Location Scouting 101
Being a part of several social networking sites has its advantages. We often get invites and e-mails from people interested in what we do and wanting us to be a part of their own going-ons. One such request came in the form of someone needing a location scout for a photo shoot. They wanted us in Detroit, to find some places photogenic enough for their product (It was Caterpillar clothing and boots, so rugged backdrops were favored).
The client sent some photos to inspire us-peeling paint, broken pipes, run–down buildings. “Can you find locations like this?” Of course we can. And now, you can, too.
When scout locating, there are a few factors to keep in mind. First, you need to be there. You can research a site all day on the net, but there are places the net just doesn’t see. You need your own eyes to look around for that oh-so-perfect spot. Travel around, and see what’s there, as well as who…which is the next step. Talk to the locals. The people who live there probably know the best places to meet the needs of what you’re trying to film. Taxi drivers, and hotel concierge are ripe with info on the locale. Diners and delis can tell you people to talk to, maybe even hand over numbers. The local library can give you a good history on the myths and lore, while building code info is available at the proper government facility. Some states even have film commissions, and that’s our next bit of info.
If you’re sensitive to a budget, or are looking to write off as much as possible, you’ll want to see what sort of tax breaks your location offers. Scouting for a shoot is part of the job, and can (and should) be included in tax accounting. Gas and hotel are obvious, but items such as flashlights, batteries and brooms can aid in location hunting, and be written off as well. To find out what sort of breaks are out there, you’ll need to look up and call the areas film commission. Some states are better than others. Some are horrible. So chat them up, and ask questions. That’s what they’re there for. Get the low-down on areas of interest. Is anyone else filming there? Maybe you can make a contact. What hotels are we more likely to run into someone? Do they have maps? You get the picture.
The last bit would seem to be the most obvious, but usually isn’t. When leaving to scout, try to leave a day early, or schedule an extra day after the scout. Chances are you’re in an area you’ve never been, so look around. Pick up a local paper. Try the hotel restaurant and see who you run into. Check out the local mall or metro-park. Take some photos. Buy a post card or two. It does happen that after the scout, you won’t be asked back, so enjoy the time while you’re there. Do some sightseeing and take your time getting back. Enjoy the ride. Maybe we’ll see you there.