One of our core values at OC focuses on customization, specifically, “Customize every job for every client.” It can take a little extra effort to make that happen, but everyone on the team and the client agree it is always a worthwhile investment.
When we take on a job, we always try to find the best options. We’ll audition dozens of voiceovers and send the top five or so to the client to review. The same goes for talent, logo concepts, web designs, etc. So it should be no different when it comes to filming locations, right?
Locations aren’t as easy to come by and they have a few extra layers of complexity, but we don’t let that stop us! Check out the questions we ask ourselves when choosing a location. We think it’ll work for you, too.
How Does it Look?
The most important thing about a location is whether or not it fits the aesthetic bill. You probably don’t want to shoot a tech commercial in a dilapidated shed or a banquet scene in a dingy basement. Ask yourself if the location will further the client’s message accurately. Is it too modern, too country, too cramped, too gaudy?
You can light a dark area or rearrange some things to make more room, but how far you can go to make a location ideal is up to the owners. You can only do so much before you have to move on to your next location.
Who Owns It?
Speaking of ownership, that’s another big picture question you have to answer. Is it a private home? Is it city-owned land? Corporate-owned buildings? State-held property? These can all lead to very different processes to get permission to film there.
There are whole companies dedicated to finding locations, because sometimes it’s that complicated. But it can be worth it to not have to navigate those permissions yourself. We’ve started getting into that business ourselves, and we’ve got a list of places we’re good to film at a moment’s notice. Maybe take advantage of that, instead.
What’s the Big Picture?
Sure, a gorgeous field could be the best place to shoot your commercial, but you have to take into consideration all the things that add up for that location. Is that busy road going to be a problem? Are you near an airport where you’ll have to film around forty second runway times? Is there an AC unit nearby that’s going to ruin a perfect scene? A river? Noisy birds? Biting flies?
So many things go into a perfect shot. You can fix some of them in post production, sure, but what if you didn’t have to? To minimize the headache of dealing with the additional aspects of a location, make sure you pay attention to what else comes with a “perfect” location.
What Will it Cost?
We considered not even including this, since a budget generally has room for locations in it. But if this is a fundamental list of questions to ask, the cost of a location belongs here. Will the cost mean you have to cut elsewhere? Is it worth it? Will higher costs per day lead to a rushed shoot?
Sometimes a relationship with someone can lead to lower costs. We try to build those relationships (because that’s another of our core values), and we’re lucky to know so many generous folk who are happy to let us use their property to make a production perfect. See who you know who has a great location, and be generous with what you’re willing to pay, but don’t overextend yourself. It can lead to an easier search in the future.
Where Is It?
If we’re talking locations, the most obvious thing to ask is, well, the location. Is it within a reasonable driving distance? Are there flights to nearby airports? Are roads inaccessible in inclement weather? Are there amenities nearby if you have to stay a while?
Determine how far the location is for your video crew, the client, and yes, the talent. Closer locations for all can save on hotel and per diem expenses, in addition to just having a more rested team on set. Leaving the house at 5am to arrive by your designated call time is not a preference for many. You know what they say! It’s all about location location location!
Will It Work?
Finally, you’ve got to take in mind the logistics of a location. Do they have room to park a whole crew? What’s the electricity and cell situation? Will there be adequate bathrooms? And where will craft services be set up?
If some of these aspects don’t work, it might be a sign that you need to keep looking. Of course, if just one of these things is an issue, a creative solution like porta potties, carpooling, or a generator might get you out of a jam.
It’s not an easy task to find a great location for a shoot, and sometimes the overall scope or idea for a project ends up changing to fit a location you love. We’ve found many such locations in the area, and we’ve started a list of local locations we love. If you’re looking for somewhere to film or if you think your home or other property might fit the bill as a paid location on our list, contact us and we’ll help you get started! We’d love to come get acquainted with you and your location!