I have worked in Lebanon as a fixer for news and media production companies since 2003, from advance scouting and investigating to full logistics during filming.
During this time I traveled all over the country, often independently, seeking out and photographing locations, characters and stories from
housewives cooking, archaeologists to armed militias. Documentaries I worked on include: Globe Trekker, Excellent Adventures, Spice Trails, Beirut City Guide etc.
Lebanon is a beautiful and varied country. It has everything a film crew could ask for – beautiful natural scenery, great beaches, mountains, food, vineyards, night life, amazing archaeological sites, great and varied food and, above all, a warm and welcoming people who are brimming with character.
On the other hand, Lebanon is a fragmented, restive country and filming there poses certain challenges, mainly in getting permits and getting local authorities (official and unofficial) to allow us to film. It takes a degree of cultural sensitivity, understanding the issues and poise in communication and negotiation. And remembering that one little thing could make or break a shoot. There are also some security and cultural issues that people working there, be it for news or documentaries, must be aware of and accommodate.
This is particularly important in relation to the many various sects in Lebanon and the territories they control. It is important to know and follow their procedures for allowing filming (if they choose to give permission), and in as much as one can, nurture relations to facilitate permissions and access. You also have to know where and when to film and when to wait and seek out (or wait to be approached by) a local agent and get the required nod of approval and cooperation. Pulling out gear and starting to film can get you in a lot of trouble and in some cases mean the end of the entire shoot, not just the day. This is even if you have the official ministry permission to film in Lebanon.
I have also handled cross border travel and filming issues with Syria. A particularly cumbersome and fraught job that requires dealing and coordinating between two bureaucracies and much jumping through loops.
Away from filming, I worked on the logistics and security of visiting international stars Beyonce and Ke$ha to Beirut where extremely detailed transportation and security arrangements where being demanded. The level of stress on these jobs is cranked up by organizers for no real reason and you constantly have to be five steps ahead of the curve.
I also worked extensively as a fixer for news organizations such as BBC, VOA, CNN, and News International on a wide range of stories including:
– The assassination of ex Prime Minister Rafic Hariri extensively from the day of his assassination (Feb 14, 2005) through to his burial and the following upheavals in Lebanon that became known as the Cedar Revolution.
– Extensive coverage of the 2006 Israeli bombardment both from Beirut and from the south of the country where the bombing was at its most extensive.
– The Lebanese army bombardment of the Nahr al Bared Refugee camp in North Lebanon and the ensuing exodus of refugees to neighbouring camps.- Stories regarding the plight of the Palestinian refugees in every camp in Lebanon. I have visited every camp on one occasion or the other, and I have intimate knowledge of the meanest camp, Ain al Hilweh, in southern Lebanon.
I also do a great deal of advance investigation and reporting on stories for international news organisations.
For more of my location pictures from around the Middle East, visit www.zumapress.com and search for Stewart Innes.
(Contact me at stewart [at] stewartinnes.com for login details)