How to Find a Filming Location – Learning the Production 411’s

You have a script that you want to shoot. Now you have to find the locations that will bring every set in your script to life. From “Kitchen, interior” to “adrift on an open sea” finding the best setting that not only will bring the scene to life but will be accessible for shooting is extremely important for any type of production.. In our ongoing series, “Learning the Production 411’s” this primer, broken down into major categories, is designed to be easily digested, offering you the basic elements to get you on your way to completing your first successful project!

What are the locations?

After you have revised your script and settled on a final draft, it is important to determine every location that is featured. Even if there is just one room or outdoor location depicted throughout the entire production, keep in mind you may need multiple camera angles of this setting. Go through your script with a highlighter and find every time the camera is in a new location, and make a list including each one. Determine what is an interior and what is an exterior. Determine the time of year as well – this may affect leaves on trees, daylight and anything else caught on camera that will affect the believability of your story.

Where can I find these locations?

Armed with your list of locations, you now can determine if the locations need a studio space or can be shot in location. If, for instance, your interior is a space capsule, you may want to invest in a studio space where you can build an interior and leave it intact for the duration of your shoot. If the setting is a kitchen, you have to determine what kind of kitchen it is: is it modern? Run down? In an apartment? These details are important to be mindful of when you are conducting your search. If you have a minimal budget, don’t despair. You can often rely upon the help of a clever set decorator to change your own kitchen into something much more sophisticated (or underwhelming)

There are many resources available to help you find the best locations as well. Many film commissions have an online library of locations, broken down by category, on their website. They have staff that can help you find proper locations as well. Hiring a location manager is also a great step. They will scour sights, finding buddings and grounds that have the details required for the scene. They are also skilled at acquiring permits and handling the contracts and other paperwork necessary to use certain locations. Shooting in California but need a street that resembles Boston’s Beacon Hill? They’ll help you find it! Shooting in New Mexico but need a plantation that rivals those built in Georgia during the 1800s? They’ll rise to that challenge!

What do I need to know about a location?

Don’t underestimate this important point. You need to know everything about your location! Is there a power source, or will you need a generator? Does it have windows for natural light? Is the location noisy or only noisy at certain points of the day? Will you have unlimited access to it? Do you need a permit, or special insurance? Do you need police and security during shooting? Can you park in front of it, and if so, how many spaces do you have? Is there a parking lot nearby for crew? Is there room for trailers and craft services? Are there bathroom facilities? Will your camera operator and crew be able to make all the set ups they need, such as front, back, over the shoulder and POV shots? Are there mirrors or artwork that needs to be covered over/removed? Will you be allowed to build or modify anything?

If you are shooting outside of your regular state or country, be mindful of weather conditions that may affect your shoot, particularly if you require an outdoor shoot. If there is a rainy season and you need sunny days, you will have to investigate times of year where the conditions are more favorable. Be certain to learn as much as you can; important details can affect the efficiency of your shoot.

Hopefully you feel excited to begin researching your locations. Keep in mind many organizations and colleges dedicated to film making provide classes or workshops that can help you understand more about finding the best locations. It never hurts to become as knowledgeable as possible with the process in order to make your project the very best you can be!