Location, location, location! We all know this cliche very well, but not so much when thinking about a location for your next big film. The truth is, once the script is finalized, the actors are set, and the kinks have been hammered out, finding the right location to actualize your vision can be one of the most important parts of the production process. From permission agreements to mastering authenticity here are some tips for picking your perfect filming location!
Handling the Legalities
First thing's first, you want to gain a sufficient knowledge of the legalities and property rights associated with filming. The United States is one of the few countries that has many freedoms related to filming in public spaces. In fact many people have a limited idea of privacy rights for public places.
The reality is that almost any public building and almost any person can be photographed without consent...even law enforcement officers and celebrities. The only major "no no" is filming inside any buildings. You needs a permit or property rights in order to have indoor filming access in any public or private building.
While this seems great, filming in public spaces is definitely not recommended. First, it is very difficult to control sound, light, and even a wandering street performer! The best bet would be to film in a private location where you have access to the entire property, inside and out. Renting a studio can be incredibly expensive, but gaining property rights to shooting in a private venue provides all the perks of a studio without being too hard on your wallet.
Mastering Scene Believability
If you think back to your favorite movies scene you will not only remember the actors and their lines but also all the elements that went into creating the moment. Was it raining as the female lead jumped into her lovers arms? Were birds chirping as the goofy male met his in-laws for the first time? The small elements that influence a scene are vital to creating the overall picture and sentiment. The small details are ultimately what make a scene believable and captivating!
With a private venue you can easily manipulate the details. This is because you have permission to create special effects, which may involve elaborate lighting or even water works. Of course, these details are also possible when working in a private studio; however, costs for a private studio can end up being more than your total budget all together. Plus, filming on a private location offers almost everything you would find in a studio.
When filming on location it is important to get creative with the space you have to work with. For example, the backside of an estate can be transformed into a corporate office facade. A small garden in a Malibu home can become a biergarten in Germany. Being creative with space is essential!
Here are some venues that offer a great variety of space and backgrounds all in one location:
1. Bayview Mansion in San Diego, California incorporates so many different styles into its design that it is essentially "location-less" with a little help of a camera.
This shot could easily be a view from Gatsby's estate looking out at Daisy's dock.
While Bayview Mansion's interior courtyard complete with ceramic details could transport actors to Mexico, Southern Spain, or a Mediterranean island.
Rod-iron gates and an antique mailbox evoke a French flair-- this could easily be the entrance to a chateau in Southern France.
The interior of the estate offers great natural light and wide spaces for shooting. The cedar finishes on the walls inspire feelings of old-world Europe or northeastern United States.
2. Pine Bush Estate in Pine Bush, New York is one of our most unique properties and offers a distinct character perfect for filming. Its 37 acres of meadows and old oak trees allow enough space for larger, more elaborate scenes-- plus the terrain can easily resemble many different locales around the world.
Because of its northeastern location, the estate transforms with every season.
The property offers a unique stone house and a perfectly rustic red barn making it a great location for films that take place in a different era.
3. Encuentro Guadalupe in Valle de Guadalupe offers cool and modern architecture with desert and vineyard surroundings. This property has ocean, desert, and agriculture all in one location.
The property is made up of 20 luxury eco pods resembling something out of a Star Wars film.
Because the property is so preserved, filming natural rarities can make for interesting shots and rare elements you would not find elsewhere.
Questions to ask when picking a filming location:
1. Is parking available for cast, crew, and equipment vehicles?
2. Are there bathrooms and/or areas for costume changes nearby?
3. Is it in a quiet location? Aim for a place away from traffic, incoming trains, public fountains, etc..
4. Are there overnight accommodations available?
5. Are there adequate areas for setting up a picnic area or food station for feeing the cast and crew?
6. Is there someone onsite that can help answer questions or handle any unforeseen issues?
7. Are there enough outlets and do you need extra energy sources? Sometimes you may need a generator to power heavy duty lights.
8. Is there adequate cell phone service at the filming site?
Choosing a Filming Location...
It is important to remember that sometimes your location can inspire the film just as much as your film can inspire the location. If you find yourself in love with a certain staircase or even giant oak tree, incorporating these details into the script is a great idea. Choosing a filming location is a fluid and creative process-- just let your imagination run wild!
What do you find to be the most difficult part of choosing a film location?