WorldNomads Safety Video Series: Film Production Services in Colombia
Colombia: The HOT Destination for Travelers and Filmmakers in 2018
Colombia has recently been crowned as the hottest travel destination in the Americas. Lonely Planet, perhaps the world’s most reputable travel guide, selected Colombia as the second best country to visit in 2017 (the only South American country to make the list). Following suit, the New York Times placed the country at number two on their “52 Places to Go in 2018.”
But despite endorsements from these well-respected travel experts, the country is still trying to shrug off its reputation as a danger zone. Although Colombia’s security has improved compared to a decade ago, travel safety is still a big concern. According to Google, some of the most common travel questions asked by travelers researching Colombia for their next trip are: “Is it safe to travel in Colombia?”, “How to stay safe in Colombia as a female traveler?”and “Will I get kidnapped in Colombia?”
Seeking to create an authentic, well-researched video series to address these frequently googled questions, World Nomad’s contracted WhereNext to provide video pre-production and field production services in Colombia for Australian filmmaker Brian Rapsey and globetrotting journalist Stephanie Hunt.
Although Brian and Stephanie have travelled extensively around the world, this was their first time filming in Colombia. Describing her initial impression of Colombia, Stephanie admits they “were terribly cliché; a land of cocaine, kidnapping, Pablo Escobar and of course the stars, Shakira, Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo and Gabriel García Márquez.” However, after spending a few days filming in Bogotá, her worries vanished.
“I was so wrong,” confesses Stephanie. “Obviously in any city, you need to be smart but I felt very welcome in Colombia and loved the people I met along the way. I found Colombians to be very helpful and very keen for travelers to have a good experience in their country. They are passionate and generous and present and have a real love and joy for life... It’s an exciting and vibrant country full of colour, spice and soul.”
For Brian, he was greatly impressed by the urban art that adorns Bogotá. “I was really taken by a strong sense of street and community culture, particularly because I love graffiti art, and in Bogotá, the art is just amazing and world class.”
Speaking about his thoughts on Colombia, Brian explains that he was aware of the Netflix TV show, Narcos and all of the debates and critiques surrounding the program, and how “it was stirring up bad stereotypes.” However, his experiences filming in Mexico, New Orleans and the biggest favela in Rio de Janeiro have shown him “if you’re with people that have knowledge and street smarts— you’ll be alright.”
Film Production Services in Bogotá with a Charismatic Street Gang Leader
With the support of creative director, Gregg Bleakney, and the WhereNext crew, Brian shot an interview between Stephanie and a street gang leader in a notoriously sketchy Bogotá neighbourhood called La Perservancia. Recounting his experience, Brian says, “I was a bit anxious but since the leader was known, respected, and probably feared on that street, I felt like no one was going to mess with us.” One of Gregg’s strategies during the shoot, Brian explains, was to never stay in the same place for longer than 15 minutes. “I was under pressure to get the shots, but once we established a filming protocol, I got into the rhythm of the moment and I forgot about being afraid or apprehensive…I love shooting this sort of material; it’s exciting and meaningful, and I always felt I was in good hands,” the filmmaker concludes.
Having the WhereNext video production crew around provided Stephanie peace of mind during the interview. “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,” the journalist shares. “I wasn’t afraid, but I did have an exit route to safety in mind, in case we needed to suddenly pull the plug.”
Brian and Steph Hit the Coast with our Colombian-based Film Production Company
From Bogotá, the crew traveled to Palomino, a tiny village on the Caribbean coast, to talk to female travelers about the pros and cons of traveling alone as a woman.
“I’ve filmed all around the world, but this spot is definitely at the top of my list,” says Stephanie. “I loved sitting with the independent female travellers we met up there and creating an impromptu ‘beach summit’… Chatting with these ‘Women of the Road’ was a definite highlight for me.”
One of Brian’s favorite times on the coast was filming on Los Naranjos beach, located on the edge of Tayrona National Park at the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. “The natural setting together with waves crashing on the beach created a magical atmosphere,” he recounts.
For both the filmmaker and journalist, the production was nothing like they expected. “There is an intense history that can still feel raw in Colombia, but there is also a real movement to forge a new future, and shake-off the Pablo Escobar stereotype. I found this to be inspiring, and really fresh and exciting. There is great energy in Colombia – and it’s contagious,” Stephanie concludes.