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Dollars & sense: the cost of protection

Robert Young Pelton originally ran a marketing company and would take time off every year to visit dangerous areas (daiquiris on the beach evidently don't cut it for some). He eventually authored The World's Most Dangerous Places, which led to a Discovery show of the same name, and making docs.
June 1, 2008

Robert Young Pelton originally ran a marketing company and would take time off every year to visit dangerous areas (daiquiris on the beach evidently don’t cut it for some). He eventually authored The World’s Most Dangerous Places, which led to a Discovery show of the same name, and making docs.

He says filmmakers in active war zones can get KRE (Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion) insurance for US$350 to $450 a day (a cost he says many major networks and TV prodcos can’t pay for long), but it sometimes comes with stipulations about having a security detail, which LA-based Pelton says ‘makes filming the actual war very clumsy and expensive.’ (Plus, frp director/producer Folke Rydén says security people have asked him for roughly $10,000 to go less than 10 kilometers from the airport in Baghdad to the Green Zone.)

In terms of his own protective garb on the ground, Pelton doesn’t wear any military gear. ‘If you’re going to get killed, you’re going to get killed,’ he says. ‘It doesn’t work against SCUD missiles.’ There was one instance, though, in which he was forced to wear such gear. ‘When I was [in Baghdad] with Blackwater I drove Route Irish every day, so they made me wear a flak jacket and I had to carry a bandolier of bullets. I had about 80 rounds of bullets and grenades and I had to carry a weapon – not so that I could use it, but so that if I got killed they could take the weapon and bullets off me. They called me the ‘Bullet Bitch.”

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.

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