How to shoot TV in dangerous situations: Cultural sensitivity, confidence and sometimes armed guards
Interrupt This Program travels to cities under pressure to tell the stories of artists fighting back
"You often don't know how dangerous a situation can be until it already becomes dangerous."
This season, Interrupt This Program director Van Royko saw how quickly a shoot can turn into a dangerous situation while filming this Friday's episode from Warsaw, Poland.
"In Warsaw we were shooting a rally and my DP [director of photography] was filming in the street. Before he knew it, he was on his butt on the ground. He had been knocked over by this really aggressive soccer fan."
Reflecting on his time shooting in Karachi, Pakistan, series producer and co-creator Frank Fiorito feels the tension of filming in places where there's a real possibility of danger that the crew needs to be protected against while telling the stories of those who resist violence. "There's such a discrepancy between the danger we know is real in Karachi and the people we meet who are extremely nice, extremely peaceful," he says."
Royko accepts the risk required to tell the stories they want to tell. "If you're going to get good shots, if you're going to get moments of intimacy with people, if you're going to try to get moments of people behaving naturally then you have to take the risk that some people are going to yell at you or even become violent at some points."
There's such a discrepancy between the danger we know is real in Karachi and the people we meet who are extremely nice, extremely peaceful.- Interrupt This Program producer and co-creator Frank Fiorito
How does Interrupt This Program minimize this risk and stay safe?
Be culturally sensitive
Series director and co-creator Nabil Mehchi stresses the importance of cultural sensitivity and being aware of the political environment as being vitally important.
"The key is being mindful of the political climate we are navigating in and being culturally sensitive to be able to go as far as we can."
To move through situations that are unfamiliar, uncertain or uncomfortable, Royko stresses the importance of maintaining and presenting confidence. "If you just seem confident and [like] you're supposed to be there, then people don't react badly."
Fiorito stresses the importance of fixers — local experts hired to help the production arrange things in the city and help solve problems that arise. "We couldn't do the series without fixers. They're there to take care of your security."
Khalid, a fixer hired in Karachi, helped the team navigate a physical and social space they were unfamiliar with, providing invaluable resources and knowledge. "Whenever I approach certain areas we need to know the local chieftains, so in case of any issues I can quickly ring up somebody in order to have support."
Get armed security, where necessary
While the production usually does not need to take this step, in Karachi the crew had an armed guard with them at all times.
For Fiorito, this doesn't feel natural, but for the safety of the crew it is sometimes needed. "For us as Canadians it's not part of our DNA to have someone with a gun just sitting beside you, but we have no choice. It's a question of safety of the crew."
Art as political protest, as a means of survival, as an agent of change, as a display of courage and delight. Interrupt This Program explores art in cities under pressure. Watch Interrupt This Program: Karachi now and this Friday watch the season finale in Warsaw at 8:30pm on CBC TV or online.