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John W. King

Advice for filming in the desert?

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Hello, all!


We are preparing to shoot a film out in West Texas (in the middle of the desert) soon. Our concerns are primarily with the heat (temperatures are expected to be a high of 101F) and bathrooms (as we will be far away from any nearby restroom).


Additionally, we will be filming with RED cameras, and have a cast/crew of roughly 15-20 people. We have it in our plan to bring tents, massive fans, and water in bulk for breaks. And, we anticipate taking a 3-4 hour break during midday (when temperatures peak).

However, we will have a lead actor in a fully black, long-sleeved/long-legged costume, plus another actor in a full body armor suit (a prop robot suit).


Would any one care to share some advice, given past experiences with filming in similar situations?




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Decent shade for the camera as RED tends to overheat, cans of dust offs, tarp or sth to cover the camera with against dust and sun etc, sunscreen and chapsticks

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I shot a project out in Death Valley several years ago under similar conditions. Make sure you carry a backup camera body. We had an Epic and a Scarlet. The Scarlet with EF lenses was used for sandstorm scenes where we knew there was a good chance there would be L&D. Zooms will help you avoid lens changes. Sand is gnarly on film equipment, lots of weather covers and compressed air are needed. Hopefully in Texas, it will be more scrub desert than sand dunes.


We also kept the crew and support fairly small, we had one pop-up tent for shade and mostly worked out of our one-ton Sprinter van. I ended up buying sun hats and Camelbacks for my skeleton crew. We filled our Camelbacks with ice from the hotel before we went out in the morning so we had cold water all day. One of the actors had to wear a fur coat at one point, the other military fatigues. Don't know how they managed it!

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Ziplock bags for anything like lenses that you want to stay (relativity) clean. Blow the bag off with canned air before opening., keep the bag sealed even when empty.

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Yep I agree with what everyone said above.


Hydration and shade are the two critical things for humans.


Keeping the lenses covered when not in use, is critical for the equipment.


I wouldn't change lenses outside in that environment. I'd have a van or something which was clean to do that work. Canned air and/or even a small compressor will help greatly.


Logistics wise, tents are ok, but if the wind picks up, they can be a real pain. Vehicles are WAY better because you can crank the A/C and there are chairs for the actors to rest in. If you've got such a big crew, you really need at least two RV's with bathrooms. You may even try to score a third for camera/sound as well. This will give people the shade and coolness they need in between shots.


As a filmmaker, your actors are everything. So keeping them happy in between takes is so important. This is the job of your 1st AD and you need to work with them to get the actors off camera and into the RV's between takes. Use another crew member for stand-in's, only let them out of the RV when the crew is waiting for them to shoot. This makes everyone MUCH happier.

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