What it’s like to be a fixer in Romania?

People are usually confused when hearing about my job. It’s not a popular one in Romania and to be honest I was a bit lost as well when I started doing it. To make it more clear let me share a story whit you.

G. slips easily into my backpack a crinkled piece of paper whit his thoughts written on it. For a second his movement gets by me. But it G.makes be aware:

Be careful you have something in your backpack.

I am in shock for a moment. After a few minutes I check the exterior pocket of my backpack and find a piece of paper ripped out from his 3rd-grade math notebook where he wrote in big letters:

This is a message for my family who I didn’t see in a long time. Mom, please forgive me for making you cry.

This is the message of G., sentenced for life in prison in the Maximum Penitentiary in Craiova city (south Romania) for first-degree murder and who was one of the Inside the World’s toughest prisons ( Netlfix) main contributors. This is when I understand that when working on a video production of this scale you realize that as a fixer you can get yourself into some very dark places that you wouldn’t even imagine. Few people know what it means to be a fixer or if being a fixer can be a job itself.

Each time I am asked what a fixer actually does I always start explaining using the example of Fixeur ( 2016) movie that shows in detail all the editorial and logistical responsibilities a fixer must achieve together whit the emotional and moral challenges to face when working whit real people.

Being a fixer in Romania is a job not a lot of people are familiar whit. It is true that I needed some time to figure out what this job actually mean. Honestly, to be I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Some called it a stringer, others a production assistant, others producer, scouter, researcher, and so on and so far.

What I know for sure is that I started my international media fixing adventure in Romania back in 2016 in Cluj Napoca city. I had been based there thanks to a job at a local television. Out of the blue, I got a call from a Romanian who was based in London and who was looking for a fixer to handle a History Channel team in Romania. We filmed for two days for Ancient Aliens in Cluj Napoca Museum a prehistoric rock. 2 days to film a rock?! It was a bit unusual for me, to be honest. My mission then was to be present, take care of the presenter’s makeup, and make sure everything is ok. A pretty simple mission that seemed a bit useless at that time. That was also because the crew’s needs were less than my acting skills were able to take. Once I finished that project I wasn’t sure I found my new mission in life. But still I said goodbye to the noisy TV news stations for a job that looked more like an adventure than a profession.

The drog of fixing got into my blood once I had to face the massive protests that took place in Romania back in 2017 again corruption whit an HBO Vice News team in Bucharest city – the capital of Romania. I got a chance to put Romania on the international scene and show the face of a country that was sick and tired of being silent. The energy of the people protesting, the challenges that came whit the chaos created, the cold temperatures, but most of all the professional way of working of the team – all in one made me fall in love whit the adrenaline of media fixing.

This is when I realized that being a fixer is about finding people, voices, stories, faces, and places that can become international news, documentaries, travel shows, or movie scenarios.

Romania, unfortunately, occupies a narrow space in international media outlets, and most of the time it gets portrayed in a way that is unfair and sometimes unreal. Searching for sensational and less informational content lots of news about Romania are about corruption, Dracula, and communism. Despite this, there is a fascination among Romanians about foreign media and we get very proud when our country is part of a story broadcasted in The Guardian, BBC, or Netflix. The question is: how does an international production company gets to film in a country where the language and culture are completely unknown? This is where the fixer gets into the picture.

In the last 5 years, I had the chance to work whit thousands of international media teams that looked to get the perfect frame and authentic stories from Romania fit to be streamed on National Geographic or Discovery Channel. I illustrated whit the help of extraordinary international filmmakers an authentic Romania full of humor working whit Michael and Jack Whitehall in their European series of Travels whit my Father. We took the oldest train in Romania – Mocanita – to travel the mountains whit, Chris Tarrant, in Extreme Railways Journeys, and revealed dangerous and spectacular places for the documentary production of What on Earth for Discovery Channel.

In love whit the spirit of this country I managed to convince a Chinese team to come and film the story of garlic in Romania.

Little did they know that in Romania people still have natural ways of planting crops using their hands and some 200 years old tools?! The surprise went on when they heard that garlic here has anti-vampire proprieties and keeps bad spirits away.

Being a fixer also means having to deal whit the local authorities in order to get filming access. Romania is still a country full of bureaucracy and you need a lot of patience to deal whit our local office workers. Usually, a filming approval takes around 30 days to get an answer but if you whit the right fixer you can get it faster. It is always a great satisfaction to sort out approval in less than 10 days even if that means chasing after the national institutions.

Romania – a country meant to be a filming scene

Romania may have a lot to improve but at the same time is mesmerizing, It is hard not to fall in love whit this land especially because of its diversity. Once you cross over the Carpathians and enter Transylvania there’s a hall new world. Leaving behind the Berlin-like ex communism style of Bucharest you get to see a beautiful and very well-preserved Romania. No wonder the Prince of Wales came here almost every summer for a natural cleanse. This country is a champion when it comes to diversity. From ancient shepherds to remote potters of the Maramures area, who knead the clay as they did 200 years ago, to the fishermen in the Danube Delta and sassy fortune-tellers I can say by far that this country was made to be a filming scene

Talking about characters, maybe you wonder what happens to G’s note. In this situation, the Penitentiary’s protocol does not allow sending of clandestine messages. G. had to wait for the visit day to send his thoughts to his family. And I remained whit the thought that one day, 25 years from now,  he will be out of jail pissed on me because I was a bad messenger. Although to be truly honest I don’t think he will remember me until then.

Overall the moment you take on the role of being a media fixer you have to be aware of the fact that beyond the privilege of seeing how stories come to life, you get into a mission where you have to leave yourself aside, you the one who discovered the character and red line of the story.

Just like Michelangelo who was convinced that the statue already exists in that piece of marble and that all he was doing was not to shape up by sculpting but to take the marble surplus to bring out to light the statue, a media fixer in the one who digs after stories and takes out unique versions of them.



Blog Date

September 15, 2022

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