P.E.I. Film Stories: Swiss TV Fiasco

P.E.I. Film Stories: Swiss TV Fiasco

No tripod. No battery charger. No external audio recorder.

After about sixteen months of planning, Martina Ziesack finally arrived on P.E.I. for a week-long film shoot. It should have been just like every other solo shoot the video journalist has worked on back home in Switzerland.

“(But) it all started when I came to P.E.I. and my luggage did not,” she said in late July. “It’s been a very nerve-wracking 72 hours.”

All she had with her was her camera. Nothing else.

She came here to film an episode for a TV documentary series called “Adieu Heimat” (which translates to “Goodbye Homeland”). The series showcases Swiss citizens who immigrate away from their home country as a way to localize other parts of the world, she said.

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Martina arrived from Switzerland a day before her documentary subjects did – a couple immigrating to Goose River, P.E.I. The couple had planned to immigrate sixteen months ago but the move was delayed due to COVID-19.

Needless to say, capturing their eventual arrival on camera was kind of a big deal.

“Because they’re only going to arrive once,” she said. “These were all very big moments that I needed to film.”

Luckily, she brought her camera on the plane with her. So when she learned the rest of her luggage – and therefore the rest of her gear – was stuck in the Montreal airport, she at least had something to start filming with.

However, she had to rely solely on her camera’s built-in microphone rather than the lavalier microphone setup she intended to use for recording dialogue. This proved particularly challenging considering the couple’s new home is located on a windy Island cliffside.

Not having a tripod meant she was limited to handheld shots or makeshift camera stands, and as each new day arrived, her luggage didn’t – and her camera’s battery icon wasn’t helping with morale.

“I watched the percentage go down and down and down, and I was like ‘I am going to be forced to stop working.’”

She persisted as long as she could, filming long days and losing sleep at night as she searched for a solution in a part of the world she had never been to before. The fact she was also missing most of her personal belongings didn’t make things any easier.

“So I was thrilled when you guys picked up the phone,” she told FilmPEI. Then, she gestured toward her socks. “This is like my last pair of socks. I’ve been improvising on all levels.”

The only thing FilmPEI couldn’t help with was the socks.

Martina rented the gear she needed – as well as a dead cat windshield for those cliffside shots – and she was able to finish the rest of her shoot, which will likely be broadcast in Switzerland in 2023, she said.

“I’m the only person in the whole country who could do this job because I had (a) Canadian passport,” she said. “So this literally saved my production.”

It was her first time ever having to consider calling off a shoot, and at the time she wasn’t sure whether the footage she captured without proper gear would be of good enough quality to use. But she made the best with what she had and she could rest assured that, after getting what she needed, she would be able to finish what she started – and maybe get a good night’s sleep, she said.