Filming access in tough & dangerous environments

Filming access in tough & dangerous environments

Case study - Romania: Gypsy Prison

Broadcaster : Netflix

Production company – Emporium Production UK

Series producer – Emma Reads

   It began with an international call for fixers who can facilitate access inside a maximum security prison. The challenge was to get filming approval inside the inmates’ day-to-day life for a 50-minute documentary to be aired on Netflix – no strings attached, no doubts. I remember that was the time I first subscribed to Netflix in order to get my research done. Romanian prisons are secluded environments, and the government of the country wasn’t willing to show the reality behind bars. There have been several tries in the past to get a story like this done but without any luck.

     I thought to myself that there must be some other way to get access to a Romanian prison so I started my research by following the journalists and photojournalists who managed to get a glimpse into a Romanian prison. And that was my key.  I got not one, but two Romanian prisons that agreed to open their doors for a Britsh production. We chose the prison with the highest risk or danger and whit the most high-profile criminals – The maximum security prison in the city of Craiova – one of the most dangerous places in Romania whit the highest crime rate in the country. We conducted two rounds of recces to deal with the prison administration in order to cast the best inmates for the video production. We found incredible characters with strong stories that made the script of this complex documentary.  This British production required 10 days in prison and long interviews with the contributors, and police forces. 

Filming inside a prison required a lot of skills and an honest approach to the situation. There was no room for mistakes.

  I was responsible for:

  • clearing filming access by conducting negotiations and handling release forms and management approval
  • interaction whit inmates to create the right setup for the scenes
  • simultaneous translations on the shooting field
  • logistic coordination facilitating transport and extra crew
I worked closely with Rafael Rowe, one of the best television presenters in the UK, I had a chance to assist and I’m honored to say that I learned so much about journalism in difficult conditions and the psychology behind it.