Worth the Effort
By: Michael Steed, Producer
I’ve been working on No Reservations now for about seven months; just days ago I was in New York finishing my first show – Food Porn II – with a shoot starring legendary porn star Ron Jeremy. Now, I find myself in Liberia producing my first international episode of No Reservations. Needless to say, working on this show provides one with a wide array of experiences.
My colleague Rennik and I have been in the country for two days scouting locations and such. So far we’ve managed to wrangle shooting permits from the UN, walked to the roof of the abandoned 5 star Intercontinental Hotel (beautiful view of Monrovia up there), learned that the rest of the crew and Tony’s flights were cancelled; we’ve also gotten a flat tire on the road to Robertsport – in the middle of the bush – with no spare tire. But don’t you worry: we managed to get rescued, Tony and crew arrived only a day late and our drivers got spare tires. Most importantly we’ve learned that nothing will be easy in Liberia.
It’s the night before we are supposed to head off to Zarwulugbo Village, located in a remote section of Nimba County in the northern region of Liberia. We are supposed to leave in less than 10 hours and we’re still not quite sure of the village’s exact location – Zarwulugbo is not on any map. Rennik has managed (through magic I suppose) to find a helicopter but the pilot has a very tight schedule and some serious weight restrictions. We must leave by eight AM. No one knows this yet but, due to weight restrictions, half the crew will be left behind; then, if weather permits, we will be picked up at noon the next day.
For any of this to happen we need to somehow get the pilot GPS coordinates for the village because he also has no idea where Zarwulugbo is located. We also need to make sure there is a place to land near the village otherwise; it’s a no go. There are no phones in Zarwulugbo so the only way to get this vital information is to send a recon team. We send a member of our security team – Bob, along with our local fixer – Edwin, and a driver – Muhammad off to Nimba County early in the morning to find the village. The plan being that when (if) they find the village they will use the satellite phone to send us the GPS coordinates. So, my fingers are crossed that Bob and the team can find the village and the drive is actually the six hours it’s been rumored to be. I won’t keep you waiting…It’s not. It’s actually 12.
Later that night we finally get an update from Bob and the team; driving conditions (a downed bridge and nightfall) have forced a stopover in Ganta and they won’t be able to leave for Zarwulugbo until morning. Locals know of the village and swear that it is about a 3-hour drive. So this shoot now depends on whether or not Bob and the team can make it to the village before our pilot has to leave in the morning. Now, before heading off to an Ambien induced sleep, I have to tell the crew who gets to go on this little adventure and who’s being left behind.
The next morning; 5:30AM- Bob has checked in but has still not made it to the village. I decide we should go to the airstrip so we’re ready to leave the second we get the GPS coordinates from Bob. So Tony, our guide Tim, one cameraman Jerry and I head off, not knowing if we’re flying anywhere.
8:30 AM: success! Bob has found the village; radios back GPS coordinates and assures the pilot there is a large enough field where he can land.
We all pile into the helicopter and off we go for the bumpy ride to Zarwulugbo. Another hurdle cleared. Now I just have to figure out what we will be seeing once we’re there. Usually we would have a pretty good idea going in but here in Liberia nothing is that easy.