NGO & Charity Filming in Africa

As I’ve now been out in Africa a few times producing videos for NGOs and Charities I have picked up some good working practises and ways of working. Africa is an intense continent and the availability of both power and water can be limiting. Here’s my experience:


  • Take as many batteries as possible and charge them at every opportunity. Most places I’ve visited have the infrastructure for power but it’s not always there.
  • Kit and dust don’t mix. Having a Rocket Air Blower and cleaning lenses and bodies is critical
  • The sun is so strong and bright so using an ND filter is a must. I use the Tiffen 77mm and use it on both the 70-200mm and 35mm. I have an ND 8 filter for the 50mm
  • Don’t leave your camera sat in the sun, I’ve left the 5D sitting out a few times by mistake and it gets so hot fast. I’m surprised it didn’t overheat. The 60d would have.
  • Looking after rushes is a must. I usually bring a laptop and backup and log rushes as I go. I give a hard drive with the duplicated rushes to someone else in the team.
  • As with any project have a solid understanding of what the client wants and who it’s targeted at. Plan each film and make a story board and script so you can tick off shots as you go. It’s easy out there to get distracted and film everything that moves.
  • When you need to direct shots try and translator who can then tell the folk in the shot what to do, otherwise it’s an absolute nightmare. Tell people not to stare at the camera when shooting.



  • Water. Stock up on it and don’t drink water if you are unsure where it came from. If it’s not bottled make sure it’s been boiled, filtered or bring purification tablets (and don’t forget neutraliser sachets otherwise it will taste awful). If you’re dehydrated and working in the sun during the day you’ll soon feel crap. Drink tonnes of the stuff.
  • If you’re pulled over by the police and they try to get a bribe from you, don’t hand over cash, at least not straight away. Get out the car and walk into the open to chat and the fella might backout after being worried about being seen (it is highly illegal). If that fails get on the phone and pretend to contact your lawyer to “check the law”. If you can bring an old driving licence, and always use this first – if shit hits the fan you can always boost. Failing that, photocopy your licence and keep that in the car. Only hand over your real licence if you have to. Generally, a bit of charm, banter and wasting their time will see you driving off with your funds intact.
  • Eating is a tricky one; the last thing you want is to get ill. If you’re out in the field filming in a village it’s usually a pretty big deal for the locals and they’ll usually want to feed you. I’ve been lucky in that most of the food has been identifiable and hasn’t made me ill.  If it is piping hot, you’ll be fine.
  • Being a ‘Muzungu’ (white person) you are always going to be ripped off. Fact.  Find out the local value of services and products and don’t get ripped off.
  • Security. Keep alert all the time, and never ever leave a bag in a car out of sight. When filming in the field with other folk about keep one eye on your bag as kids are inquisitive little creatures. Register with the High Commission in the destination country.
  • In malarial areas, ensure you take anti-malaria pills. Sleep under an insecticide impregnated net. The mozzies which do the biting and carry malaria are the female of the species and only come out from dusk til dawn. Cover up a bit more at night i.e. trousers and socks (they love cheesy feet) and use repellent with high proportions of DEET. If you start to feel nauseous, dizzy, have cold sweats or aches and pains, go to a local clinic for a blood test immediately and they will prescribe treatment if positive. Yes, many suspected cases have been diagnosed as being mere hangovers but many other people have avoided very serious consequences by taking action quickly.
  • Other nasties: check if lakes etc are free from bilharzia before swimming in them. Always wash your hands after going to the toilet and before eating. If you had to take only one precaution – hand washing is the one.

Cheers Rob waugh for your thoughts on this

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