If you’re planning an international production, chances are you’ll need to hire an international film fixer. If you’ve never heard of a film fixer, that’s okay. These local professionals are the key to a successful shoot abroad, but their role is often unfamiliar to producers without international experience.
In this post, we’ll help you make sure your next shoot outside the U.S. goes off without a hitch by giving you the inside track on film fixers. We’ll tell you who film fixers are, what they do, and why they’re so important. We’ll even include first-hand insight from a working international film fixer - Harry Klunder of World Production Fixers.
Film fixers are the unsung heroes who make international filming possible for producers from the U.S. You might also find them listed in the credits of your favorite blockbuster as a “service producer”, “local production manager”, or simply “production coordinator”.
International filming can be intimidating. While most producers are familiar with U.S. overtime laws and startwork requirements, that critical knowledge becomes irrelevant when they cross the border. Each country has its own legal requirements and cultural nuances that outside productions must observe. From labor laws to location scouting, international filming is fraught with potential pitfalls for the unexpecting U.S. producer.
That’s why international film fixers exist. They “fix” the difficulties of international filming.
For this post, we spoke to Harry Klunder from World Production Fixers. Harry and WPF facilitate foreign productions in a growing number of countries, including Portugal, Sri Lanka, Jordan, and South Africa.
“As a service producer, I provide the entire range of local logistical support for film and television producers planning to shoot abroad,” Harry says. He and his team assist with nearly every aspect of production, facilitating critical tasks like crewing up and equipment rental.
In other words, international film fixers provide boots on the ground. They extend the producer’s reach by adding their own localized expertise. Therefore, fixers actually utilize the same core skillset as a domestic producer or line producer. The only difference is that those basic skills are balanced by experience within a specific region.
Film fixers are often called “service producers” because they are, in effect, producers. They provide full-service support throughout a project’s local production period, from prep all the way to wrap.
To illustrate, Harry gave us the inside scoop on what tasks film fixers do to support international filming. Below, we’ll break his insight down by production phase.
Before a client’s production team arrives, the service producer will pre-arrange all the necessities for making production possible. They’ll handle all the logistic basics of pre-production, coordinating with their client to meet the production’s unique requirements.
Pre-production tasks for film fixers may include but are not limited to:
Perhaps most importantly, a fixer’s presence during prep will give you peace of mind. Their expertise will help you plan with confidence and efficiency in an unfamiliar environment.
The international film fixer’s team works to make their production run as smoothly as possible through principal photography.
Here are just a few critical tasks they perform to keep a shoot running on time and under budget:
In short, your fixer will be doing whatever it takes to keep your production moving forward. During the shoot, they can facilitate everything from high-level planning to detail-oriented chores.
As every producer knows, the work of production does not end when cameras stop rolling. Whether it’s a three-day commercial shoot or a three-month feature film, the wrap process on any production requires significant time and effort.
One of the upsides to international filming is that film fixers take an enormous portion of wrap off their client’s plate. They handle many labor-intensive wrap responsibilities, including:
The wrap process drives home the idea that your relationship with a film fixer is, in fact, a partnership. Your wrap experience will largely depend on collaboration and efficient communication.
Hiring a fixer for international filming is always advantageous. Sometimes it’s a necessity. They offer foreign productions local access, local networks, and local know-how.
At first, you might balk at the cost. You’ll have to pay additional wages for the fixer and the local team they hire. There may be a service fee charged by the fixer’s company. You’ll likely experience other costs specific to your desired location and production type.
However, before you let any new expenses drive you away, take a moment to consider the value associated with a service producer. You might be surprised at how the costs stack up against potential savings and other benefits.
Service producers take the typical benefits of hiring local and turn them up to 11, opening opportunities that would be otherwise impenetrable. They afford producers the means to save time and money when filming abroad.
By contrast, not hiring a service producer for international filming is a gamble at best.
Without them, a production has no adequate representative through whom they can communicate with local professionals or local authorities. Simple tasks like applying for permits, renting gear, and scouting for locations become time-consuming and inefficient.
With an international film fixer, your shoot gains a local extension of its foreign production team. They can be a powerful ally whose contributions are often immeasurable.
For example, Harry Klunder and his team were once hired to shoot a spectacular car commercial in the desert. The director of the spot wanted to show the car driving through a river, splashing waves of water as it moved through the shot. As is usually the case with deserts, however, there was no accessible river nearby.
Luckily, Harry and his team were on hand to find a solution.
Instead of searching for a river, Harry’s team leveraged its network within the local Bedouin community. Together, they organized the shot by digging their own “river”, layering plastic on the bottom, and ordering several trucks of water from the sea nearby.
The result was an unforgettable image. It was exactly what the production wanted and would have been impossible without the service producer’s expertise.
The challenges of international filming are complex and unique. If you’re looking for a fixer to streamline the process, it’s imperative that you find one who’s fit for the job.
To get you started, here are seven characteristics to look for when hiring a fixer.
First and foremost, you need to hire a fixer with production experience. Professional-grade knowledge of shoot logistics and strategy is key to a successful working relationship.
To do their job well, a local service producer must understand the ins and outs of production like the back of their own hand.
The most unique advantages of a service producer all stem from their local connection. Their familiarity with unknown locations, access to local networks, and aptitude for navigating local authority are all invaluable to a foreign production.
Once you identify a film fixer with both production experience and local knowledge, the hard part is over. You’ve already cut the difficulty of international filming in half.
Communication is key for any production, but doubly so when shooting abroad. You’ll be coordinating with your service producer across borders, time zones, and possibly oceans. At those distances, even small miscommunications can turn into massive problems.
Your film fixer must be able to ingest, process, and deliver information clearly and concisely. This should be considered a fundamental skill set for international filming.
When producing a shoot over a great distance, you must be able to rely on your local partners. Reliability is a standard professional quality even when working at home, but its absence can be a serious problem when shooting abroad.
Hire a film fixer that consistently does what they say when they say they’ll do it. Your production will be more efficient and less stressful.
In production, changes happen all the time. A shoot is built from so many moving parts and influenced by so many outside factors that the unexpected is inevitable.
At home, the ability to roll with punches is the hallmark of a strong producer. When shooting abroad, it’s important to maintain that quality through the assistance of local partners.
Look for service producers who display flexibility and a sense of calm. No matter where you’re shooting, you want your local team to be full of problem-solvers.
The quality of conscientiousness separates a well-run production from raw chaos. To that end, your film fixer should be thorough and organized.
Search for someone who will be on top of their responsibilities without constant oversight. They’ll save you time and money throughout the entire lifecycle of your production.
Last but not least, hire a fixer who will be engaged with your project. You need an active local partner, not a passive provider of basic services.
Look for someone who responds to the unique requirements of your specific production, who meets problems with creative solutions, and who works to actively collaborate with your team.
If you’re planning an international production, the first and most crucial task is to establish contact with your local service producer. You need to connect with them as early in the pre-production process as possible.
Working with a film fixer is all about communication. The earlier you establish contact with a fixer, the more opportunity you have to communicate your production’s needs. The fixer will then be able to meet those needs with more precision.
However, remember that communication is not a one-way street. Listening to what your service producer has to say is just as important as telling them what you need.
International filming pushes productions into literal unfamiliar territory. Part of a service producer’s job is making sure that your shoot stays within the bounds of that territory’s cultural and legal standards.
As Harry puts it:
“We sometimes have to be very strict in certain situations in which clients ask us to do things that are not allowed."
Even if a production doesn’t fully understand a boundary, the service producer is obligated to keep their client from crossing it.
If your film fixer warns you against a certain course of action, make a point to listen and understand. It’s for your protection as well as theirs.
A communicative relationship supported by healthy professionalism will make for smooth sailing with a qualified service producer. With a little luck, your project will waltz from prep through wrap abroad just as efficiently as it would back home.
International filming can be a unique and rewarding experience. If you take the time to hire the right film fixer, exciting opportunities will present themselves without extraneous stress.
The right local partner will help you focus on the central work of production. You’ll encounter the advantages of shooting abroad while remaining engaged with core tasks, like creating an efficient schedule or building an optimized budget.
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