No Time to Die: The logistics behind James Bond’s latest adventure

Within a challenging timeframe and across multiple global locations, DHL’s logistics expertise kept 007 ahead of schedule for his latest adventure.

It begins and ends in Jamaica. In February 1951, at his island home Goldeneye, writer Ian Fleming began work on what would become the world’s first glimpse at the British agent with a license to kill. The book is “Casino Royale,” and the name is Bond ... James Bond. Now, in Daniel Craig’s final outing as the suave superspy, “No Time To Die” brings Bond back to Jamaica.

The 25th entry in the long-running series – known as Bond 25 – has been shot extensively in the same Caribbean locale that set the stage for the first James Bond film: 1962’s “Dr. No.” With a legacy spanning over half a century, each new addition to the franchise is met with heavy expectations – and this one certainly satisfies 007’s legendary wanderlust, with filming locations that include Italy, Norway and various destinations across the U.K. Now, following a five-year absence since Bond’s last cinematic outing, “Spectre,” moviegoers are eager to see what lies ahead as director Cary Joji Fukunaga brings Bond into the 2020s.

Of course, the success of such an endeavor does not rest on the shoulders of one man alone – it is a team effort.

Enter John Meller of DHL Entertainment Logistics. Responsible for transporting some of the largest, and most important, film equipment – cameras and props, and sometimes the cast and crew themselves – Meller and his team of six industry experts are at the helm of everything needed to bring a production from script to screen.

Based at Pinewood Studios, home to the legendary “007 Stage,” Meller describes his department as a “one-stop shop for anything a film needs: express, air, road and sea freight – all you need.”

He believes the film industry is “recession-proof,” and has high hopes for a business in which he has over 30 years of experience. Originally employed by DHL Danzas Air & Ocean, John’s expertise traces back to the 1989 production of “The Old Man and the Sea.” Shooting in the British Virgin Islands, he reflects that logistical challenges then were comparatively easy.

The obstacles today, he says, are far greater: tougher restrictions on airfreight clearance, increasingly complex administration and the intensified workload that comes with it. Getting from A to B, in a world growing more and more interconnected, has become far more complicated.

On time and on target

Faced with these challenges, Meller says that the most important thing is to stay ahead of the everchanging requirements of international regulations. With tighter shooting schedules demanding shorter intervals between retrieving and delivering equipment, he ponders that, in many ways, “we’ve been victims of our own success.”

With these “more intensive” timescales, production companies are increasingly relying on experienced shipping coordinators, keeping the DHL team in demand but under pressure.

To balance the workload, Meller relies on a love for the entertainment business that runs in the family: His son Jonathon was the production manager present for much of Bond 25’s shooting schedule.

“Our job,” Jonathon Meller says, “is to facilitate Bond 25’s requirements for shipping,” ensuring everything is delivered in prime condition and on time.

To achieve this, Meller and his team utilized more than 30 airplane charters, an unusually high volume of flights for a film. Ranging from private jets, such as Legacy and Falcon 14-seater planes, to larger cargo vessels, Bond’s every move was catered for with a spectrum of airborne transport, including an Airbus A340-300, which simultaindusneously carried a large freight haul and the cast and crew to Jamaica.

But nothing was too massive or mundane for this global logistics challenge. Inventoried in a document that listed each item dispatched throughout the course of shooting, the team logged 907 entries covering everything from shipping clearance documents to weaponry and prop firearms.

No matter the size or complexity of the job, DHL can be trusted to get it done as quickly and carefully as possible. “No Time To Die” marks the fifth consecutive 007 adventure for which DHL has provided its logistics expertise – and the team certainly hit the ground running with their first collaboration, 2006’s “Casino Royale.”

The explosive opening of Daniel Craig’s first appearance as Bond threw him into a high-stakes foot chase across an active construction site – only none of this environment existed before the cameras started rolling.

Every girder, every bolt and rivet, was transported from the U.K. to the Bahamas, then assembled using one of the world’s largest mobile cranes. As if building an entire construction site from nothing weren’t enough of an endeavor, the enormous crane had to be transported all the way from the east coast of the U.S., more than 300 miles (483 kilometers) away.

Bond’s code name is no less famous than his exotic travel tastes – and neither look set to change any time soon. “No Time To Die” marks the end of Daniel Craig’s one and a half decades in the role and cements his legacy as the Bond of a generation. But it also keeps the door open for a new chapter in the longest-running film series in history. —  Liam Heitmann-Rice

Published: January 2020

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