5 Lessons Learned on Shooting Commercial Outside of Tokyo 

5 Lessons Learned on Shooting Commercial Outside of Tokyo 
5 Lessons Learned on Shooting Commercial Outside of Tokyo 
5 Lessons Learned on Shooting Commercial Outside of Tokyo 

This year, I took on the most ambitious project as a young producer: a promotional video for the 2023 FIBA World Basketball Cup. Why was it ambitious, you ask? A promotional video seems pretty straightforward. Well, it is – until it happens outside of Tokyo. 

One thing that has become more evident as we do more jobs in Japan is that many of the resources needed for high-end video production are heavily concentrated in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Beyond those borders, options become far and few. 

This project took us all the way to Miyazaki City in Kyushu Prefecture, which had little to offer in terms of production resources. It was challenging to source the crew, equipment, and other logistical necessities and get them to Miyazaki as quickly and in a budget-friendly way as possible, but we made it happen. Shout out to Spur Productions, an oasis in the production desert that helped us make this shoot possible.

Here are 5 lessons I learned when planning (and budgeting for) a big commercial production outside of Tokyo: 

  1. Hotel location is essential! It’s worth spending a bit more to get a place closer to the location of the shoot. And remember to book extra rooms for gear. Remember to double-check every location on Google Maps!

  2. Bump your gear budget by 30% to account for travel. A cargo flight will send anything (except batteries) anywhere in the country. Still, it’s pricey, and you’ll need an extra hour at departure and upon arrival to unload. Factor this into your logistics plan. 

  3. Plan for catering as far in advance as humanly possible. The more remote you are, the fewer food options you have, and there definitely wasn’t any Uber Eats in Miyazaki. It’s worth putting in an order with a local restaurant well in advance and fine-tuning it later. 

  4. Never trust a taxi driver to take a non-Japanese-speaking client anywhere alone! If you or a PA can’t be in the car with them, tape an AirTag to an IP radio and eliminate language barriers while ensuring they don’t take any unwanted detours. Even if they know where they’re going, unexpected things can happen. 

  5. Bilingual crews are difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to find outside of major cities. If bilingual staff are essential, flying them out there is worth the extra cost. If travel budgets are tight, you can get around this by hiring one or two interpreters and bringing them out to the shoot with you – the money spent will be worth the time saved, avoiding miscommunications and misunderstandings on set.