“PNG. The land of the unexpected.” That’s what Hurstle, our all-can-do guy from EMTEK told us when we first arrived in Port Moresby. After a 7 hour rough flight from Singapore I thought I could cope with everything in PNG.
We arrived in Port Moresby with lots of luggage. It looked a bit suspicious with all the big black boxes of lighting gear, wired accessories and pistol like stuff (especially if you look it through an x-ray machine). As we expected, immigration stopped us and asked for a formal letter of invitation. I gave them an invitation letter from Coca Cola Amatil PNG and they called some people for confirmation.
After a couple of minutes they started asking another unexpected favour. They asked for our memory cards. I was a bit confused at first. What were they going to do with empty memory cards? I gave them the cards, they checked it one by one, and gave it back to me. It was not until we were about to return to Indonesia that the Coca Cola Amatil security manager told us that if we had pornographic material on our memory cards, they would have cancelled our visas and sent us straight home. Now that we had everything with us we were going to go to our hotel to sleep. I was so tired after a long and bumpy flight. Near the immigration exit, two ladies stopped us again, but this time they just wanted to take a photo with us. We were happy and felt very welcomed. PNG is full of nice people! After that they asked us,
“Where will you perform?”
“Oh! I’m sorry miss, we’re not a rock band! We’re filmmakers and will do some shooting here for a couple of weeks!”
Ahh I feel very special finally somebody wanted to get their photo together with me and thought that I’m a rock star! I never thought I had it in me! Haha!
We were in deep sleep for hours and finally woke up and met Cara, our lovely client from Coca Cola Indonesia that would be supervising the shoot. We met Louise from Coca Cola PNG and the EMTEK team who would be our production support while we were there. We had meetings for 2 days and never had a chance to leave the hotel.
Finally, on the third day we had some action! We left the hotel at 3.00 AM with Graham, Coca Cola Amatil National Security Manager. Inside our G4S secured van he briefed us on security matters. On how to protect ourselves if there is a carjacking, security situations in Port Moresby, criminal activity around our shooting areas and some general things about safety.
One police car with loaded guns and one van from G4S guarded our shooting area on Ella Beach. They considered it dangerous because we lit a bonfire that would attract attention. Our first shoot went well! Only 1 of the 3 dancers supposed to be in the commercial didn’t show up.
To the next scene, we shot a little boy portraying Honz (Jokema), during his first year of learning how to sing/play guitar. Jokema is the most famous singer in PNG right now. The story of our first (out of 3) ad is about Jokema’s life. How he found himself and became who he is now. This scene also went well.
Next scene is a bit tricky. I wanted to have an exotic shot of settlements in Port Moresby, but everybody said it was very dangerous, so finally we shot on a jetty that had a view of the settlement. (I will tell you what they mean by dangerous later on, so please stay tuned to our blog!)
So on the first day our shoot went well. From a nice sunrise, good lighting in the hotel room, then checking Shaz’s studio for our next day shoot. In the evening we shot the young Honz in a choir group during sunset. It was beautiful!
Now the second day! We planned to do all the shots in Vision City mall, which is inside Cosmo, the coolest and the trendiest nightclub in Port Moresby! We arrived with all the equipment, lamps and crew at 8, but the Cosmo door was locked and we had to wait outside for an hour until 9. After they let us in we still needed to wait for extras. They were all late (for approximately 2 hours). It was shocking for me at first how come extras could be very late and everything is going around like there is nothing wrong. Cara (our client) started to have a nervous breakdown and was now having to work as our producer to help us! Cara asked Kari (our line producer from EMTEK) to find some people from the mall and pay them to become extras, rather than waiting for all the late extras. We got some beautiful red carpet crowd shots & stage shots with only 15 extras. Later that day I learned that there is no public transportation (a reliable one) yet in Port Moresby. Most people get around by walking, and only few people can afford a car. Because of the high crime rate in the city, people cannot start their activities before daylight. From this day we learnt that every extra we hired should be picked up at their home one by one. It was a very exhausting job, especially for our driver, Stephen. I felt sorry for him, because Stephen, just like Hurstle, is all-can-do man. You can ask them anything, from holding a camera, adjusting lighting, help direct people, it was just a waste of talent for him to be just running around picking up extras. But then, driving is also a special skill in PNG. Other runners like Kimi & Gary could not drive so Stephen & Hurstle should do some driving beside their hectic run around shooting jobs.
Second day was exhausting. From all the late extras and from our first experience lighting a Coca Cola pouring scene. Our last shot was also a bit stressful. We got our final party scene, and of course our extras that we had in the morning had already gone! So Kari needed to find some new extras from the mall (again!), but this time she went with Aivi so they could find the extras twice as fast! So finally we got our extras and we just needed to put them in a good spot in the Cosmo. It turns out the spot that I planned to use could not be used anymore because the disco light on that spot was broken. Damn! So we hurried to find a good angle and light in our backup spot (we didn’t want all the extras leaving because of the time we spent setting up). Once we got everything, everybody was on standby in their positions. All the crew were holding balloons… and.. action! After a couple of shots we got the mood and feelings! It’s a wrap!
It was an exciting new experience for us. We deserved a good cold SP beer! This was my favourite beer ever! People there say it’s organic and only has 6 month shelf life, so no preservatives at all. So cheers for the bik pla can!
It was not until the time we were about to leave PNG that I realized that the Honz shoot was our smoothest shoot in PNG. Our next 2 shoots were way way more interesting and adventurous than this one! So stay tuned!