Location Scouting for Indie Film (How To Guide)
The first thing that you need to have clear is that if you are an independent filmmaker and you can’t rely on much certainties that money offers you, you must search for places that you know will be the best place to shoot because it fits the story and you won’t be bother while shooting.
Does that location suit the story?
This is the most important question that you should ask yourself when looking for a location to shoot in.
The principle is:
The chosen location suits and served the story first.
If that location, although you’ve been thinking it would look so cool in video, doesn’t got the story, don’t hesitate, get rid of it. That simple. It doesn’t matter if it looks awesome. If the location doesn’t fit the story in any way, forget about it. (There are some exceptions to this last affirmation).
If not how can you make a location suit the story?
Imagine that you are looking for a very specific location that you would only find in an apocalyptic world.
In that case what I would recommend is to use what you have around you that you know you can use any time you need to make use of it.
Imagine you need to make a house look like an apocalyptic house that has been previously attacked by zombies. In that case what I would focus on is if I have at my disposal a house that I can decorate as I wish whenever I want (always within the limits of common sense).
Do you have that location at your complete disposal? For how much time?
You need to have a very organized shooting plan and schedule to pull of a location that you have limited access to.
Moreover, you need to make sure that you and your team can work efficiently so that you can accomplish what you said you would in the time that was given to you.
If this is your first project, with your first crew and you have already involved and compromised a lot of people and money in order to film in that particular location my advice would be to beware.
Practice makes master.
So practice until you can master that kind of situations but don’t try to be an expert under stressful and unknown situations.
Where would you store your gear while shooting?
This is an important factor that you need to have in mind of you want to film a feature length film that will take you at least a year to shoot.
If you can leave all your gear in that location while the days of shooting that scene, that is a great advantage. All the time that you needed to put in transportation of your gear to set will be cut off and used for actual shooting. That’s great.
For that to happen you must be sure it is a safe place to leave gear overnight and that it all will still be there the next morning.
If not you risk on spending a lot of time necessary for shooting only from moving from point A to point B.
Exteriors vs Interior in Location Scouting
If you are going to shoot a film mostly in exterior, you should know that you need permits for filming on some “public” places like monuments and private establishments like bars and restaurants that are opened to the public.
In exteriors you risk somebody passing by in front of the camera and blocking all the action in the frame, a lot of ambient noise, harsh light and weather conditions that you cannot control (mostly) and the risk of getting robbed.
In interiors you don’t usually face all those risks but you have to know that for filming in most interiors you need the authorization of the owner or of the public entity that owns the place. I have to point out, in interiors you might need a lighting setup because there is less light, it is a more tight place to film and move and it is more difficult for some stories to fit a narration mostly sustained by interior scenes and sequences.
So one of the best ways to go around those problems is to get the authorization of the owner to film in a private location (interior or exterior) and make sure that you won’t be bothered while filming and you have the tranquility of knowing that if you don’t finish today, you can tomorrow.
So scout well and carefully, think about how that location suits your story and how practical and which disadvantages motivate you or not to film in that particular location.
Happy location scouting and see you next time!