The great unsung heros of any Globe Trekker shoot are the fixers. These are generally locals – people who speak the native language, and have a good knowledge of local culture. They are often freelance journalists or TV production types, but they can also be multi-lingual natives connected to the tourist industry, or students, or somebody’s second cousin. We met Ilya Kuzniatsou – from Belarus Productions – for the first time the night we arrived in Kiev in the hotel bar.
Ilya is actually from Belarus – the tiny landlocked country just north of Ukraine. He is a vestige from the early days of research, when we were considering going over the border to Belarus. We dropped that idea, but we kept Ilya, who speaks fluent Russian and knows the Ukraine very well. Now we are spending every waking moment with him in a small van—he must translate every word we try to communicate, and that is the least of his duties. Like all great fixers, Ilya is un-shockable. No matter what we ask for, he nods his head in agreement. No matter what we have budgeted, he says, “You are paying too much” and offers a cheaper solution.
In Sevastapol, Crimea, I mused aloud how great it would be if we could get Holly Morris a date with one of those cute Russian sailors with the funny hats. Within 5 minutes, Ilya had collected the phone number of a willing officer. Now I am actually afraid to think out loud. Fixers are never given enough credit for their heroic efforts to save an ever-sinking ship. Good fixers generally have large families spread out over the region you are covering, and inevitably their aunts, cousins, and siblings for help and advice. They race around trying to negotiate with resistant restaurant owners and hotel managers, security guards, and political officials. They are often the person sitting at a table behind the host during a restaurant scene to “fill up” space. They often make cameo appearances as an English speaking “guide” when all else fails. Then, they help carry the tri-pod, give directions to the driver, and continue another round of phone calls to everyone from the Ministry of Defence to the lady who sells onions by the roadside outside of Yalta.