Before you start planning your Filmor TV shoot, there are several things you should know - or have !
1 - A proper visa
If you want to come to shoot your project; no matter if it is a feature film or a low budget documentary you cannot take the chances to come under the wrong type of visa. If you think you can take a business visa instead of the proper one problem will arise. China's embassy staff and local law enforcement are more and more careful about "guerrilla shooting" and by working illegally you expose yourself to at least a hefty fine, if not getting yourself blacklisted and even retention time.
2 - A proper permit
As you are securing the proper visa you will need also to get the permissions to come to China and create your project. Documentary, animation, film co-productions or reality TV show all have different types of procedures. Only your local partner can guide you efficiently through the twisted administration layers of shooting permits.
3 - A good fixer
You saw it coming, but yes, hiring a local fixer (or even finding a co-producer) is the best way to ensure your production is in good hands. Even with all the right permits you need to be sure someone understands your needs and react quickly to them. Understanding English is not enough, understanding and anticipating your needs can only be done by professionals in your field.
4 - An internet connection
It sounds like a given, but before crossing the Great Wall make sure you will be able to access your western social media by getting a VPN. There is also no need to subscribe to a “China travel plan” from your home country phone provider. Fortunately every major airport and even local phone shop can help you set up a Chinese phone number plan that is rather inexpensive (around 10 euros).
5 - Expensive equipment is taxed
According to China’s regulations, shooting cameras and expensive film equipment are subject to heavy taxes when you enter the country because they are “luxury products.” As the Customs are afraid you will smuggle your equipment and sell it within China for a profit, there is the chance they will fine you. You can either rent your equipment on the spot or take an ATA Carnet.
6 - Drone shooting is subject to regulations
The good times of when anyone could fly their drone over the Forbidden City without a license are long gone. Some places are forbidden for aerial shooting and by using a drone for commercial purposes you need to register it onto the CAAC’s website (Civil Aviation Administration of China) with a Chinese’s company license number. And if you think you can skip this part and start shoot aerial footage without going through this process, please read step 2 again.
7 - Use Chinese apps
The majority of Chinese apps for booking a train, ordering food or calling a cab don't have an English version, or if they do, they require a Chinese bank account. Also as everything is app-driven; you could end up not finding a taxi because they have all been booked online. There is always the possibility to order things, for example train tickets, through an English website, but service fees will apply. So why not spend this money on a quality fixer who will take care of everything?
8 - Be careful of the climate
China is the 4th biggest country in the world, therefore it has a lot of different types of climates. From the Siberian climate of Manchuria to the Hawaii-like beaches of Hainan, passing by the desert and High Mountains of the hinterland, there are plenty of choices for your shooting. Yet that requires some preparation, as you would want to avoid the rainy seasons of the South-west or the scorching summer heat of the “four furnaces of China”.
9 - Patience
Frankly speaking, it is going to be a bumpy ride. Even if big cities seem modern and bullet trains are roaming the country, you should be ready to keep your cool for the lesser-known frustrations. Especially when your passport and shooting permit will be checked countless times, and when an old granny will ask gently if you can stay for a selfie with her grandchildren. But with a good local team that knows how to make your ride smooth, you will come back with the footage that will get you the Emmy Award you have been craving for so long.