Sharpshooter: How to film in a minefield - on a budget

Neal Romanek
March 31st 2017 at 11:45AM : By Neal Romanek

As a freelance cameraman in Sarajevo, Emir Dzunan gets to shoot some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe, but at some of the lowest budgets

Name: Emir Dzanan

Age: 29

Hometown: I was born in Sarajevo where I live with my wife and our daughter.

Taste in music: Rock & roll - from Deep Purple to Alice in Chains.

Favourite food: Bosnia and Herzegovina is, among other things, known for its food, which is really delicious.

Languages: Besides Bosnian, I speak English and understand a little German and French.

Occupation: I'm working as a freelance lighting cameraman and video editor.


Emir Dzunan in water


What qualifications or training have you acquired?

I finished my secondary school with tourism and then studied journalism at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo. As for my work with the camera, I'm self-taught. I can say that we're lucky to live in a time when knowledge is truly accessible to all, thanks to the internet. A lot of things I learned from older colleagues and, of course, I'm still learning.

Current assignments?

I'm presently working on several projects and the most interesting is a documentary series about the highest peaks of Eastern Europe being produced for Al Jazeera Balkans. For the purposes of the film, the crew climbs to the tops of the highest mountains. It's dangerous sometimes.

Have you been busy?

In the last two years I have hardly had a day off — which is great. I hope it will remain so.

How do you travel around the country?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country. From Sarajevo it's possible in one day to go to almost every part of the country and return, so I usually use my own car. Besides being small, Bosnia is a country with incredible tourist potential and my ambition is to make a series about all the things that Bosnia provides for potential visitors. Mountains, rivers, cities hundreds of years old, a mix of different cultures and religions are just some of the things that this country offers. The interesting thing about Sarajevo is that within a few hundred metres you can see the mosque, Orthodox and Catholic churches and a synagogue.

The budgets for filming here are certainly the lowest in Europe. Clients often expect that for very little money they can get miracles

What are the best seasons to travel?

Each season has its charms. During the winter, there are the Olympic Mountains just 20-30 kilometres away from Sarajevo. In the spring and summer you can go to the south and the beautiful city of Mostar, famous for the Old Bridge, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are many places in Bosnia that are worth visiting to catch beautiful video.

Unfortunately, the international media are writing about the negative things in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as war crimes, mass graves and a bad economic situation. I hope that will change soon.


Sarajevo sunset


What types of productions do you mostly shoot?

I mostly do documentaries, but I also handle the production of commercials, various types of events, news.

Which do you prefer?

I prefer to work on documentary films because I like working in small teams. In this way there is more room for creativity and independence.


Emir Dzanan with tripod


What was your first ever shooting job?

My first shooting job was for a local television station. The editor sent me to a government building in Sarajevo to film inserts. Although I had no previous experience of working in television, I somehow got the job done. Of course, what I filmed that day was not very good, but it was a nice start for the camera and me to become friends. The camera was a Sony Beta SP.

Most interesting assignments recently?

One of my most recent assignments was shooting for the Al Jazeera documentary channel here in Bosnia. The topic was human trafficking and prostitution after the war in Bosnia and the role of the UN troops in all of that.

What current equipment do you use?

I am using the Canon XF100 and Canon 6D and I am very satisfied with the ratio of price versus quality. Of course, there are some flaws, but I think that Canon made a real revolution with their DSLR video in recent years.


Emir Dzunan in a mine


Other gear you have access to?

Depending on the client's needs, almost all equipment is now available through rental companies: cameras, lighting, audio equipment, you name it.

What editing gear do you use?

I use a PC with an i7 processor, NVIDIA GeForce graphics card, 16GB of RAM and a lot of hard drives. Adobe Premiere 6.0 currently meets all my needs related to video production. I have also used Final Cut and lately I’m doing a little bit in Edius too.

For me, one of the best things that happened in the world of video production is moving from tape to card. Working with cards significantly accelerates and facilitates the process of editing.

What is on your equipment wish list?

The Canon C500 is currently on my wish list — and hopefully soon in my backpack!

Best thing about your job?

Definitely traveling, meeting new people, cultures. I think that there are very few jobs that can enrich a man spiritually and culturally as well as the job that we do

One of the de-miners gave me a paper on which I had to write my blood type and sign that I'm there on my own responsibility

What are the challenges in shooting in Bosnia Herzegovina?

Like almost everywhere, the biggest problem in Bosnia is money. The budgets for filming here are certainly the lowest in Europe. Clients often expect that for very little money they can get miracles. But on the other hand, the positive thing is the establishment of Al Jazeera Balkans, based in Sarajevo and soon CNN for the Balkan region. Their arrival in Bosnia and Herzegovina means more work for independent productions and freelancers.

Worst thing about your job?

Although it sounds paradoxical, one of the worst things in this business is people. People, who for some reason known only to them, will attempt to prohibit the recording and then, during a protest, try to destroy your equipment and smash your head in. There are people who will make it difficult for you to do your job in many other ways. And of course, there is another group of people - those who don't pay for the work that you've done for them.

Dullest assignments and why?

Those jobs where you have to wait and wait — and at the end nothing happens.

Tell us about your hairiest assignment?

During the shooting of one of the documentaries, the sound recordist and I had to enter a minefield. At first I didn't really think of what I was doing. But then one of the de-miners gave me a paper on which I had to write my blood type and sign that I'm there on my own responsibility. Then I realised that I'm doing something stupid. Luckily, all ended well.

Also, there was one situation in Libya when the army took me and a fellow journalist at midnight to film Gaddafi. I had one of those big Sony Beta cameras and every time I pressed the record button you could hear a click and the guys who guarded Gaddafi pulled a weapon on us every time they heard that sound. A very interesting evening.

Minefield with ribbon

How much 16:9 do you shoot?

All the time - 4:3 shoots look a little weird these days.

What country would you most like to shoot in?

Iran. I've heard a lot about the country, about its natural beauty and hospitable people and this is definitely one of the countries that I would like to visit and shoot there. There are also some parts of the USA, Japan and China on my list as well.


Contact: Emir Dzanan
Phone: +387 63 405 863
Address: Grbavicka 11
71000 Sarajevo
Bosnia and Herzegovina