian Rapsey at ease during the shoot.
Stephanie had nothing but praise for WhereNext’s work: “They had the contacts and the local knowledge. And most importantly, we were being smart about the process and had a thorough plan of attack.” For Brian, shooting this sort of material is “exciting and meaningful, and I always felt I was in good hands.”
3. Fixers Need to Be Experts On Colombia’s Diverse Cultures and Locations
Colombia is a country blessed with a wonderful variety of natural wealth and diverse ecosystems; it is practically five countries in one. This of course makes for a tantalizing mix of different filming locations. However, with so many choices on offer, it is essential that your fixer has a comprehensive, and continually updated, location database, and a deep knowledge of Colombia’s diverse regions. This way you can be sure that they will be able to provide locations that match your project’s requirements.
We proved our ability to scout perfect locations when we worked on a video production for Backpacker Magazine's 2017 Gear of the Year feature. To put the gear to a legitimate test, we chose the Páramo de Ocetá. As a high-elevation moorland with unpredictable weather conditions – heavy rain, freezing cold temperatures, hail, and even bright sunshine – the páramo proved to be the ideal place to test the outdoor gear.
Besides being a pro at scouting locations, your fixer ought to fully understand the local culture and be sensitive to what is acceptable or not in order to avoid miring the production in difficulties with local communities or the press.
For example, during the filming of a 2019 Colombian Tourism Campaign focused on bird diversity, WhereNext worked with different indigenous communities from the Colombian Amazon and the coastal deserts of La Guajira. Before we could film, we needed permission from the authorities and organisations of each community and were able to provide these with minimal hassle while maintaining strong relations with the communities and their leaders.
Describing her experience, WhereNext Producer / Fixer Sandra Eichmann says: "Although we had the permission, we still needed to be very respectful of the tribes' beliefs and culture so they would feel confident to open up and share their stories with us." It’s not enough to simply receive the appropriate permissions, it is equally vital to maintain strong links with communities.
4. A Good Fixer is a Pro at Navigating Colombia’s Laws, Regulations and Paperwork
Colombian law can be a tricky business - particularly when it comes to licenses, contractor payments and tax rebates – and therefore it is essential that your fixer is well-versed in the laws, regulations, and logistics that make filming in Colombian possible.
At WhereNext, we understand the ins-and-outs of Colombia’s complicated filming rules and regulations. Before filming the aforementioned tourism campaign, we successfully arranged all of the legal requirements for the temporary importation of film gear into Colombia, including the necessary documents to get PIP6 entry permits for crew members. Furthermore, as a documentary focused on biodiversity, it was necessary to film wildlife in several National Natural Parks (PNN) around Colombia. This was another potential stumbling block, but since we have previous experience working with the National Park’s board, we were able to avoid a lot of wasted effort and obtain exactly the right permits and documentation with no hassle.
Certain permits are also required for urban shooting, particularly in Bogota, where a PUFA Permit is a requirement for all artistic and commercial filming. Having worked on numerous shoots in the city, WhereNext was also able to handle applications for these permits with ease and efficiency.
Another tricky hurdle in Colombian can be filming with drones. Drone policies in Colombia can seem to make little sense – by law, an operator must have a certificate to fly legally in many locations in the country, including National Parks. By flying a drone without a licence you can potentially create huge legal problems for the production, but many companies still fly drones without permission.
WhereNext are well-informed of the legal technicalities of flying drones in Colombia, and our in-house videographer has years of flying experience, and all the right certificates to ensure that any production requiring the use of drones will run smoothly and successfully.
Click this link to learn how WhereNext can be your Colombian fixer