Good news – you’ve just landed a show, and you’re going to get to travel! The bad news is that you’ll be gone for several months and have a very short window of time in which to totally rearrange your life and figure out what to take with you. You may be given sufficient notice, but you may also get a call from a desperate producer who wants you to travel tomorrow. Where do you start?
- Cancel appointments you have scheduled.
- If there’s time, squeeze in pending doctor and dentist appointments before you leave, and stock up on your prescriptions.
- Make arrangements for your pets, plants and any other obligations you may have.
- If you’re considering taking a dog or cat with you, first find out if pets are even allowed in the hotel/condo/office on the other end. And determine if there are any quarantine requirements and/or fight restrictions if you want to take Fluffy with you on the plane.
- If your car is going to sit parked for more than three months, disconnect the battery or ask a neighbor to drive it around the block once a week.
- Suspend your newspaper subscription, give Netflix your (temporary) new address and arrange to have your mail forwarded.
- Some people sublet their homes or apartments, and some arrange for house sitters. At the least, have someone come by once in a while to run the water in your sinks and flush the toilets (to prevent sewer gas) and to make sure there isn’t a stack of advertisements piling up on your door step.
- If you’re going to be working out of the country, make sure your passport is valid and won’t expire before you return.
- If you’re going to be using your mobile phone/BlackBerry more or less while away, adjust your plan.
- Find out if the production has any trucks or containers leaving for location that might be able to accommodate a box or two of your personal items.
- If traveling out of the coutry, manifest the items in your work boxes. You’ll need a carnet or pro-forma shipping invoice for Customs.
If the location you’re heading to is within a drivable distance, and you have the time – consider driving. You’ll most likely be given a travel allowance to cover expenses on the road and may be eligible for a weekly car allowance while on location. The good thing about driving your own car is that you can stuff it full and not have to worry about limiting what you bring.
What type of clothes should you pack? Bring clothing and footwear appropriate to the terrain and climate, and think “layers” – garments you can easily slip into or out of as the weather changes. Also assume that there will be times when you’ll need something a bit dressier than your usual work attire. Depending on the availability of shopping and how much free time you’ll have, you can usually shop for additions to your wardrobe once you arrive.
Think about housing options before you even leave. Some of us like the homey feeling of an apartment or condo and the convenience of a kitchen and washer/dryer. And others prefer living in a hotel – having someone else make their bed and supply fresh towels each day.
If you don’t want to stay at the “crew” hotel, find out if you’ll be given a housing allowance and how much it’ll be. Will it be paid a week or a month in advance or just a week at a time? Do you take a chance and rent something in advance of arriving or wait until you get there? When you find a place you like, remember that rental advances, deposits and leases will be your responsibility – not the production’s, unless it’s part of your deal.
I’ve seen individuals travel to location with one suitcase and others who arrive with a sh*t-load of personal things they can’t live without, including their own bedding and pots and pans. (It’s safe to say that women bring much more than men.) What never ceases to amaze me are those people who assume that traveling anywhere away from home is no different than flying to the moon, and they ship absolutely everything: laundry detergent, Kleenex, etc. It’s insane (unless you really are going to be on the moon or someplace else so totally remote)! So forget about the duties, customs and other shipping fees you’ll be racking up and shop for your basic needs once you get to location.
Leaving home and creating an alternate universe for yourself on location takes a great deal of thought, organization and effort – often accomplished at lightening speed. For more tips on traveling to and working on distant and foreign locations, check out The Complete Film Production Handbook, 4th Edition.