Budget Location Scouting: Finding A Place To Film Your Video
For small budget or indie film productions, finding usable locations is often a challenge. Where does a production team start looking for filming locations in an area? How are those locations secured without breaking the bank? We’ll give you some tips and tricks on how to find film locations on a budget. But first, let’s talk about what you want to look for in a good film location.
What Makes The Perfect Film Location?
In short, the script determines what the ideal location is. Finding a location should be one of the first things on a long list of items that a production has to accomplish after the project has been greenlit. The script and story should be the main drivers behind any film locations chosen. A good way to split up how you investigate locations is by dividing it into two major groups of requirements. Artistic and Technical.
Artistic Requirements When Location Scouting
In order to resonate with the audience, the location needs to serve the artistic goals of the script. While the space might be seem perfect, if it doesn’t match what the script is shooting for then it’s unusable. An example of this would be trying to film Lawrence of Arabia in Utah, while you can find places in Utah that are very close to what the Middle East looks like, it just wouldn’t feel the same.
Focus On The Mood
How a place “feels” is something that is impossible to teach, but it’s an essential skill to have when you’re location scouting. After you read and analyze a scene in the script, you’ll be left with a feeling and it’s your job to match that feeling by the location. A good way to approach this task is to create a mood board. A mood board is a group of images that you collect to represent the feeling or mood of a particular scene. Once you have a mood board made you can bring it with you when you’re scouting to help guide your creative eye.
Since each film production will have a very different list of technical, crew, and equipment requirements based on the scope of the project and the budget, create a list of these requirements before you start scouting so you ensure that any promising location is actually usable by the production.
Location Requirements Might Include:
- Available parking
- Access to electricity
- Access to water
- Natural light
- Freight elevators
- Doorway widths
- Sound requirements
Once you have a relatively comprehensive list of these technical elements, you can go back through and score each one on how important they are to the success of the production. While you won’t find a location that meets every requirement on the list, it will help you narrow down your selections to locations that can actually work for your production.
Getting The Perfect Location For The Perfect Price
Finding a great location on a budget doesn’t have to be hard. There are several ways that you can approach the issue and find locations that will require little to no money to secure. Below we have listed several questions that you should ask yourself before looking for a filming location.
What Do You Already Have Access To?
This might seem like an obvious question at first, but it is one that should be taken seriously. Before you go out and look for locations, you should take inventory of what locations you already have. Get everyone involved in the production together and ask if they have access to any properties where you can film. You’d be surprised at what you can get done without having to scout at all.
Will You Need A Permit To Film There?
Once you have a general geographic location picked out either by necessity or choice, you need to contact your local film office. The film commission in your area will be able to tell you where you need to have a permit in order to film. Permits cost money and avoiding areas that require film permits is essential when you are short on cash. Sometimes film offices are sympathetic to smaller budget films and will help you in ways you might not have thought of, so making this connection needs to be a priority.
How Long Of A Commute?
Remote film locations offer both positive and negative elements to the price tag of a film production. Usually, filming on public land or far away from city centers will give you a large amount of creative freedom, but it also means your shooting days will be shorter to give your cast and crew time to get to location. If it is a multi-day shoot, you might need to house everyone. It will also make it tough to do reshoots is those are required.
Finding a space that has a good balance between being located in a place that is accessible and free to film at can be tricky, but there are tools that can help. Google maps is just one of the many technologies for modern location scouting that make it possible to do the job remotely. You can use streetview and Google Earth to get a sense of backgrounds, light levels, and sun position for exterior shoots.
Be Professional When Talking To Owners
If you do find a place that is absolutely perfect for your script both artistically and technically, the next thing to do is talk to the owner. Like any sales pitch, asking somebody for permission to film on their property can be nerve-wracking. Know that nothing gets you further in life than being polite and professional. Start by pitching your film, try and get the owner to understand that you’re not a big production company, and they can be a big help to the project if they let you film there. You can even offer to put their name in the credits if they agree.
With the savvy use of technology and a few people skills, you can find a plethora of low budget film locations just about anywhere you’re planning on filming. Keep a sharp eye out and don’t get too disappointed when somebody tells you that you can’t film somewhere, and you should be filming in no time.
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