For those of you planning any vacations over the winter or spring season, don’t forget your mosquito net, small roll of duct tape, drain plug or Malaria meds.
At least, that’s what Bill Kizorek and his daughter, Carly, of international film production company Two Parrot Productions recommend in their recently published book, “The Perils and Rewards of International Filmmaking.”
Clearly this packing list isn’t for your typical “rest and relaxation” trip. But for Kizorek and his daughters Carly and Jessica, it’s all in a day’s work.
Two Parrot’s purpose?
“The theme for myself and my daughters has been to put the spotlight on the good that Americans have been doing for the most helpless people and animals in the world,” Kizorek said.
This particular subject matter has led the Kizoreks and their film crew to all corners of the world to document a variety of topics.
“We’ve created films on child trafficking and on things as esoteric as an animal veterinarian clinic,” Kizorek said. “Depending upon how you count countries, I’ve filmed in 151 countries.”
Most of which are Third World countries: no electricity, no running water, disease, unstable governments.
The two main lists of countries that Kizorek referred to are the United Nations list, which names about 180 world countries, and the Travelers’ Century Club, which has 321.
“Like in South America, there’s the country of French Guiana,” Kizorek said describing how the Travelers’ Century Club catalogues nations. “But it’s not a country [according to the U.N. list] – it’s a state of France. Do I count that as a country? I’d say so. So if you go by the more liberal list, I’ve been to 151 countries.”
Even if you go by the more conservative U.N. list, he’s still been to more than 100 countries across the globe – 107, to be specific.
“It’s just amazing because we take so many things for granted here. And then I take my daughters and we see the most desperate situations where you’re going into the most God-forsaken places, staying in compounds that are surrounded by barbed wire, and your electricity – if you have it – is from a generator. There’s malaria on the mosquitos, and the refrigerator is only on for three hours a day,” Kizorek said. “And we were lucky if we had a refrigerator.”
After the filming stage is complete, the Kizoreks head back to the Northwoods to edit, format and create the documentaries. To date, Two Parrot Productions has created about 30 films.
“What’s interesting is we go to all these countries but end up making the films here in Minocqua,” Kizorek said. “We could make an iMax film sitting here. Everything we shoot is in full, high-definition, like National Geographic.”
But before taking on the career as an international filmmaker with all its perils and rewards, Kizorek came from a much different profession – a world-renowned private investigator.
P.I. to international filmmaker
Kizorek’s experience in private investigation technically started at the age of 15 working at his uncle’s private detective agency filing and cleaning desks on the weekends.
He would hold that position for two years until, at the age of 17, he was stationed in a surveillance van investigating suspect personal injury claims.
From there, Kizorek would go on to build a “pretty famous” insurance fraud investigative agency, InPhoto Surveillance, taking on clients such as the U.S. Department of Justice and the N.Y. State Insurance Fund.
“I was on the Oprah Show, 20/20 and broadcasts around the world like BBC and London Weekend TV,” Kizorek said. “When I sold the company, they wouldn’t let me work as a detective anymore because I was too well-known and it would have interfered with the new company. So I started this international video production company.”
Thus, Two Parrot Productions was created in 1991.
By the time he sold InPhoto Surveillance, Kizorek had racked up over three million frequent flyer miles because his investigations would take him across the globe. Most of these miles were dedicated to Kizorek’s newest ambition of international filmmaking, flying video production crews around the world.
“I started Two Parrot with my daughter, Jessica. She went on to write five books on her own, then her baby sister started working with me, Carly, who wrote ‘The Perils and Rewards of International Filmmaking’ with me,” Kizorek said.
The father-daughter duo wrote the book based on their experiences of traveling with a production team to Cuba, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jordan, Rwanda, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Guatemala, Indonesia, Moldova, Romania, Ghana, Republic of Congo, Jordan, Cameroon and Ethiopia for nonprofit assignments.
“One of the assignments we did – a really fascinating one – related to schools at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro,” Kizorek said. “The guy who we did the film about went to climb Kilimanjaro and saw that the kids weren’t going to school because they were so hungry and it was too far to walk.”
George Namkung was the man who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and this insight into the rampant hunger of the Tanzanian area was the spark that motivated him to start the charity “Kids of Kilimanjaro.”
“He today is feeding 17,000 school children. The facts are just stunning – almost all the kids of the schools he supports go on to higher education,” Kizorek said. “So this one man has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people.”
While filming the documentary on “Kids of Kilimanjaro,” Kizorek described how one little boy got the chance to try something completely new to him.
“One kid had never taken a picture in his life. So Carly handed this big 35mm camera to him, and this was the first picture he took.”
The child’s first-ever picture ended up being published and can be seen on page 25 of the Kizoreks’ “Perils and Rewards” book.
Another recent assignment on the Esther Honey Foundation brought Kizorek and his filming crew to the Cook Islands.
“There were dogs with diseases running loose every place, so they started a program where they actually took care of the animals,” Kizorek said. “The dogs will go into the lagoon and they’ll get fish poisoning. There’s something in the fish that causes the dogs to start shaking, and if there’s no vets to take care of them, they just die.”
But because of the foundation’s work, it’s now “one of the most idyllic places for dogs in the whole world,” Kizorek described.
“Their population is controlled, all the dogs are happy and healthy and it’s because of the volunteer veterinarians that went down there.”
Perils of international filmmaking
When it comes to traveling to Third World countries, the perils are almost always omnipresent.
“The perils are the governments who are always looking to make money off of you; they’re the bugs, the transportation, lodging because you go to sleep and you don’t know if a cockroach or a rat is going to crawl over your face; the diseases, pickpockets,” Kizorek said describing some of the hazards he has encountered first-hand.
One of the ways that Kizorek and his daughters handle some of the perils is basic prevention.
“I go to countries where I’ve needed $1,000 worth of vaccinations. All of us – Jessica, Carly and myself – have gotten so many inoculations for rabies and polio.”
But out of all the dangers, transportation is “probably the most difficult.”
“In Africa, your chances of dying in an African plane are 30 times greater than an American plane,” he said, going on to tell one harrowing experience he had on a flight from Nepal to Bangladesh.
“The lady sitting next to me said, ‘I heard the co-pilot say that he didn’t want to try to take the plane off, and the other pilot said that they’ve got to. There’s no parts to repair it here in Nepal.’ So they took off this big jet aircraft and we flew over the tree tops for 1,000 miles because there was no pressurization in the cabin.”
But the gravity of the situation didn’t end when the plane arrived safely at its destination.
“When we landed, there was a civil insurrection. So the government had changed from the day before to the time we got there,” Kizorek said. “There’s a lot of little adventures when you go to places.”
As he describes transportation in one of his films: “Planes are not that safe, and roads are worse.” Once again, this statement comes from personal experience – an unnerving encounter with a semi truck.
“I did get into a terrible car wreck in Ghana. This semi truck driver had a choice of completely obliterating my car and killing me or swerving his wheel and going over the top of another car,” Kizorek said. “At the last second he turned his wheel, otherwise I’d be dead.”
As it was, his vehicle still ended up upside-down in a sewage canal.
“I had to kick out the window to get out of there.”
Another problem with international travel is one that requires constant attention – theft.
“I have been the object of thievery about 10 times, but they’ve never succeeded because I’m always aware of being robbed,” Kizorek said. “Usually it’s a pickpocket.”
One such incident of pickpocketing that happened to Kizorek was a creative set-up in Romania after he bought some lunch.
“After an assignment I went to buy a piece of pizza and put my change in my pocket. I wasn’t paying much attention but all of a sudden there was the most beautiful girl walking down the street and making eye contact with me, and I was spellbound. At the same time there was somebody right behind me and I caught him as he was pulling the money out of my pocket.”
As soon as Kizorek had stopped the pickpocket, both the man and the woman quickly made their getaway.
Simply put, the rewards of Kizorek’s work are the final project – the nonprofit organization or charity’s documentary.
It’s described in “Perils and Rewards”– “In the end, it is one of the most rewarding artistic endeavors known to man. The final product, almost always a miniature work of art, brings to life the work of dedicated humans who could be making a fortune in another profession, but who have dedicated their lives to looking after the world’s most needy inhabitants.”
By working with his daughters, who worked with Two Parrot Productions as young adults, the experience and memories of the assignments will remain with them the rest of the lives.
“They have a knowledge of the world and how the world operates, and a sympathy for the people who are so much less fortunate,” Kizorek said. “I think the kids grew up to have this global understanding that we really have it good here.”
To learn more about Two Parrot Productions, see some of the film production’s photographs and videos, or purchase “The Perils and Rewards of International Filmmaking,” visit www.twoparrot.com.
Sarah Hirsch may be reached at email@example.com