Schools Training

Selecting Locations for Student Films

15 APR 2013
Career Path : Arts and Entertainment

The importance of location in setting the mood of a film is often underrated. The background setting helps to create the sense of a self-contained world that transports the audience fully into the story. Of course, if you’re a student or an independent filmmaker on a tight budget, you have probably realized from the beginning that you won’t be able to afford helicopters and expensive permits and crafted your script accordingly. Once the script is locked down, go through it and determine where you want to shoot your scenes. Some software programs will actually generate a list of settings from the scene headings of your screenplay. After a list of ideal settings have been created you can start looking for the actual locations that will work for your story. A savvy budget-conscious writer/director will try to have some locations (and actors, sets, etc.) in mind as they’re writing, working with what they’ve got to tell the story they want to tell.

Location Scouting

Real movies will have location scouts who will be familiar with available buildings and common space easier to access, but if you have a friend with a car who doesn’t mind driving around, making phone calls and searching the Internet, you’ll be in good shape. Otherwise it’s up to you. Ideally, you’ll find unique settings that will be memorable to your audience. Talk to friends and family first, using your network that wants to help you and don’t mind lending their homes, offices or other suggested locations. Start with your own living space and move outwards to confirm as many locations as possible before shooting. Ask your volunteer actors if they know of suitable places you can use. Look around for the right space and if you find it, respectfully ask the owners for permission, stressing you’re from a film school in Toronto and minimizing the impact you’ll make.

Make your pitch

When location scouting, write down the addresses and contact information for potential settings and if you can’t just walk in and speak with a manager or the house’s owner, arrange a meeting. Look like you know what you’re doing by developing a pitch package beforehand, consisting of a shooting schedule, your plans for how you will use the space, information about yourself and the movie, and perhaps the script. Many people will be more willing to help if it’s a student project. Offer to pay a location fee or for the electricity and other resources you may consume. Accentuate the potential benefits, such as the free advertising the location will receive once your movie’s a huge success. Some property owners will let you shoot without permits but liability insurance will often be part of the deal, with all potential damages covered.

If you’re shooting on public property, use a small crew and be discrete if possible. This kind of flexibility can add an energy and spontaneity to the shoot. Sometimes the budgetary limitations faced by students of film schools in Canada can force innovative solutions that may ultimately enable more interesting work.



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