Lesson 4 - Finding Locations and Production Design
Locations, and finding them for a film, is one of the easiest parts of preparing a film production .
There are three different ways to find location
- Pay a Location Scout to go out and source your locations
- Via word of mouth
- You cold call
Finding great locations is a very important part of the production process and it can be very inexpensive.
Sometimes on our Film Courses, the locations really enhance the production. Sometimes they work against the production. So it is very important to look for certain important elements when seeking your locations.
Firstly, does the location aesthetically enhance the scene? In other words, does the location add to the look of the film and the mood of the scene? When you are shooting a gangster film, do your locations look menacing, industrial and ugly? This can really add to the look of the film.
I was very interested to hear Matthew McConaughey state that Christopher Nolan never uses green screens. He nearly always uses real locations and sets.
Green Screen is very common these days as one can then chromakey in the background after taking out the green. On one of our recent courses the participants used green screen and it worked very well.
On Tabernacle 101, we used a small amount of Green Screen but I preferred to nearly always use real locations. The low budget film-maker tends towards real locations as the budget does not allow for built sets.
On Tabernacle 101 we still had 135 VFX Shots. (Video Effects created on the computer.)
Real locations can look awesome and really add to the film. There are two aspects to this. Find the best location and then the Art Department adds to the look of the set.
Art Department is so important to any production and if there is not much attention to the art department, the film sets can look bland and low budget.
Art Department, along with real locations, do not have to cost much money. One only has to garnish simple props and dressing from your own sources or cheap shops to add an aesthetically pleasing look to the film.
Look at your favourite movies and see the detail in the art department. Look at the sets and see how much the Designer has worked on the sets. If you do this and work on your locations and art department, you will add considerable production value to your film production. It is amazing how inexpensive this can be. Still from our Film Tabernacle 101 – Merediths Magic Store.
On many micro budget features that I have been involved with, the budgets for art department were very small and yet the film set looked amazing.
Paying a Location Scout is a great way to go if you have considerable budget. They find you locations and you look at them with your DOP and Production Designer and make a call on whether to use the location or not. A good location scout will find you three options for every location. This way you can pick the best.
For most productions there is no budget for the location search. Therefore you have to do this yourself.
Firstly, make a list of the locations you need and then seek them out. Ask all your friends, associates and people you know. Ask them for the location you need. You would be surprised how many people will want to help. If you can not find the location through who you know, then move to the cold call.
The Cold Call is essential for finding locations.
Cold Call the locations you need. It is much better to do this in person and call around to places. Say you need a bar in a hotel. Travel around the hotels in a specific area and ask to speak to the manager. Make sure you tell him you are on a Zero Budget and you can pay in placing their bar name in the credits and having food at the hotel. Let him or her know that you will feature the bar in your film with the name of the bar.
Most bar owners will be keen. We find it takes about three places on a cold call basis to lock down the location. 80% of the time, there is no charge. If there is a charge, the most we have had to pay in the past is $200 – $500 a day. If we love the bar and it will enhance the look of the production, then it is well worth the money.
Make absolutely sure you book the location when the bar is closed. You can not shoot when there are paying customers in the location.
Once you have chosen the location, you will then visit the location with your Production Designer and the DOP.
The Production Designer will look at ways of enhance the set with set dressing and props. The DOP will look at how to light the set and work with you on the shot list. On a Micro budget film, you may double up as Director Producer and Production Designer Editor and Scriptwriter.
It is the nature of saving money on low budget films.
Locations and Art Department are an exceptionally important part of the production and you will need to place time and effort into finding the best locations. However, it will not cost you much money.
It is important to learn Filmmaking on an actual film set. That is what we do. We teach you how to Find Locations and production design them on an actual film production.