A cruise ship filmmaker – life on board
As many of you know I worked as cruise ship filmmaker at sea. But what exactly does a cruise ship filmmaker do? How did I get this job in the first place and how does my day look like?
Well, when I returned to Germany in 2011 I tried getting jobs as filmmaker in Berlin, but Berlin is so crowded with talented media folks, that I had tough luck getting my rent paid. At some point, totally frustrated, I decided to look for more exotic jobs. I thought, that possibly my CV was too specialized and too exotic for many companies to hire me. (I’ve lived and worked as freelancer in Asia for six years, which means I had no connection in Berlin whatsoever to start with, nor experience working with German clients who actually lived in Germany. At least not from 2005 to 2011.)
A friend told me that there are jobs on cruise ships. I thought that sounds exotic enough – literally – and found a job posting in the web for a cruise ship filmmaker. 24 hours later I had the job!
Living on a cruise ship is like living in a small parallel universe. The world outside barely seems to exist. You are with the same people living, eating, working together for months. Truth to tell it’s not so far off a feature film shoot, actually. As filmmaker I have to say this is an awesome opportunity to study interpersonal relationships on a small scale. We have a 7 days week, no day off for as long as the contract lasts. That can be from anywhere in between a couple of weeks to 9 months. (Nannies usually just stay for one two weeks or a month. The Asian staff working at the engine or the housekeeping department stays on for 9 to 10 months.) I’m now on my second contract. The first one had a duration of 4 months, this one will last for 4 and a half months.
As video team, we are responsible to create a DVD for each trip, which usually lasts for 12 to 19 days at MV Europa, the motor vessel I’m working at. Each day we need to decide what to film. We have no superior telling us, which is great actually. The first day it’s usually embarkation, the second day the Welcome show with introduction of the artists who are responsible for the night program on board. On destination days we are joining excursions, filming the guests, filming what they see and on days at sea we are filming life on board. Each 2 weeks (on average) we are creating a 70 to 80 minutes film. We are writing off-texts, we choose music, we direct, produce, edit and sell the final DVDs or BluRays on board. The film needs to be finished and finalized at the last day of the journey, so the guest can take it home straight away. Here are a couple of photos I took during the last days on some excursions or destinations with individual shore leave (which means no special excursions offered).
It’s fantastic to see all those far away places. However, 4,5 months on a cruise, almost everyday a new destination takes its toll – you have barely enough time to explore a place. It’s a surreal journey and you just get glimpses out. It’s like location scouting in a way. A typical day could look like this: getting up at 7:30, breakfast at 8, standby 8:30 for the excursion which departs at 9:00. Back on board around 1pm (the guests don’t want to miss their lunch). Editing after and adding the sequence to the rest of the film. (Many days have longer excursions though or something else to film in the afternoon.)
The first days on each contract you are not getting much sleep. You have to get to know the new working place, new work mates. If it’s your first contract, everything is new. It usually takes me 1,5 to 2 months before I am able to enjoy (that’s when your homesickness fades away, too.) What I realized as well is that after a while my creative juices get flowing. Being on board and NOT working on my own films makes me want to work for them even harder. And on board you don’t have any distraction like phone calls or meeting friends (haha) – therefore you can even use 30 minutes to 1 hour to write. I was able to finish a script during my first contract which then was selected under the Top 25 at the Screenplay Replay Contest.
And I have plans for this contract, too. So… stay tuned and while waiting for my new projects, do check out Kinks, my last film which is available on Google Play.