Location Scouting for Your Film with John Montana
So you have a script and a budget and a crew and you want to make a movie? Awesome…good for you. Before you do anything though, you need to have your set and your locations locked down and ready. This should be one of the first things you do when you are in pre-production.
Where you shoot your film is so incredibly important. I cannot stress how important it is that you get these first. Because you and your crew cannot sit around needlessly for days, while you are out looking for locations. And for me, location scouting is a very enjoyable experience, as it allows me to visualize my film or scene in each possible place that I research. If you have a great location, then most of the work is already done for you. The world of your film is there in full color when you find the right spot.
One of the first people you should bring onto your project is the UPM – Unit Production Manager. Or a location scout. On many small budget films, these two just aren’t in the budget. And you have to do the leg work yourself. No worries…I do this all the time, as my budgets are very small.
But if you have some extra money in your budget, then these two people can help you tremendously. Because they will go out and investigate the sites for you, while you work on other things. And when they have a dozen or so places, then you will go with them and see if these locations are what you are looking for. Unless you have gotten a green light from a major studio…then you will have a studio lot and a bunch of carpenters that will build you the perfect location. But for most of us, we have to go hunting.
Here are several ideas about getting the perfect location for your film, and at the same time save some money for other important things for your shoot.
- Rent A Furnished House or Set – Many first time filmmakers don’t know about this option, because it is usually very expensive. And it is often used by those studios I referred to earlier. But if you do some number crunching, it is sometimes worth your while. Because what you are doing is renting an entire home that is already furnished. There are many homes here in L.A. that are set up for this very reason. I once shot a commercial in South Pasadena in an entire huge home with a back yard. I remember hearing that the cost was about $4500/day. But this house accommodated a 30-person crew along with 8-12 actors. So when you go this route, you have many rooms in which to set up in. One or two to shoot in, and the rest for your crew to work and setup in. Like a place for everyone to eat together. If you have the budget, then this is something you should consider, as it simplifies the entire process. And ultimately allows you to concentrate on filming.
- Pull A Favor – Many first time filmmakers have scripts that take place in a home or garage. And what they do because they have no money, is just shoot in their own house, or their parents’ or friend’s house. This is done all the time, as the primary goal is to just get the film in the can. This approach is not ideal…as most of the time, you the director have to settle for less than what you want or envision for your story. But most of the time, this will be fine, as the story doesn’t hang on a very specific home…just a home that looks lived in.
- Be Location Specific – My most recent film took place in a used clothing store, because my vision of the story took place in an extremely old store. The lead woman was hundreds of years old, not that it showed on film. So I went looking for the perfect location. I ultimately found a beautiful little shop called Helping Hand Thrift Shop on South Fairfax Avenue. It is this amazing location that is filled to the brim with old used furniture and clothes and nick-knacks. It was so jam-packed with stuff, that sometimes it actually hindered my shoot…because there was no room to maneuver. But this shop was absolutely perfect for my shoot, no matter the drawbacks. Because it was all on screen, and it looked just terrific. Please take your time and really go out and find the perfect place. They are really out there waiting to be discovered. And most of the time, these locations won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
In conclusion, finding the perfect location is essential for any film director. If you want to create a realistic world that your story and characters live in, then it needs to look real. Not fake or cheap or carelessly thrown together. Because your audience will know immediately!! They will either be drawn into your film because the set looks beautiful and supports the story. Or they will be bored stiff because the film “just looks weird”. So be thoughtful and thorough when location scouting. You will very happy you did.
About The Author:
John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to make short films on demand. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short film – HUNGRY at No Title Production Films.