Join Chad Perkins for an in-depth discussion in this video Scouting locations, part of Creating a Short Film: 03 Pre-Production.
- Locations are so important when filming. Very few things set the tone of a film more than the location. So during pre-production, the director will often go out with a few other members of the team to check out locations and see if they'll be feasible. This process is referred to as scouting a location. Scouting locations is actually about much more than just visiting the location. It's really an opportunity to gather data about a place where you'll potentially spend a lot of time and money. When we were looking for locations, we looked everywhere. We tried big warehouses.
We tried state parks. We tried big backyards of friends and much more. But nothing felt right. The parks were too public and wouldn't allow us to control the shooting space. Other locations were too close to streets or other industrial noises. Other didn't have power or bathrooms. So we were discouraged. But then I remembered a campsite where I took my son when he was in Boy Scouts. It was huge. It had a lot of interesting structures and was well-maintained. Turns out, we could afford it and it was available. We were ecstatic.
But we still scouted the location to gather information for more pre-production. I went with Natty, my daughter, who plays Korda'a in the film and we went at about sunset to get a feel for what sunset would look like in different areas on the grounds of the location. I took a camera and an audio recorder. I took tons of pictures of Natty in different spots so that I had a reference to use when deciding where to shoot certain scenes later. The audio recorder, it sounds kind of weird. But it helps to determine what the location sounds like. This is really important because usually during a scout, you know, we're just kind of scouting around, looking around, at the visuals.
But we don't realize how noisy the surrounding areas are. This happened to us on The Assurance, actually, when we shot a pick-up scene. We went to a friend's house with a big backyard. It seemed like it was going to be perfect and we started filming. But as it turned out, the car noise from the road next, closeby, was just too loud even though it seemed like the road was actually really far away. So we actually had to shut down filming and get the footage somewhere else. But if I had scouted the location first and recorded audio there like I usually do, we wouldn't have shot there in the first place. I also took video with my cell phone from different angles so I got a better sense of this space.
This spot was intriguing and I thought it might work for the night scene. But I was worried about that wooden sign post thingy right there. So I was trying to see as I move around here what this angle would look like and if the tree would hide that obstacle. I also got footage of all the nooks and crannies. I didn't have a reason to use this wood, but it sure looked cool. So having this footage for the remainder of pre-production gave me a lot of options to think about. Now, as it turns out, the owners did let us use that wood for the preacher's campfire and for the torches and I was aware of that wood because I was around taking pictures of everything.
We used these baseball fields to redo the failed pick-up scene and also used it for some of the shots of the girls running away from the fanatics at the end of the film. Probably the most important thing to me was the extra amenities for filming. Oh, it was beautiful. There was plenty of power for our lights, batteries, data wrangling, and camera gear. There was a covered area with benches so people could rest and where we could eat during meals. There were also close and very private bathrooms, which is also great for modest wardrobe changes for our cast, and there is plentiful free parking that was adjacent to set.
I mean, it was a dream come true. Again, it's really important when scouting a location, that you don't just look at what will work for a shot, but you consider all the logistics of filming: the bathrooms, power, parking, how far these things are from the set, what the location sounds like, and so forth. And you'll want to record everything so you can cater your pre-production plans to the specific locations that you're filming in.
Learn how to prepare the assets, such as shooting scripts, storyboards, and shot lists. Discover how to schedule and budget a shoot, and keep costs down while leaving room for the creative decisions that need to be made along the way. Find out how to hire a crew, scout and secure locations for each scene, and prepare props, sets, and wardrobe for actors. Learn what you need to do to keep your people safe, and the things you can prepare ahead of time to make sure production and post-production run smoothly.
There are more filmmaking tips to be had! Make sure to watch the first installment to learn about the background of the project and to get an overview of the role of the producer. Look for the follow-up episodes to learn more about writing, directing, working with actors, editing and visual effects, and everything else that goes into filmmaking.
- Turning the script into a shooting script
- Working with script breakdown software such as Adobe Story
- Creating storyboards and a shot list
- Scheduling the shoot
- Budgeting the shoot and post-production
- Hiring a crew
- Preparing sets and costumes
- Scouting locations
- Creating props
- Preparing assets for post-production