Location Scounting

Holy crap. We’re just about done with the film. CG is set, picture locked, coloring finished. Such an awesome feeling. But, that’s for another post. We’re still counting down the how we got to this part. Let’s jump back into it. This time I’m going to talk about the blast we had figuring out just where the hell we were going to shoot. Some of the locations we got we were thrilled with. Others, not so much. A few times we had to reshoot entire sequences in new locations due to unforeseen consequences.

To say one part of pre-production is more important than another is downright foolish. Every aspect of putting the film together is the next key to making sure the film works as a whole. Anyone can up and say, “Oh, without a great script, you’re going to have a crappy movie,” and for the most part that is one of the bigger focuses. But, without good locations, a lot of good dialogue will feel like  it’s being shot for a high school project.

That was a problem we had to deal with as well.

We were lucky enough to have written a film that takes place mostly in apartments, and houses. While that sounds simple enough, you’d be surprised how difficult it can be to secure locations where the owners aren’t looking to put your ass over a barrel, or just turn a production down outright. That’s not to say I can’t respect people that don’t want to risk damaging their home, or maintaining their privacy. Not at all. But, for anyone that doesn’t live in LA, you’d be surprised at how many people living in this city think that charging the same daily rate for micro-budget indie films, as they do for big-budget feature films, is a good idea.

It’s downright maddening if you’re counting your pennies.

But, that’s part of the experience. Thank goodness I had a few great friends who were willing to let us take over their places for days on end. We even managed to turn one of our friend’s homes into two separate locations. Movie Magic! That’s not all. For one of our locations we needed a house. One would think, with almost four million people in Los Angeles proper, we’d have our pick of houses to shoot in for a couple of days.

Hardly.

But, our fearless producer happened to know someone willing to give us a break. Awesome. In San Diego. Oh. Yeah. So, a quick hop, skip and a jump and we had our weekend to shoot a few scenes. So, that took care of our apartments and houses, but we still had a few more sequences that needed to be filled.

One, in an alleyway and one in a warehouse.

We spent a bunch of time looking for both. Early on we thought we’d found the perfect. The warehouse had a worn down garbage yard in the back that would’ve been perfect for the alley, and we’d shot in the warehouse for a previous music video I directed. But, as with most good things, they have to be shat on by ridiculous rules. The warehouse was in a town in southern LA, and they’d just passed a new law that productions had to hire police officers, at a set day rate, to be security for the shoots. We had just enough money to make the shoot happen, prior. By tagging on the extra charges the warehouse was forced out of the running. Which was too bad because it’s an awesome, grimy place, and would’ve looked awesome in the film. Instead we managed to lock down a massive rug warehouse. You’d have no idea, watching the film now, because they let us use a large, empty holding room. But, when we got that, we also snagged the use of the large, gated side area next to the building. This was to become the alley for a sequence in the film.

And, yes, when you look at the location and wonder if it was in the ghetto, it was.

Because of a few awesome people, a few last minute phone calls, and accepting, sometimes you’re not going to get exactly what you want, we were able to bring Assassins to life. And, along the way, I learned just how important location can play in the overall sequence of putting the film together (and blocking, and movement, and shots, and lighting, and dialogue). Yes, location factors into more than just the background of a particular shot.

What sort of stories, good or bad, have you experienced when it came to putting together the locations for your projects?

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