Being a location scout would seem to be the most fun out of all the jobs offered in the filmmaking industry. It seems that it would be a dream vacation to travel and see if a location checks out or not. Believe it or not, headaches abound in securing a location to shoot.
There are many more details involved in securing a location to shoot a film than simply finding the location. There are permission and releases to be obtained from everyone involved. Proof of liability insurance and authorizations of access to the location may need to be obtained. The scout will convince the owner that having a 150 person crew camped out on their front lawn it going to be good fun.
Previously it might have pacified the local authorities if you gave them some small compensation, like a good bottle of whiskey, but these arrangements are no longer available. Now you must have official permission from the local authorities to use certain locations for filming. These releases must be paid for and put on file so that they can be accessed during the shoot. Once the location scout has secured the location they become the location manager. This means they are responsible for parking access and accommodations for he cast and crew.
Sometimes unusual arrangements are made in order to use a location. Stephen King's "Rose Red" was filmed at Thornwood castle in Lakewood, Washington. This castle was brought over from Europe, brick by brick, and rebuilt on the shore of American Lake by Chester Thorne. Chester Thorne was one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma. Initially while it was a good location, the castle needed to be returned to its old grandeur. The production and location managers struck a deal to refurbish the castle.
The result was that almost $800.000 of renovations were preformed on the castle. The restoration work done to the castle can be seen at Thornewood castle's website. The work done was in exchange for the use of the location once it was finished. The owners of the castle in exchange for the use of the location received $800,000 in renovations. I am sure they thought it was good deal. This case exemplifies the lengths to which producers will go to in order to secure a good location.
Location scouting was previously done at a time when the digital technology was not available to the location scout. Scouts were required to travel to the actual location and they usually ended up using Polaroid shots for their reference. Now there are location agencies that can give you virtual tours of locations and the scouting can truly be done online. All you need to do is put in a request for locations on the Internet and you will find scads of listings for location scouting agencies.
Now for those of you that are producing your own independent films, you will have to use your wits to secure your locations. If you are using your own house or apartment it will be no problem but if you are using a location that doesn't have general public access you will need to secure releases from the owners of the facilities you want to use.
My first introduction to film in school was during a film analysis class, although technically, it was classified as a philosophy class. The professor was quite pompous and made a big deal out of discussing how to actively view a film. No speaking was allowed, and we were to take notes while viewing. He was a little like the Movie Nazi. We discussed film theory and the power of the director in the making of a film at great length.
As a cultural phenomenon, film traces the human need to tell stories back to our oral traditions. Aside from recording history, we all want to be entertained and we all want to hear a good story. If you are going to make a film, you have to have a great story and then be willing to run with it. Talk it up to everyone you know. Enlist the help of others and win them over to the cause of your film. Give your film a catchy name--one that will pop out of people's mouths.
Promote your film shamelessly before you ever have anything in the can. Sell T Shirts with your film logos and sell bumper stickers. Make a website and develop a fan base. Start a blog and be just as edgy and out there as you can, but make sure that people have your film's name on their lips, regardless of how good it is.
I have a friend who produced a film about her high school experience 10 years ago, and this summer it will be distributed. She developed a website, sold things from her film promotion stock, and made a very good fan base for herself before the film was even edited. Her fan base, through the purchase of T-shirts and other promotional items, paid for various things throughout production of the film. She managed to get it made and now her film has been picked up for distribution 10 years later.
To be a filmmaker is to have a big picture mentality on a small picture budget. It is tough to stay true to the storyline when you have a bottom line that is keeping you from the production. One of the reasons you want to talk your film up is that, in the beginning, you will need to find a crew. Usually you will have to use talent that is willing to work for nothing (or next to nothing). You may have to act in your own film as well....and write, direct it, and edit it. Do what you have to do to get the film "in the can" and ready to edit.
You will have to develop tunnel vision with the project. If you have a day job, get used to the idea that you may have to take an extra job for a while to buy a camera or other necessary equipment for shooting. If you have the good fortune to still be a student you have great resources for equipment. If you are not a student, then maybe you can decide to go back to school and study film. You will have at your disposal some of the best resources an aspiring filmmaker can have. Film programs at universities have awesome loan programs that are a hidden resource.
At college, while you can take film equipment out on loan, you may also have access to edit bays and sound booths. In some cases, they are available 24 hours a day. Students are up all night anyway, right? Also, when forming a production crew, students provide good talent for your film when you are in need of actors. You may want to take turns crewing for your friends' films, and they, in turn, will act in yours. Do what you can to build a crew, gather the bare minimum of equipment needed to shoot, and develop a shooting schedule. Once you have the crew and the guns to shoot, everything starts to gel. Press onward.
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