Anything But Boring: The Wild Lives of TV and Film Shoot Travel Agents
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So much goes into the making of films and television shows, from the writing to the directing and, of course, finding the perfect actors for the roles. Behind the scenes, getting everyone where they need to be is vital to both the production calendar and the movie budget. If one thing goes wrong, an entire shoot can be ruined.
Alyssa Schulke of Schulke Travel, an affiliate of Travel Experts, works for a number of production companies who create commercials, well-known Netflix series, and regular programs on the Travel Channel. She works for small shorts, independent films as well as major motion pictures with A-list stars. She books domestic and international flights, transportation, and accommodations.
“The stars are often the shortest stay of a shoot as their dates are very much set in a schedule around their other obligations,” she said. “The crew have the longest stays, the largest number of people and the most schedule changes.”
Tyler Diehl, an entertainment travel agent with Protravel International in Beverly Hills, California said his days are anything but boring. “I learned to let go of what I thought my day should look like and just roll with the punches,” he said. “I would much rather be thrown into the flames of production travel and have 100 different requests coming at me from every direction. It keeps me on the edge of my seat and I feel so fulfilled at the end of the day.”
Schulke also makes sure the equipment arrives on time too. “For major motion pictures as well as most other films, the studios handle the equipment and sourcing usually through local providers where they shoot,” she explained. “For television and small movie productions, the crews typically travel with their own equipment, so I have to be on top of customs and weight restrictions, negotiate media baggage fees with airlines, and be sure that the transportation available — especially in other countries — can accommodate the additional equipment.”
Sometimes the equipment needs additional storage space and security which she coordinates with the hotels. “Oftentimes, the transportation needs to be parked in secure facilities, close to the shooting locations, and I need to ensure that these parking facilities and loading docks can accommodate the size of the vehicles,” she said.
Diehl is currently working on two major feature films on opposite ends of the country. “The amount of people involved can be daunting, but it's just another day,” he said. “There are car services, greeters, private check-ins, air charters, group bookings, hotels, van/bus rentals, etc.”
Of course, the celebrities, especially the A-listers, come with their own set of requirements and, yes, sometimes demands. “Twenty four hour room service, secure private entrances, proximity to elevators,” she said. “I also need to know personal preferences — are they vegetarians, allergic to down, or can’t have alcohol in their rooms? This is all important information.”
On one major shoot, the studio wanted Schulke to place their star in a secure private home on a wooded lot. “It was quite a process to find an appropriate location with two weeks’ notice,” she said. “Nothing was good enough. During the shoot, a friend who lives in that city called me from a teeny tiny local dive bar where the star had been going the past few nights to have a few beers and hang out with the locals.”
Diehl had a plane full of producers flying to the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 and when they arrived, their bags were lost. “They were attending a premiere party for their movie the next day,” he said. “The airline told us we’d have the bags by morning. Morning came and went, and still no bags. I spent 80 percent of my day tracking down those bags. Sure enough, with about an hour to spare, they all got their bags in time to get ready for the premiere.”
Schulke has also encountered obstacles when working with particular filming issues. “The studio insisted on flying animal actors from LA to the shooting location instead of using local talent,” she said. “I highly discouraged this due to the potential safety risks to the animal actor. I had the studio sign a waiver to absolve me of liability if the flight I booked ended up harming the animal.”
She’s also had an entire filming crew come down with food poisoning in Morocco, a lost wire transfer sent to pay for crew accommodations, equipment missing in the Madrid airport delaying a shoot by two days, along with passport and visa issues.
Working with film studios and production companies is approximately 20-25 percent of Schulke’s business, but it changes each year. “It is highly variable depending on the size of shoots, television shows getting renewed each year, and the location of shooting,” she said. “It isn’t something I consider a consistent contributor to my bottom line nor do I depend on it. But I enjoy doing it and look forward to new business when it comes my way. I don’t advertise this service — it is only through word of mouth that I take on new shoots.”
She said that anyone interested in working on this aspect of travel needs to remember, “there will always be something new you haven’t dealt with before.”
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