Saturday, August 17, 2013

So You Want to Make a Movie - Locations

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker. No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view.

Step 15. Locations

You have the choice of shooting your film on a sound stage, on location, or a combination of both. Sound stages are fantastic because you can control all aspects of your environment. They are convenient, flexible, soundproof, and protected from inclement weather. You are in total control of all atmospherics, such as fog, wind, rain, snow, etc. The only problem is they are expensive to rent, so you might want to think about shooting your entire movie on location.

A good place, once again, to get advice about locations is to check with your local film commission. Chances are they have pre-scouted every potential location within your geographical area. Tell them what type of locations you need for your movie. When scouting for locations, you as the producer should accompany the production designer, producer of photography, and the production manager. You cannot make intelligent decision about locations unless all of the principle participants are involved.

Don’t just go to a potential location once. Check it at different times of the day to get an overall feel of lighting, sound issues, and other potential problems. Don’t pick a location because it looks good. You have to think about logistics. If you have a crew and cast of 20 to 30 members, where do you put the staging area? Is there enough room for the caterer? Where does everybody park? Will there be sufficient power and are the electrical power boxes close by? And, of course, don’t forget about permits and what they are going to cost. As you can see, there’s a lot of things to consider when choosing a right location.

The one thing that either makes or breaks a location is how much money the owner wants. As a low-budget filmmaker, pay locations fees only if it is absolutely necessary. By all means, try to make a deal and offer the owner a piece of your movie for promotional purposes. If you are shooting in a city that doesn’t a lot of film production, you have an excellent chance of making a deal. That’s not true in places like Los Angeles where everybody wants to get paid because property owners are knowledgeable about the film industry, and they will expect you to write them a big check.

Your locations need to be lined up weeks in advance. Make sure you talk to all the right people who have the authority to get the deal done. Be specific and lock down the time and the day or days. Whatever you do, make absolutely certain that you get it in writing. I realize asking for a location for free and then wanting the owner to sign an agreement can be scary. It’s one thing for the owner to say that it’s OK to shoot on his/her property and another thing to get it in writing. You don’t have anything unless it’s in writing. Can you imagine showing up the day of your shoot only to be told that you talked to the wrong person, and he/she has no idea you were coming? The last thing you want to do is to get into that kind of situation. And, as always, have a fallback plan in case the location doesn’t pan out.  

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