How to find a location for your film or photo shoot

How to find a location for your film or photo shoot

By Caroline Roberts 07/05/13

Whether it’s an industrial wasteland, a rural beauty spot or a small flat, the right location is key to a successful shoot. But if you’re on a tight budget, using a location scout probably isn’t an option. So how do you do the job yourself? Caroline Roberts shares her advice...

Network like crazy 

“Get family and friends to ask everyone they know, and post requests on social media and community websites,” says director and producer of short films, Leonardo Re. “I’ve also found locations by going round the area where I wanted to shoot and knocking on doors or putting fliers through letterboxes.”

“If we’re looking for a specific landscape feature, we use Google Maps,” says music video producer, David Kenny. “Obviously, you need to go there to have a proper look, but it’s a great way to narrow down the list and save yourself some time.”

 

Do a technical recce

“Remember that you need at least the same amount of space behind the camera as you do in front, so there’s enough room for all the equipment and crew,” says David. 

Also consider the electricity supply: “Powerful lights can trip the electrics in a small flat and you really don’t want that kind of disruption during your shoot. Get your lighting person to check it out, or consult an electrician.” 

For film shoots, listen out for noise from traffic, aircraft and neighbours, as well as for hums and rattles from fridges and heating. Make sure you check the noise levels at the times of day when you will be filming. 

Assess the location from a health and safety point of view. For example, if you’re shooting in a derelict warehouse, make a note of trip hazards, unstable structures, sticking out nails and so on. 

Once you’ve identified a suitable location, take lots of pictures or videos and arrange a return visit with key crew members for a second opinion.

 

Don’t forget the practicalities

Check there’s enough parking at the location. Also, think about the catering arrangements – a nearby supermarket can save a lot of hassle and help keep food costs down.

If it’s an outside location, make sure there are toilet facilities within easy reach. And if you’re in a remote area, check there’s a mobile signal. 

 

Get proper permission 

If filming in London, contact the Metropolitan Police Service Film Unit. The website provides useful information and they will clear your shoot with the local police. For shoots outside the capital, your first port of call should be the local council. 

“It’s good practice to put out fliers in the neighbourhood too,” adds Leonardo. “It saves the neighbours calling the police when you’re staging a fight scene.”

If your location is on private property, make sure you are dealing with the owner and not a tenant who is sub-letting to you.

 

Sort the paperwork

“You need to draw up a location agreement which should be signed by the property owners and yourself,” says freelance location scout Dan Hodgett. “It should include the shoot dates and times, the areas where you will be shooting and other areas that you can use, where you can park, and the agreed fee.”

The Guerilla Film Makers Pocketbook provides lots of advice and is a good source of useful pro forma documents. You can also download a location release contract from Own-it, the intellectual property advice service.

Finally, don’t forget about you’ll need public liability insurance to cover any damage to the location. If you’re a student, you can often arrange this through your college or university. Otherwise, there are lots of brokers – such as media-insurance.co.uk – providing insurance to the creative industry.

 

For more articles, jobs and opportunities, visit our film hub

Image by iwillbehomesoon via Flickr under a creative commons license.

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