BMW Japan + Qualtrics

The Situation

We were told in November 2018 that we would be doing a BMW global story. Filming would happen in Japan, Sweden and USA. This video needed to be done by March 1st, 2019. This put a huge amount of pressure on the producer Janssen and the whole team to get everything set up in each country to get the filming done not to mention the other three projects we were juggling at the same time. The first country we would be filming in was Japan.

We instantly started reaching out the production companies and line producers in Tokyo Japan area to help us get all the necessary gear and crew for the shoot. This was quite the process and so many companies didn’t even get back to us. Than come to find out the only week that BMW Japan could do the filming was the week right after Japan’s biggest holiday, the new year. We had to have everything locked in place before December 20th which really tightened our deadline.

Filming: Day 1


The culture of Japan as many know is very different from western culture for starters their country is so incredibly clean and it was amazing to see that. The first day didn’t start out great. Our mood board had each interview in front of a white backdrop as we didn’t have a ton of control over where we would be filming and it would help with consistency across countries.

Our first obstacle was the dealership we were filming our first interview didn’t have enough space anywhere to set up the backdrop that we needed. So the looked changed for all dealerships to show off the cars in the background and than all they corporate interviews would be in front of white.

After the interview they only gave us two hours to get all the b roll in the dealership which made again for a very fast and tight schedule but we were able to get it done. The second rule we set up in the style guide was the camera should be locked off and things enter and exit the frame unless it was driving footage. This did help us be more intentional with our shots and move a little quicker.

Once we finished with the dealership we had Bento Boxes which is basically an assortment of cold fish and rice. Needless to say not my favorite meal. We took our driving talent to a park filmed him taking a survey and than some driving shots over the iconic Tokyo Rainbow Bridge. Here posed another problem and that was our super ghetto car rig. This was the jankiest car rig I had ever used and it made me super nervous. We were able to get some decent shots but I had our producer pick up a new one before the next day shoot.

Filming Day 2

This was our big B roll day. On every shoot there is always one day in the schedule that stretches you and makes you think how are we going get everything we need today? That was day two. We had filming in a Dealership in the morning, a park in the afternoon and driving city at night. This made it a very busy day. The best stuff we got though was in the dealership.


This was my favorite part of the whole trip. We had a good size crew all the equipment we needed and enough time to shape the light and get great shots. One of my favorite aspects of cinematography is the lighting. It might be because I started out as a gaffer and moved into becoming a DP but shaping light and creating looks is so much fun. Especially with cars. It poses a fun challenge but is very satisfying.

After covering everything in the dealership we moved on to a date in the park with the couple. By the end we were losing light so we really had to rush this one. But again our crew did awesome and we were able to get all the coverage we needed.

The final location was driving with all the Tokyo lights around the actors and car. This proved to be very difficult to get good length of road to get some good driving shots as everything was stop and go and of course traffic was crazy. Our driver was awesome he knew the city really well and found a good spot for us to pull over to switch up the rig on the car. We didn’t have permits for this area and two police officers showed up on bikes asking us what we were doing and our driver spoke to them and they left. I asked him “what did they say?” he said they were just asking what we were doing and he said doing some filming and they said well have fun. Side note: it’s always good to have a native speaker with you when filming in foreign countries.

Filming: Day 3

The interview day and on our scouting day we found one room in the whole building that they were going to allow us to film in and it was incredibly small conference room. We decided instead to rent a room in a neighboring hotel and have the interviews in there. This gave us plenty of space for set up but the only difficulty was we needed to hustle back over to HQ to go film all the b roll.

This is when things got complicated. When we pulled the cart into the lobby the security guard freaked out yelling at us that we couldn’t bring a cart in there but we had to use the freight elevator. Which of course is around the back of the building and you have to use two separate elevators and walk a good distance between the two. This added an extra 30 minutes to us getting up there into the room to film. Also it made it real fun that this 40 story building only had one, mind you very large, freight elevator and when you cram all the equipment and crew in even if it’s large still is a tight squeeze. It would also stop on floors on the way up and we would have to be like hi sorry there isn’t any room.


After the fiasco of getting to the location than there was the tiny conference room that we had to film in. Cramming a light, three talent and crew in that room as well as having to store all equipment in the same room made for some very tight quarters. But we made it work and got the shots. We moved on to the main floor to film people working at their desk and this just wasn’t the prettiest picture. It was row after row of cubicles and it was like a library in there so quiet and they asked that we were quick and silent as to not disturb other workers. After all of this we got the footage we needed but it was a very difficult day mentally. A lot of ducks, twists and turns. I was very glad when it was over.

All in all the shoot went ok. We had a ton of issues that kept popping up and it felt like at times everything was stacked against us but at the end of the day we were able to get some good shots and capture what we needed to. I put together just a very quick little reel of some of my favorite shots from the shoot in Japan. The next stop Sweden.

Micah Brown