Around the world… in 78 days
Scotsman Marc Beaumont broke a world (literally) record; a South African team filmed him doing it.
When Scotsman Marc Beaumont broke the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the world on a bike, his entire journey was documented by a South African film crew. Here’s their take on the ultimate cycling adventure.
IIt all started at 4am, on the Champs Élysées – famous final straight of the Tour de France. But Le Tour was only expected in these parts three weeks later; on 2 July 2017, the Arc de Triomphe was presiding over the start of a different race: the Artemis World Cycle. And there was only one competitor. Adventure cyclist Marc Beaumont once held the record for the fastest humanpowered trip across Africa; this time, he was taking on the 29 000km trip around the world – in 80 days. Beaumont’s latest stunt was inspired by the Jules Verne novel Around the World In 80 Days; ambitiously, he intended to cut 43 days off what was then the round-the-world cycling record. Seventy-eight days later, he achieved his goal.
Alongside him was a South African TV crew, who captured the drama for a soon-to-bereleased documentary on Beaumont’s achievement. Moonsport Productions, a Cape Town-based content-curation company, had been recruited to capture every moment of Beaumont’s journey, not only for the documentary but also for regular social media updates.
As they followed Beaumont’s almost three-month journey around the globe, Moonsport managing director Trent Key was to find his team’s own endurance capabilities tested.
How did it come about that a team of South Africans cracked the nod for this job?
Through a mutual connection of both sides, a cameraman named Tim Chevalier. We had a conversation over a beer one night, and he told me about Mark Beaumont’s previous journey around the world, and his Cairo to Cape adventure.
Tim said Mark was planning another round-the-world trip, and put us in touch with him and his management team. After chatting to him over the phone and through Skype, Moonsport’s CEO Philip Key flew to Spain to meet him in person at one of his training camps, and things progressed to where we are today.
Give us the details – what did you do, exactly?
From the start, Mark wanted to record his documentary in two ways: a long form, post-event documentary for broadcast, and through daily social media updates.
So we devised a strategy for both forms, and then researched how that content could be rolled out daily. We created content calendars, which became our production plan – what we would film, how we’d film it, what the daily content would be, and the best time to deliver it online.
How did that work out for you?
All this daily content ultimately led to a successful campaign that rolled out online, leading to a total global viewership of over five million on Facebook and YouTube, coming from an initial fan base of 40 000 that Mark already had. With his fan base growing every day, it meant that most were coming back daily to follow his progress.
Your team had to be up for the challenge. What professional skills were needed?
We were required to provide a director, an editor, a stills photographer, a videographer and a motion graphic designer. As it turned out, Moonsport had Johnny Swanepoel and Helmut Scherz, who could fulfil all those roles.
Added to that we had a production and social media team, headed by Emanuel Ferreira and aided by Roxanne Lombard, who would receive, publish and distribute the content on the various media platforms, as well as to the various sponsor and media agencies.
What was the pace of the job like?
Incredible! From the start, there was a constant flow of content to be filmed, edited and published. Daily, we would produce and publish up to four moving clips, five to 10 edited photos, and a weekly wrap. Excluding sponsor and charity video material, incident videos, and progress pieces.
Johnny and Helmut would get up at 3.30am, and shoot Mark
waking up in the morning and preparing for the day ahead, as a daily preview. They weren’t only capturing content for social media and the daily updates, but also for the long-format doccie, so they were constantly capturing and editing material.
How did such a small team manage to keep up?
It was a tough 78 days for Johnny and Helmut, awake for around 21 hours a day, sneaking in the odd catnap where they could. The production and social media team in Cape Town had to adjust their schedule according to where Mark and the support team were in the world.
Dealing with the various time zones was a unique challenge of its own. As an example, if Mark came to the end of his day in America, Emanuel in Cape Town had to ensure he remained awake to get the content published, in order to keep the content as close to real time as possible.
What sort of pre-planning went into this escapade?
We started the planning process roughly six months prior, creating a treatment for the content, then a timeline and a calendar; then Mark did a 5 600km training ride around the coastline of Britain. That lasted 14 days, and gave us the feedback we needed to ensure a smooth process once the circumnavigation attempt commenced.
We also had to acquire seven different kinds of visas per crew member (in just under two months, during peak holiday season), as well as the necessary vaccinations, travel and equipment documents and safety precautions that would allow the crew to travel across the globe.
What were some of the logistical problems you ran into?
The biggest challenge, once Moonsport’s crew was on the road, was data and signal. Though we had international SIM cards and other roaming devices, if there was no signal in the area we wouldn’t be able to receive the material for deployment.
There were periods when the team didn’t have signal for days, particularly in Mongolia, and the mountainous regions of
North America. Luckily, forward thinking from the team allowed us to make provision for that.
Was it difficult lugging all the equipment around from place to place?
We had to ensure that we had enough equipment, including back-up and supplies, to take us around the world; but it also had to be light enough to travel with, due to the intercontinental flights. We shot all the content on two Sony a7S cameras, with various lenses and sound equipment – the premise was that Johnny and Helmut would each travel with equipment that could be carried in a backpack.
And shooting? More than just driving alongside the rider and filming, obviously?
We had to ensure we were in the right position at the right time. For example, we needed to know when Mark was going to reach a wellknown landmark, so the moment could be captured. Remember, we only had one chance to capture each moment – we couldn’t ask him to go back and do it again.
We also had a drone with us, so being able to launch it at the correct time to capture the shot was a challenge. But we overcame that quite easily.
Describe the scene at the start venue. The start was very humble
and modest – at 4am, just a small group of people gathered around Mark and watched him ride into the distance, with a few cheers and claps.
How did you go from country to country?
Across each continent, we travelled with two mobile homes – one for the support team, and one for the media team. But moving between the various stages and continents was accomplished through international flights (and the occasional ferry), all meticulously co-ordinated by Mark’s manager and logistics leader, Una Beaumont, who operated from Scotland. The transfers between airports and continents were managed with utmost efficiency compliments of Menzies Aviation, one of the official sponsors.
Did it start to feel like you were also part of the attempt?
With the crew basically living in each other’s pockets in two RVs for 78 days, you can’t not feel part of it. Mark and his team were fantastic towards us, accepting us immediately – and Johnny and
“We only had one chance to capture each moment - we couldn’t ask him to go back and do it again.”
CROSSING THE LINE: BEAUMONT IN POLAND ON DAY 5 OF HIS EPIC CYCLE AROUND THE WORLD.
TIME AND MOTION: BEAUMONT, AND THE SOUTH AFRICAN FILM CREW WHO DOCUMENTED HIS 29 000KM JOURNEY.