On 4 Feb. 2016 at 4:35 PM, I received a text from Steven, “R u avail for paid shoot in Hawaii feb 15-20?”
I replied, “Sure. What is the shoot?”
“fast changing project. are you okay to go to Amazon instead?”
And thus it began.
On the night of 9. Feb. 2016, the project was greenlit and I finally received a briefing. I had a week to put together a very particular shoot in an undecided Central American country. A producing gig, something I tend to avoid and let my business partners handle, something I am not especially experienced in doing. In a foreign country. To shoot in 10 days. With a limited budget. I’ve always wanted to be paid to travel to foreign countries so I accepted the ludicrous challenge. I scoured the internet for any sort of production companies I could find in Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. I sent out a bunch of emails and went to bed hoping for the best.
The next two days were a proverbial whirlwind filled with nonstop emails, international phone calls, and general shoot preparations. Two companies were my international saviors, Costa Rica Film Support and Belize Film Works. They helped me build packages of photos and promises to quickly sell our client on a location. Costa Rica won out and the night of the 11th I had tickets to fly on the 17th. My crew would meet me on the 20th (after multiple days of back-to-back shooting in Singapore). In 48 hours, we’d gone from a very rough idea to a full-fledged planned international shoot. Much of my thanks goes to Julie Echeverri of Costa Rica Film Support whose fast communication and problem-solving made this unrealistic goal possible. She also organized everything for us on the Costa Rica side from boarding, to transportation, to meals.
Wednesday morning arrived and Erika left me at LAX with 100 lbs. of luggage (2 duffel bags of props and costumes, a backpack of personal and work items, and a portable Ultrasound). Traveling with an Ultrasound is an interesting experience and I have become quite adept at explaining what it is in Spanish to confused TSA personnel. An Ultrasound causes confusion domestically as well and could effectively pass as either a record player, musical instrument, or George Foreman Grill. Not a single person ever asked me, “Hey, is that an Ultrasound?”
I arrived in San Jose that afternoon and was greeted by Zequ, an Argentinian Anthony Kiedis lookalike, and my local producer. The next morning, he drove me 5 hours (largely in the rain) down South to the Bri Bri region. We passed through an amazing rainforest, down coastlines, and over an abundance of rivers of all types. He and I would spend the next few days scouting innumerable rivers as possible shooting locations, preparing our local actors, building a thatched hut (ranchito) from bamboo, navigating Costa Rican permitting laws, weaving through dense traffic and across flooded backroads, traipsing through muddy marshlands, managing a local drunk canoe pilot we called the Shaman, repeatedly crossing a somewhat rickety suspension bridge, struggling to make everything come together and meet approval in 2 days, dealing with changing plans and weather, spying wild sloths in treetops, and amusing each other immensely. We put the finishing touches on our ranchito shortly before the arrival of the cast and crew Saturday morning. Late that night, we were done. Sunday was a day for a little work, a lot of travel, and celebrations.
Monday morning, the crew flew to Los Angeles for two final shoot days. My afternoon flight was cancelled and I was forced to spend another night in San Jose in a complimentary Sheraton room. The week of 3 bags and an Ultrasound refused to end. Pura Vida.