Location scouting for low or no budget films can be challenging. What should you be looking for? Where do you even start? This post is designed to help make the job of finding a great location for your next film a little easier by explaining a few things you should look for when you’re scouting.
Things you need to understand before scouting
While it’s true that the majority of location scouting will have to be done in-person, there is still a good deal of work that can be accomplished from the comfort of your home or office. Using a combination of Google maps and 500px you can answer a good amount of questions about a location without ever stepping foot on site.
Below we have listed some questions you should ask yourself before scouting and a few items that you can find out about locations remotely.
What Action is in the Scene?
You can also think of this as a script focused element of the job. What’s happening between the characters in the scene that you’re planning to film? Take some time to identify all the specific elements of a scene that involve an environmental aspect, like somebody opening a door or walking down a flight of stairs. If you do this long enough, you’ll have a list of elements that you need to keep an eye out for when looking for a location.
How Much Budget do You Have?
If you have a large budget, then you will find that looking for and securing locations can be much easier than it is when you don’t have that budget. Working on a slim budget will often mean you’ll have to make some compromises, but it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find great locations.
There are great filming locations in every city that won’t cost you a thing, as long as you can find them. Many times free film locations are found by getting out there and literally asking people if it’s okay to film on their property. You’ll be surprised at how many owners you’ll be able to convince as long as you’re sincere and respectful. If this doesn’t work for you, then you can use a paid service to rent high quality filming locations by the hour.
Understand the mood of the scene
If you have been working in the arts business for any period of time, then you have probably heard about a “mood board”. Basically, a mood board is a collection of images that are meant to portray the specific mood of a scene. Once you have created this collage of images, it becomes your job to match that imagery with a real-life location.
Finding the mood of a location can be difficult to do remotely, but it’s possible to get a feeling for the visual aesthetics of a place from photo sharing sites like 500px.com. Once you get a lead on a place that seems to fit the mood of your scene you can investigate further by directly searching for the address.
Plan for the crew
Knowing the size of your film crew is essential when you’re scouting locations. You need to know exactly how many people are going to be using a space. As you know, filming a movie consists of very long days and a good amount of pizza.
Making sure that space you choose will be able to accommodate your crew and their needs is essential to picking the right location. This is even more important when you’re working on a small production because you can’t afford to have the person letting you use a space get annoyed and ask you to leave.
Know a location’s proximity to things
You should always be thinking about where a location is in relation to other important facilities and landmarks. Take note of possible noise issues from both outside and inside the location. Try and find out if the noise you are bound to make from film production is going to get the police called on you or not.
Also make sure to note how close amenities like food, gas, parking, and lodging are to your chosen location. Lastly, the closer you can make different filming locations to each other the better. You always want to try and make your film production as consolidated as possible to save on transportation costs.
Remember to consider air-traffic
This is something easily missed, but nothing can ruin a shot quicker than a fly-over by a jet-liner. This fact is doubly true for period pieces. You can use apps like Air Trafficto get an understanding of how many planes usually fly around your location so you can start to account for this.
Know your equipment requirements Putting everything together
If you need certain types of equipment for production like lights or fans then they are going to need power. Large equipment pieces will also need to be transported to where you’re going to be filming, so it doesn’t hurt to map out the best route as well as things like freight elevators.
Putting everything together
Creating a preliminary qualification checklist that you can run remotely is a great place to start your search for a good filming location. Combine the points we listed above with any other specific requirements that you might have for a space and then start doing research. Check out this guide if you want to learn more about how technology can help your location scouting efforts.
When you research spaces online the name of the game is percerivence. Spend the extra time to really find something that works well for the production, but also realize that you will have to vet the space in person before you confirm it 100%.