Create an Aesthetic

Choose locations that fit with the story. The locations you choose will serve as the backdrop that adds texture and subtle depth to the characters’ lives and believability. A carefully set-dressed location can provide exposition or enhance the mood of a scene or character arc.

Scout numerous locations. You may not get your first choice, and you need to be prepared with backups. Also, you might find a location that suits your story better than your top locations. Perhaps your original location is too tight to get the angle right for your shot, or perhaps the new location doesn’t need as many props.

Consider Technical Needs

A location needs to be functional and aesthetically meaningful.

    • Consider Power Sources. Does the location have enough power sources for your gear? If not, is there room for a generator?
    • Consider Sound. If a generator must be used, is the noise too close to the scene? How is the ambient noise? Is there a freeway or an airport nearby that would disrupt the dialogue?
    • Consider Lighting. Is the daylight controllable? Or will your night scene have to change to a day scene because you can only access the location during the day and you can’t black out the windows? Is the lighting fluorescent when you need it to be soft? How much lighting of your own do you need to pack in?
    • Consider your Base Camp. Your Base Camp will be used for everything from charging batteries to holding water and coffee to sheltering actors in between scenes. Whether your Base Camp is a table, a few event tents, or several trailers, you need space that’s out of sight and out of earshot from your filming.

Work with Location Management

Always be respectful and courteous. Keep in mind that these locations are trusting you with their space; they may even be losing revenue due to your film production. These locations are managed by real people. A personal relationship goes a long way toward making them feel at ease with your disruption. Thank them sincerely! Thank them in your film credits and on your social media.

Before you start moving furniture around or setting up your gear, take detailed photos of the location so that you can return it to the condition in which you found it. Even if you’re sure you cleaned up all of your trash, double-check. Triple-check.

Bonus Tip: It never hurts to ask

Even when working on a tight budget, it is possible to secure your dream location. Find ways to work around their schedule; that may mean rearranging your scenes. (Consider whether that particular location is worth the hassle.) Also, some locations are sensitive about being associated with various controversial issues. If your film deals with controversial issues, shooting a trailer that includes some of those scenes can be helpful for explaining your approach to them.