Our time in Nepal

The Distillery London has shot far and wide - from Rwanda to Tanzania to India and across the continent. Recently, we traveled to Nepal for a challenging few weeks. 

Here are a few words from Craig, our brilliant shooting director extraordinaire about his recent time in Nepal...

On April 25th a devastating earthquake hit Nepal, followed by another on May 12th. The Disasters Emergency Committee immediately launched an appeal and the team here at The Distillery were quickly embedded at DEC HQ to cover the appeal via social video and online content.

Three months on from the disaster, an important milestone for the aid and recovery after a disaster like the earthquake, I flew to Nepal with DEC CEO Saleh Saeed to film with some of their thirteen member agencies. DEC wanted us to capture the incredible aid effort that had been implemented and clearly demonstrate how the millions of pounds raised in the UK have been utilised so far. For the DEC, accountability of their funds and tangible proof of their work, is an important part of their ethos and equally it was an important chance for Saleh to meet first hand the people affected and subsequently benefitting from the appeal. We worked closely with DEC to ensure the content of the films was shaped with both practicality and sensitivity in mind.

Half way through the trip I was to be joined by trailblazing UK fundraiser Julius Billones. Julius had done something amazing; he’d ran 100 kilometres over two days for the appeal (during one of his training session we organised a massive surprise that we captured on film) so we wanted to take him, representing all his fundraising peers, on a journey to understand the results of their heroic and generous actions.

Filming overseas is a hugely challenging logistical and technical operation for any production, and something The Distillery has extensive experience doing, but doing it in a country that is partly a disaster zone, in remote areas with little or no modern facilities meant we had to plan precisely but also allow room to be reactive and flexible. We decided on a bunch of kit that was durable and portable and allowed me to get into the thick of the action without being intrusive.

nepal kit

We were there to tell hugely personal stories of death and destruction on an almost incomputable scale so we needed to be sure our contributors felt as comfortable as possible. We settled on a Canon 5D Mark III kit primarily on a handheld rig, to capture the actuality of what I was seeing with the addition of mounted GoPro’s when conditions weren’t too tough. And boy, they were tough. The member agencies are working in such remote areas, during Monsoon season and in intense heat meaning that nothing is easy or straightforward. One day saw us drive three hours to a mountainous village on roads that were nothing more than rocks and mud. Being bounced around in a jeep for the entire time certainly gave you perspective on what a huge achievement it was for the charities to be getting trucks of aid and supplies to these areas. The conditions also meant I had to think creatively when shooting, which was actually a really thrilling challenge. Sitting the camera on corrugated iron that was being carried and filming Julius running from the back of a jeep to replicate a low-loader were just some of the cheats I really enjoyed.

We worked tirelessly with the DEC and the member agencies to arrange a regimented schedule of visits to them and their programmes and I was lucky enough to spend time with Save the Children, OXFAM, Christian Aid, Tearfund, Plan International and British Red Cross. Nothing can quite prepare you for filming some of the sights I saw, and hearing some of the devastating stories, I heard. You just have to stay focussed, think practically and bite your quivering lip. The resilience and good humour of the people of Nepal is one of the things that will stay with me forever. From the woman who stood in her field, baby son in her arms, and watched her house crumble during the tremors to the woman who pulled her dead eight year old daughter from the rubble of their home (and had the tenacity to talk about it to complete strangers!) to the man who watched the house he spent five years building with his own hands fall down in seconds. It was a truly humbling experience.

The sheer variety and volume of the DEC’s work and the impact it’s having on the people of Nepal meant this experience has been one of the most rewarding, emotional and worthwhile projects that I and The Distillery have undertaken to date.