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Per Diems Are in the Envelope: Part 2



Great Guns director Calum Macdiarmid continues his three-part travel diary, this time stopping off in Santiago and Crete

Per Diems Are in the Envelope: Part 2

One of the great joys of this industry has been, until recently, all the travel.

I’ve heard shoots abroad referred to as a ‘sholiday’ - even though they can be incredibly stressful, you are nonetheless in a foreign land away from all the more ordinary stresses, where the pressures of delivering expands to fill your entire consciousness. For a brief week or two, nothing in the world matters… from paying your rent to social obligations, it all goes out the window. Coupled with room service this can be a strangely pleasurable escape.

The following is a photo diary of those adventures abroad, for work, leisure and everything in-between.


I booked a KY jelly commercial a couple of years ago which we filmed in Santiago. The entire film was shot in a bedroom... It seems mad to travel that far for a bedroom (it was nothing special) but we were there because agency was from the US and due to the difference of economies this was the cheapest place to film. Great! I’d never been to South America before.

The most memorable incident occurred during a rare few hours of free time. As you can see from the photo below, the hotel was in a valley surrounded by hills and mountains. I thought I’d get some exercise and take a little jog up the hill. I’d been jogging for about 30 minutes and was about half way up when I came across a little home-made shanty house. There were a lot of homeless in this area and some of them had taken to the hills to build quite elaborate living spaces. I came round a corner straight into the biggest dog I’d ever seen... like a steroid injected Mastiff or something. It was off a leash, and went absolutely apeshit - it must have got a shock itself - and immediately went for me.

This thing was HUGE. I somehow managed to dodge the first couple of lunges and pulled a stick off a tree which I tried to fend him off with... but he kept coming... and I kept swiping back... it was like I was having a sword fight with this mad dog... parrying his lunges with the stick and all the time I’m taking steps backwards, stumbling over everything... until I fall off the edge of the mountain and start tumbling down this ravine filled with stones. I must have fallen about 50ft and all these rocks are rolling along with me... it was like a Spielberg movie only much more painful. Luckily the land flattened out and me and the rocks all skidded to a halt.

I pulled myself up... I was pretty battered and bruised but actually OK. The dog was stood over the ledge and still going apeshit barking down at me. Realising I was actually somehow not seriously hurt I put my headphones back in and continued back down the mountain. I eventually even allowed myself a little laugh as the adrenaline gave way to a post-trauma endorphin release. I got back to my hotel room and I was still listening to music but imagined I could still hear that dog barking away as if it was in right front of me. I thought to myself the experience must have actually been quite traumatic if I’m hearing a dog barking over my music. Then I took my headphones out and realised I wasn’t imagining it. This fucking dog was still going absolutely bonkers and was so massive he was able to use his lung capacity to project his bark over the entire valley so that I could hear it through my balcony windows in my room.

I stood out on the balcony looking at the mountain. As the barks echoed over the town, commuters were going about their everyday lives, oblivious to what the racket was about. As the sun set and dusk filled the sky I wondered if we would ever cross swords again. A worthy adversary indeed.

A great thing about Santiago is that you literally have the Andes on your doorstep. You can go from sweltering heat in the city up to snow capped tips within a matter of hours.

We had one day to spare after our shoot was wrapped which everyone was keen to capitalise on, so our producer arranged a trip up into the Andes. I however, had recently had my first child which was a blessing but also meant a change of lifestyle... the most challenging of which was that hangovers were impossible, and I could no longer go drinking with impunity.

So on that last day the agency creatives and producers had the pleasure of exploring the seventh wonder of the world. I can’t tell you what that’s like though as the night before I chose the opportunity to get blind drunk over wrap drinks and revel in the glory of an epic, head pounding, hotel hangover. It was glorious.


In the inverse way that a foreign shoot can sometimes feel like a holiday; in this industry, a real holiday is never really a holiday...

There’s always a pitch that comes up last minute that requires a sudden burst of work, and always a bit of post production work that’s overlapped.

I once had exactly that situation in Crete which required me to hide in the shadows of a villa basement desperately animating a title sequence and a few VFX shots for a project. Technically this was all possible as I had my laptop, the correct software, and with the help of an iPad borrowed from the kids, was able to even build myself a rudimental monitor. The internet was something I hadn’t taken into account though. 

I managed to finish the work needing doing within about three days which meant I could set it to upload it the day before our 10am deadline of the next day. The deadline was one of those advertising style ones: ‘you’ll never work again if you don’t meet it’.

By the time I’m actually finished it’s midnight. I click on WeTransfer and its saying 10 hours upload time. Fuck. I’ve found WeTransfers that long never go through as there is always some inevitable drop in Internet. However it's midnight, I’m in the middle of nowhere and totally out of options. Click send and pray to Zeus. At 1am I check the transfer... still going. Time to sleep. 2am can’t sleep. Check... still going... 3am repeat. That was one long hot Cretian night, bullets of sweat pouring from me as the WeTransfer wheel of torture teased me on every hourly check.

At 7am it's 99% transferred but seems too slow. An hour later and it hasn’t budged... it appears to have frozen. 9.59am still frozen. Time to consider new job options. Then at exactly the same second my computer clock turns to 10am the screen changes... 100% ‘your transfer is complete!’

It was like some sort of Greek god induced miracle! I finally passed out.

Naturally we were informed by the client the next day that the project had been postponed by a week for various internal reasons. They suggested we make a couple of tweaks in the meantime and deliver for 10am next week.

The one other problem with personal holidays is that as a creative lunatic I have a sickness that doesn’t allow me to lie in the sun too long before I’m figuring out what new little film I’m going to make or shooting stills with my partner Julia. These photos are from Crete where I should have just been lying on the sand and just enjoying the stillness.

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Genres: People

Great Guns London, Wed, 20 Oct 2021 14:41:00 GMT