The Basics of Location Scouting
Because visuals are the basis of filmmaking, it is crucial that you are able to shoot on locations that not only fit your personal vision but can proudly bring your story to life on the big screen for others to see.
This requires the knowledge necessary to scout locations.
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What is Location Scouting?
At its core, location scouting is the process by which you find real locations to bring your fictitious locations from your screenplay to life. It occurs during the pre-production stage of production.
It is imperative that you do this because the reality and believability of the world in your film is hinged upon the locations in which you film.
How Does Location Scouting Work?
On a film set, it is the job of the location managers to scout locations. Though they are the ones in charge of this department, it is likely that they will work in close connection with the production designer and potentially the director as well to make sure that the director’s vision is achieved via filming locations.
Although you can follow different steps for location scouting, typically, during pre-production, your crew will begin by breaking down the script and making a list of necessary locations.
From there, the location manager and his or her team will begin compiling a list of potential locations where filming can take place.
Next, they will visit the potential locations to see if they will work. This step in particular typically includes the director, cinematographer, and production designer as they will go with the location scouts to visit the sites to ensure that they fit the criterion for the film.
Lastly, they will draw up contracts to use those particular locations and prepare them for filming.
How to Optimize the Look of your Sets
Since there are so many different ways you can begin scouting for locations, it could be helpful to have a list of tips to help get you started.
Utilize a moodboard during Pre-Production
A moodboard is a visual device which helps you to compile and create an aesthetic for your film. For your moodboard, you could include things like color palettes, illustrations, or quotes you think encompass your film. All of these elements come together to help to create an aesthetic for your film.
Once you’re in a place where you can begin picking out potential locations in which to film your project, you can cross reference your moodboard to make sure the spaces you’re considering match the director’s vision and the direction of the script.
Don’t Rush Script Breakdown
It is critical that you break down your script and fully analyze it to craft a list of necessary locations for your film.
Do not rush this process. The last thing you want is to get halfway through production and realize you’ve forgotten the iron out a scene’s location. This will setback your schedule and potentially uproot your budget as well. Make sure you’re planning during pre-production.
Additionally, make sure those who are scouting know your script inside and out so they can pick a location that most accurately upholds your vision for your film.
Consider the Logistics
Unfortunately, you cannot just pick locations based off of the way they look. While their look is important, there are other crucial elements to consider as well.
You will want to look into how close or far your location is from your basepoint. You will also want to think about how much parking there is, how much room there is for equipment, if there is cellular reception, if there are bathrooms, and if you will be able to plug your equipment into an electrical source at that location.
A location may look perfect on the outside for your aesthetic, but unfortunately, that’s not the only thing to take into consideration.
Make sure the locations you’re contracting are cost effective and remain within your budgetary restrictions.
Some locations may not have fees, but some may require large sums to be paid.
You can always try to negotiate prices, but regardless, make sure cost is something that remains on your radar throughout the scouting process.
Acquire Necessary Permissions
Remember: someone owns the properties you want to film at, and as such, you must acquire permission to film at that property.
This means you will have to contact the owner of the property, or, if it’s owned by the city, country, state, or is federal property, you must get a permit.
If you don’t have the proper permissions, your production could get shut down or your equipment could potentially get taken away, so you want to make sure you’re always following proper guidelines.
Consider the Location’s Surroundings
Make sure you’re not only considering the look of the location, but also its environment.
You will not want to film at a location that is very noisy or if the lighting is not optimal.
When scouting, you will want to take note of all of these things.Lighting is especially important to be aware of.
Utilize Your Connections
In a business like entertainment, connections are crucial and finding the perfect location can be difficult.
Make sure you’re using the contacts that you have and are reaching out to those who can assist you in finding the best location possible.
Whether this is reaching out to your production’s connections or your second cousin twice removed, utilize the people who are willing to help you.
Try to Utilize Few Locations
Of course you want your film to be realistic, which means you will likely need numerous locations to film at, but with that being said, you should attempt to film at as few locations as possible as this will alleviate costs and scheduling conflicts as well.
Remember: you can get creative and have one location double as other locations.
The locations in which your story takes place are crucial in how your story will be told and received, so make sure you’re utilizing locations which fit the overall vision for the film.
If you’re filming a romcom, you won’t want to use an unkempt house at the end of a shaded road for your protagonist’s home, and likewise, if you’re filming a horror movie, you likely won’t want to film in a picturesque small town by the beach. Those visuals simply don’t fit the aesthetic or mood of those types of films and you want your film to be received properly.
The bottom line is, location scouting is important and there are many factors to be considered when choosing which locations are best for you to film at.
Make sure whoever is scouting for you is aware not only of your vision for the film but the factors that impact location scouting as well.
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