Television crew heads off to Colombia - Metro US

Television crew heads off to Colombia

julia dimon for metro toronto

Julia Dimon strolls the streets of downtown Bogota filming Word Travels, a reality TV series about the lives of travel writers.

Forehead pressed against the pane of the plane window, I take in the scene. Colombia sure is beautiful at 20,000 feet: Rolling green hills, a prehistoric grey fog creeping overland and a rising orange sun that stains the sky like the oils of a Rothko painting.

As I pop my chair back into the so-called upright position and the cabin crew prepares for decent, reality sets in.

I’m in Colombia. I’m shooting a television show. This is all really happening.

I scan the airplane for the rest of my team. These gringos are easy to spot. I see Robin, my co-host and fellow travel writer; Mary, our fearless director; Zack, the easygoing sound guy; Katherine, a fair-skinned field producer; and Shawn, our giant, bald cameraman.

For the next few months, this cast of colourful characters will be my surrogate family. Together, we will travel through some 13 countries, filming the behind-the-scenes reality of life as a travel writer. The show, Word Travels, will then be broadcast on OLN in early 2008. We’re strangers, thrown together for a trip of a lifetime. Anything can happen.

So the plane touches down and we arrive safely in Bogota. The only problem is — some of our camera equipment didn’t quite make it. Somewhere between LAX and Eldorado airport, our boom pole was lost in transit.

Important for quality sound, I learn that a missing boom pole is a big deal. Mary, the only one in our team who speaks fluent Spanish, spends the next hour talking with supervisors and filling out a claims form. Though the baggage handlers are very apologetic, there is no boom pole to be found. We’ve been in Colombia for five minutes and there are already problems. Not a good sign.

Dejected, we hop in a van, drop our bags off at the hotel and try to get to work. Desperate times called for desperate measures, so Zack gets creative. He finds a broom, removes the stick part, grabs a roll of duct tape and makes his own boom makeshift pole. Sure, this isn’t industry standard but it’ll do, jokes Zack.

I thread a black microphone wire under my shirt and clip it to my camisole. Sound check: “Testing, testing … one, two, three.” Now I feel like a real TV star.

Though Zack is standing a block away from me, he can hear my every breath through his set of earphones. It’s a strange feeling to have someone record your every word. I feel the buds of paranoia start to bloom. Let’s not forget to turn off the mic before going to the bathroom, I think to myself.

With sound and cameras rolling, the crew hit the streets of downtown Bogota. From the quaint colonial architecture to the highrise buildings, Bogota was the perfect blend of cosmopolitan and historical. And being home to 25 universities, the population is packed with well educated young people.

Unlike many big Latin American cities, this Colombian capital felt safe, looked clean and turned out to be pedestrian friendly. Every Sunday, the streets are closed to cars and reserved for thousands of people on bicycles.

I have to say, Bogota is pretty impressive. A bit colder than I expected — South America is supposed to be steamy and tropical, isn’t it? — but it’s a city I’d love to revisit. Maybe next time with a proper boom pole.

Julia Dimon is editor of The Travel Junkie, an online magazine for independent travellers. She can be reached at www.thetraveljunkie.ca.

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