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Filming in Egypt - with an archaeologist

In 2006, archaeologists Nigel J. Hetherington and Kelly L. Krause founded Past Preservers, a company based in Egypt to provide historical consultancy and professional guidance to the media.

Nigel took the time to talk to us about his experience, offering valuable advice for those planning to shoot in the ancient country.

          Pyramids filming

 

Filming in Egypt

"There is a deep love of bureaucracy"

“Egypt is one of those countries where there is a deep love of bureaucracy. Some blame the English, some blame the French, but this love of paperwork goes back a long way. Any application for permits will need a degree of patience, and time must be built into your project for this. But it is rare for permission to be refused.

General permits in Egypt for filming have to be done through the Ministry of the Interior but specific permissions and fees are payable for archaeological and cultural sites.

There are, of course, other constraints on filming on cultural sites. Opening hours, tourist access, and protection of the sites all have to be taken into consideration. In some cases, special permission can be obtained for filming out of hours and yes it’s true, there is nothing like filming in the Egyptian Museum at night.

          Past Preservers group
 

Early morning light

Depending on where you are filming in Egypt, the climate must be taken into consideration. For most of the year, Egypt provides a very temperate working environment. However, the three months from June to September are hell; most crews deliberately choose to avoid these times. Normally, due to a combination of daylight hours and site opening times, most filming is scheduled to begin very early and end in the late afternoon.

Crews that come in from overseas can find the climate difficult for the first few days and it can take a while to acclimatise. Once on the road, we always give the crews a goody bag with plenty of water and sunscreen.

Some festivals and the major religious holidays can also have an effect on filming, but these can usually be prepared for as publicised in advance.

           Past Preservers Pyramid
 

Local crew and equipment

Egypt is the centre of the Arab cinema and media world, with Cairo a great source for crews and equipment. However most people do prefer to bring their own kit with them which does require some pre-clearance with custom officials, but it is not usually an issue.

The roots of Past Preservers

The idea for Past Preservers (PP) was born when I was working as an archaeologist in the Valley of the Kings, for Dr. Kent Weeks’ Theban Mapping Project [TMP, an ambitious plan to map and photograph every tomb and temple in the area.] I was working with the team at the TMP to compile the site management master plan for the valley.

I was on the project for three years and during this time I had a lot of contact with the world’s media who are, as we know, fascinated by the culture of Egypt. I realised I was in a unique position to provide expert guidance, and started working on a freelance basis, offering research and location assistance to various media companies and outlets.

Past Preservers in the present day

From what began as an Egyptian-based business has expanded to an international consultancy collaborating on all types of historical productions. With a global reach, we serve as the creative hub between the media and heritage worlds. We have expanded and developed from our original base and now include a presenter agency, Past Preservers People, and a historical specialist database that includes over 1,400 experts alongside our media consultancy work.

Clients and projects

Since our inception, we have established a production consulting team with the sole purpose of producing quality history-based non-fiction programming by focusing on the creative aspect of each project. This includes concept development, production, historical consulting and casting of on-screen experts and presenters.

We have worked with numerous production companies to create shows for networks such as The History Channel, Discovery Channel, Channel 4, ABC, the Travel Channel and National Geographic.

We also provide marketing services to various companies throughout the heritage sector. Some of our clients include the Archaeological Channel, Archaeological Institute of America, Onlook Films, Peter Sommer Travels, Sustainable Preservation Initiative, Touchpress and The World Archaeological Congress.

The pull of Egypt

I first came to Egypt as a tourist in 1997 on a traditional Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan. It was here where my passion for history was rekindled and a journey began for me that took me from being an accountant to an archaeologist over the course of the next six years.

After several visits as a tourist, I returned in 2003 to begin work after completing an undergraduate degree in Egyptian archaeology and a masters degree in cultural heritage studies from UCL.

From 2003 to the present day I have spent most of my time living and working in Egypt with the rest of my time spent in the UK or US. There is a very old saying: “Once you taste from the Nile, you’ll always return.” If someone had told me in 2003 that I would have been here for the last ten years, I would have been very surprised.

          Past Preservers balloon

However, there is something about the culture and the people of Egypt that keeps pulling me back. It is a unique country, one of the oldest civilizations in the world and there is always something new to discover, whatever walk of life you are in.”

 

KFTV would like to thank Nigel for his invaluable expertise and insight into living, working and filming in Egypt.

Do you have experience filming in Egypt? Why not leave your comments below, or let us know your story via our Facebook page?

 



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