Location scouting a spot for a movie or screenplay is as important as the story or sound for the movie.
Shooting the perfect scene in an imperfect location tends to downgrade the value of your production. But the right setting aids the story and contributes to the creation of a believable world in films.
It’s not an easy job, but we’re here to make it easier for you.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about the fundamentals of location scouting.
Let’s dive right in.
What Is Location Scouting?
Location scouting in the film industry is the process of finding specific locations for TV shows, movies, or commercials that are appropriate according to a specific theme.
A location manager (or scout) looks for indoor or outdoor locations to use as the backdrop for scripted scenes. Also known as location reconnaissance, it’s an integral part of pre-production.
Aside from creativity, there are several factors to consider in location scouting, such as permits, fees, and logistics.
Finding the right location that ticks each of these boxes — and doesn’t exceed your budget — is a challenge. But its significance cannot be overstated; it can make or break the creative vision a director or writer has in mind.
As with every creative production, whether it’s ads, short films, movies, or TV shows, the devil is in the details.
So, we’re going to deep-dive into the finer mechanisms and considerations that go into the selection of locations for ad filmmaking or motion pictures.
Before the Beginning
Before your location scout runs off to catch a flight or hop over to the next block, they need to know where to go. And that only comes from the original creative vision.
The location scout must first sit down with the project director or writer and extract all the relevant information they need to shortlist prime locations.
Here are some of the key parameters that’ll help the scout get started.
1. Background Aesthetics
Fairly straightforward. Does the scene take place in the mountains or in a living room? A parking lot or a meadow? This step often acts as a starting point on the journey of location discovery.
2. Project Motive
What’s the ultimate point of this production? Is it a movie, a TV show, or just a film-making exercise? Whatever it may be, figure out the genre and motive of the production and page through catalogs to shortlist locations that match.
3. Emotions Conveyed
Just like motive, this idea speaks more about the customer’s psyche. What emotions do you want the viewer to feel after watching this production? The location, as well as the elements in the frame, play a big role in evoking the desired emotions.
4. Light Settings
What are the lighting requirements for this production? Are you relying more on natural lights or artificial ones? Does the scene take place during the day, dusk, or at night?
Answering these questions will allow you to segregate the locations with the ideal lighting.
5. Total Budget
The expense for locations will be included in a movie budget. If you’ll need to use multiple sites, figure out if any of them have fees. Try to bargain with the location owner if there is a site whose cost exceeds your budget.
Once you’re in a potential location, your first task is to confirm if all of the above five conditions are met. If a location doesn’t meet any of these conditions, move on to the next.
Permission & Availability
Once you scout a location, find out who owns the land and whether they’ll permit filming on it. You may have to fill out permit applications and review a code of conduct if the location is on city, county, state, or federal property.
The standards for filming approval vary by county, city, and state. There could be very different expectations for two projects that are only a few miles apart. If you do require a filming permit, start the procedure as soon as possible because it might take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Also, do not forget to confirm the availability of the location on your desired dates and ensure there are no clashes.
There is more to production than just what happens in front of the camera. Location scouting for film requires accommodations for the entire production.
There are several factors to take into account while assessing site requirements. To make sure you don’t overlook any important logistical details, you might want to bring a checklist with you as you scout out potential places.
Not all locations will check all the boxes every time. You must be able to structure your film to work within the constraints of your setting. Consider how they will affect the production first, and then, adapt your schedule, budget, and personnel as necessary.
Light & Cinematography
Yes, we mentioned light once already. So, why again? We covered the overall lighting requirements of the project. Now, we’re focusing on the minutiae with elements such as color gradience, texture, mood lighting, etc.
Martin Scorsese suggests checking out the same location at different times during the day and shooting test footage each time.
Consider the emotional and physical effects this specific setting will have on your production. Discuss the requirements for the area with your production designer and figure out what’s feasible given what you already have.
If the location passes the litmus test for the right lighting, it will most likely match the creative director’s vision and is ready to be booked for the shoot.
But wait! Before you wire a down payment, we have one last thing to go through: a set of questions you can ask the appropriate personnel that may help make the entire process much simpler.
Read: A 4-Steps Guide to Hiring a Top Line Production Company
Questions To Ask Before Finalizing the Location
Did You Flip Through the Production Manager’s Address Book?
Begin location scouting by researching the contacts of your production crew. Does anyone know someone who has a location that’d be ideal for your production?
Remember that most people have no idea how to manage a movie shoot. Most may not fully understand what you imply when asking to film on their property. This is why people you know are more likely to respond favorably than strangers.
If you don’t have any inside contacts, look for a site scout database that allows you to filter by price and production type.
Did You Consider Shooting All Possible Scenes at This Location?
You’ve landed on a final location for a particular scene. The day arrives. You shoot it, and it goes well. Bravo! But now what? Are you sure you’ve made the most out of this particular location?
Look for filming locations that can also serve as other locations. With just a bit of redecorating, the same location may end up looking completely different and can be used for a completely different purpose.
This can be difficult in some circumstances, but it’s well worth your time. It reduces corporate relocations and aids in the overall video production process. Additionally, this simplifies planning your budget and shooting schedule.
Are There Any Background Product Placements That You Need To Be Aware Of?
A lot of times, an innocuous little oversight may mean that a brand or a product logo ends up in the final cut. This may open the can of worms to potential legal troubles. Other times, the owner of a location, say a pizza joint, may allow you to shoot your scene at their place with the agreement that you will name-drop their pizza place. This may not be a big deal, but what if you end up cutting that scene altogether? You do not want to be backed into a creative corner like that.
So, before you start rolling, comb over the environment (it could even be an unsuspecting mineral water bottle) for any loose brands and get rid of them.
Do You Have Written Agreements in Place?
Whether or not the location owner is a friend, you should secure your filming location in writing the same way you would for product insurance. Use a film location release form for this, and make sure you know what you’re signing.
The terms of your arrangement with the location owner are outlined in a location release form. It ensures that everyone understands your schedule and the rules for how your production will run on the set. Your production is less likely to be halted by a nervous property owner if you have a signed location release form.
So there you have it. A ready-reckoner and a half to help you decide on the right location for your ad filmmaking production. It may seem like a complex process at the outset, but with this thorough set of considerations, we hope it will help create your next masterpiece.
Are you looking for any assistance with all things filmmaking? Here at Capture Crew, one of the premier video production houses in Bangalore, we have expertise in ideating, creating, and shooting all types of videos, including corporate, film shorts, and even ad film making.
Reach out to us on our website, and let’s start rolling!
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