Filmmaker Tim Browning has worked on the set of countless big-budget blockbusters—Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Skyfall, Spectre—but now he’s setting his sights on more personal projects. He has signed on as the exclusive drone photographer for bespoke travel outfitter Black Tomato, a job that will have him crisscrossing the globe filming travelers from the skies.
Among the things he might capture while heading up Black Tomato's just-launched "Drone the World" initiative: travelers on motorcycle tours of Ho Chi Minh City, sand boarding down the dunes of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, hiking along the Great Wall of China, or scaling a volcano in Iceland. Unlike major metropolitan areas, these iconic destinations are among the places where drones are allowed to film freely. (Couples looking for footage of their honeymoon in New York, however, would be out of luck.)
"We find that working with Tim, and other drone cameramen, really adds an extra dimension to clients' travel experiences," Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, told Bloomberg. Photographers and drone cameramen are a natural extension of his company's already deep commitment to partnering travelers with expert guides and academics. According to Marchant, it's a win-win situation: The cameramen get to broaden their portfolio of work and travel to new places while they're in between big budget films, while travelers get a souvenir that's hard to top.
What it will cost you? At least $5,500—that’s the starting price per person for a weekend trip that includes Browning as a tag-along guest. More moderately priced options can be arranged, too; Black Tomato has a network of local affiliate photographers that can create videos at a variety of different price points. Destinations, length of trip, and photographer credentials all affect the bottom line.
Travel videos are hardly a new concept, as anyone with grainy, bumpy footage of his or her parents begging them to smile can attest. Drone videos, on the other hand, started to take off late last year, when ski resorts began one-upping the de rigeur GoPro video with offers to shoot killer runs from the sky.
Leading the pack was Cape, a startup with backing from Google X whose safety-oriented policies earned it a rare exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration. Since the 2015-16 ski season, it has operated at such U.S. mountains as Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Winter Park in Colorado. For $200 or less, the company will shoot a minute-and-a-half clip of you skiing or mountain biking. The drones can keep up with speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and hover only above trails that are clearly indicated as drone-friendly areas.
But having a fully-fledged feature film producer shoot your travels takes the trend to another level.
Black Tomato isn’t alone in offering the service. During a recent interview at Bloomberg’s New York offices, Jack Giarraputo, co-founder of UrLife, said that he stepped away from a successful career in moviemaking to spend more time with his kids. But after two decades of producing films with Adam Sandler at Happy Madison Productions, he couldn’t help turn footage from his mundane weekend getaways into fabulous family flicks. It wasn’t long before he was getting requests from family and friends; UrLife was officially born in May 2015.
Now he and a team of film editors collect clips that clients shoot on their phones and turn them into sizzle reels or movie trailers. Pricing varies depending on length (they start at $295 for a one-minute clip and go up to $995 for five-minutes), and footage is turned around in just one week.
The company is pursuing white-label agreements with hotels, starting with the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, where guests who stay in the premium villas get free video editing services built into their room rate. A similar agreement is soon to be launched at the Four Seasons Haulalai on the Big Island of Hawaii.