Selecting and booking your shooting location can be a daunting challenge. Is a permit required? How do you get the owner’s permission? What does your location scout need from you? How do you handle insurance? Do you need a film location release?
In this article, we’ll unpack the location securing process step-by-step.
PICKING YOUR SHOOTING REGION
Research Incentives & Permitting Costs
Before you start scouting individual locations, consider which cities would make the best hosts for your film. You should research the permitting cost for the city you are about to shoot in.
Conssider Shooting Logistics for The Location
Your shooting region should be accessible to your cast and crew. Some shooting locations may be beautiful, but if the transportation or lodging costs are too high, you may need to pass on it. A good location scout can help guide you in this regard.
CONSIDER HIRING A LOCATION SCOUT
You can either hire a location scout, or go out on your own. Although it may cost a bit extra to hire a location scout, the amount of time it’ll save you could pay for itself. It really comes down to the opportunity cost. Hiring a professional can save you time.
- Searching for locations
- Cold calling and coordinating with the owner
- Taking and organizing location photos
- Considering potential issues
- Summarizing location notes
- Identifying and negotiating costs
If you need to navigate this process yourself, a filming location app may be helpful although that is not a popular one in Nigeria. Go to our previous article ‘Become A Pro At Location Scouting!‘
LOCATION SCOUTING CHECKLIST
Every location comes along with its own logistical considerations. Here are some of the most common questions to ask yourself:
- Does this location fit the scene?
- Can you control the location?
- Are there lots of noise from airplanes or a nearby highway?
- Are there lots of visible trademarks and logos that might become a problem for the production, such as in a grocery store or bar?
- Does it offer the resources you need (e.g. running water, restrooms, access to power, crew parking, etc.)?
If you’re going to be shooting in a private location, now it’s time to call up the property owner. For a primer on how to conduct yourself professionally in this initial conversation, below is a script we found that we have transcribed for you;
“Hi, is the manager or owner in please?”
(Allow them to respond. If they’re not in, leave a message.)
“Okay, let me just leave my name and number if possible.
My name is [your FULL NAME]. I’m an independent film producer.
We’re doing a [SHORT FILM] that we’re going to be submitting to film festivals and online. We’re going to be shooting in June. We need the use of a convenience store for a couple of scenes, and we’d like to film in your store.”
(Allow them to respond.)
“We wouldn’t need it for too long. It’ll probably take [1-2 nights] depending on how it goes, preferably after you guys close, like at [10:30 AT NIGHT] so we wouldn’t interrupt your business.
(Then ask if they have any questions. If you’re leaving a message simply conclude with the following…)
So let me give you my number just so you have it. Hopefully you can pass it along to the owner. The number is [YOUR NUMBER]. Thanks!”
Ask if they have any questions.
Most property owners have never seen a film production before so they’ll have a bunch of questions.
Describe your production accurately. Don’t tell them you’re a small indie crew when you plan to show up with forty extras!
If you’re operating on a tight budget, you’re more likely to secure the location for free if you get creative with compensation (such as meals, credit, or if it’s a business, a shout out on their business website or social media channels.)
“You’re more likely to secure a location for free if you get creative with compensation”
Side Note: Be empathetic. A film crew can be very disruptive when a production enters a business or home. People who aren’t in entertainment don’t realize just how long or chaotic production can be. In many instances people invite production companies to shoot, expecting the whole thing would only take a few minutes, unprepared for the twelve-hour workday.
SET A TIME TO DELIVER THE LOCATION RELEASE FORM.
Once the property owner agrees, you’ll want to get it in writing just in case they change their mind. A location release form is a requirement before you step foot on their property with any equipment, and it protects both parties.
Try to execute on the agreement as soon as possible before the shoot; at least a week or two in advance.
You could simply email a location release form. However, keep in mind the location owner is giving you a place to shoot; a little extra attention and face-to-face time can go a long way to secure the location and ensure a smooth experience on set.