I get asked a lot what I think the hardest part making a movie is especially in the one man way that I do. The answer is almost always – locations. Finding the right location is what I think the hardest thing to do. So many factors go into play there.
There is the obvious creative decision to find a place that is what’s either in the script or at least works for the scene(s) you need to shoot. But then there is the technical parts to it as well. Is there power? Is there enough power? Is there enough room for everything you’re bringing into the location as far as people, lights, camera, gear, food, etc.? Is there a time issue? You may only have access to certain locations for a set amount of time. If it’s a business of some kind you might only have a few hours while they are closed. You have to make sure you have enough time to shoot what you need to shoot. Audio is another concern. If you have long dialogue scenes but you’re shooting under an El track then chances are you’re going to have some noise. Audio is usually the one thing most people don’t pay attention to until you show up on the day.
For everything I do finding locations is always difficult. Especially when you don’t have money. Bigger productions have money to rent out places when they shoot but when you don’t have that you basically need to borrow, beg, and steal.
First things is to see what you have access to. Do you or a family member or a close friend already have access to things? Even houses and apartments. Sometimes when you ask around you’ll be surprised to find things. A friend’s uncle may have access to a cool place through work.
Don’t be shy. Go into places and just ask. Be courteous and compromising and you might be surprised what you can get. If you work with people and show them you have insurance (and if you don’t then get some I cannot stress that enough) you’ll be amazed how often people will be open to letting you shoot in their place.
When in a bind you can always “steal the shot”. If it’s not private property then just show up and get your shot. Minimize what you need. In essence, just show up with your camera and don’t draw attention to what you’re doing. Don’t block the normal flow of things. In most cases you can get the shot you need. Worst case scenario you may be asked to leave. Again, make sure it’s not private property though.
The one thing that works best is to also be flexible. Are you so compelled to shoot a scene in a specific location that looks a certain way because it is crucial to the story or because you think it would look cool? Be open and sometimes putting a scene in a different location from what you originally intended can actually work in your favor. Don’t be so locked into what you want that it’s only going to limit what you can actually do. At the end of the day telling your story is the most important thing no matter where things take place.
Now back to borrowing, begging, and stealing locations for my own film.