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View Full Version : Tips on finding locations please!



Jackson Miller
07-09-2009, 06:18 PM
Hi. Not sure if this is quite the right section, but hey, locations are part of the art department right? Anyways, something I have been having a lot of trouble with is finding and securing great locations. So are there any gurus who would be willing to share some of their secrets? Any tips to getting great, free locations?

Other than using property connected to people that you know...

is it best to use public or private locations?

What can I do to try to convince a person who is concerned about liabilities? I am talking for small productions without insurance.

Are there any special online lists or maybe a location scout would have a list, of cheap or free friendly locations to use? It seems like a longshot, but I figured there might just be such a thing.


Two particular locations I am having a hard time finding are:

1) An emergency/operating room. This is pretty difficult. I can construct my own maybe in an empty room, but I don't have any props or hospital beds etc. Waste of money and time. Do you think there is ANY chance that a hospital or medical facility might let me film in an old or unused room?

2) City rooftop. This is also difficult because of liabilities. Many or most people won't let us film on their roofs because of the liabilities. Actually we haven't asked anyone yet, but this is my suspicion. rooftop scenes seem to be pretty common though, so any tips on getting permission?

Thanks a bunch.

Sad Max
07-09-2009, 08:39 PM
Yes, Locations is part of the Art Department. Usually. Depending upon the size of the crew. Sometimes the Art Department *is* the Locations Department.

Re: public vs. private, that's not generally the line on which it turns. Sometimes you can get public locations virtually free of charge and with useful support. Sometimes owners of private locations will bean you with sudden additional fees, expenses, or restrictions right when you're committed and have no choice but to pay up. Sometimes you can swap the former, for the latter. Depending upon the size of your shoot, btw, you may need to handle both public *and* private property matters, i.e. shooting in a private house with grip trucks taking up half the residential street outside.

Re: What to tell liability-shy property owners - your best bet is probably to persuade them that you are professional, responsible, and safety-conscious. Or at least, any two of the three. To back that up you might offer a written waiver explicitly releasing them from any liability for what happens during your shoot, and assuming that liability for your crew and equipment, yourself. Which could potentially leave you in quite a pickle.

Any location manager worth his salt will have files and connections and places at hand, and will know where to look to track down specifics. Hit Google, enter 'film locations' plus a city name and you will get links.

1) Whole lotta hospitals going under, all over the US. Our national health-care catastrophe can be your location! Last several shows I've done, we used the deactivated RFK Med Center in Los Angeles as our hospital location, and recreated what we had to, on stage. The place is still full of equipment, too: ready made set dressing, right at hand.

2) Find someone who has a deck either overlooking the background you want, or suitable for rigging a greenscreen to put in the background you want. Dress the deck with asphalt paper, gravel, etc and built a little knee wall, add some tv antennas and mushroom vents from the hardware store and you are on a rooftop.

Jackson Miller
07-10-2009, 03:15 AM
Wow, thanks a lot Sad Max. Look's like I have got some more questions based on your responses though haha.

1) Should I even bother going through the city for a permit? I have looked at a couple of cities websites now and it just seems extremely complicated. I don't know if I should even try. I never have in the past. I mean, I can get fees waived maybe, but even then there are insurance issues etc. Do you think any business owners would have a problem with us filming if we had no permit? Am I just freaking out because I read all of the official rules? I mean I think I have had police drive by me before on other projects... I wonder if the key is to look more professional and serious, or less to make it seem like a very small thing.

2) I searched google for locations and there is lots of stuff coming up, but I am guessing most of these places are gonna want money, which I don't have. Would you think I could get some free locations out of any of these places or am I doomed to driving around with my head stuck out the window to locate my own locations like I normally do? Also, locations manager... well yeah, like I said, no money.

3) Wow. That hospital's going under thing is... well I never thought of that. But I wonder how I could find out specifically... how did you find out about the RFK one? Is that one still available to film in and would they charge money for a small production (we only need about 3 hours). Did they charge you? This seems like a great idea... but like I said, how to find out which hospitals are closing and how to contact them after you find out is hard... I mean I can't even find a contact number for this RFK Med center. I'm not even sure if I am looking at the right one since this one isn't in LA but actually it is probably in LA county.

4) As for the roof thing, I will take that idea into account. Basically, it needs to look like it is on top of a medium sized skyscraper with a gorgeous view of a city below with lights everywhere and few if any nearby buildings that are taller than it. Someone commits suicide also by jumping off of it at the end and that is just complicating things for me. Urg. It is at night so I don't think I can use a greenscreen. I want a very raw, real feel. I like your ideas a lot though and they have gotten me thinking. Is asphalt paper cheap and can I buy it at a hardware store? I am searching but I can only find bulk order type sites that have large minimum orders and don't list prices.


Thank you so much for all of the help.

Sad Max
07-10-2009, 01:31 PM
1) Pursue permits if you have to, under local laws. For example, if you want to shoot on Hollywood Boulevard off a tripod, you'll need a permit. But, shoot handheld, and the permit requirement is waived. Basically you want to look as amateur as possible; you can get away with a lot more (within reason) as an indie/amateur production, than as one that appears to have more resources. Generally speaking you can get away with shooting un-permitted if you are not on a public street, sidewalk, park, etc, and don't draw attention to yourself.

2) Unless you can delegate the location search to someone else, yeah, absent a budget for locations this sounds like something you'll have to handle yourself.

3) RFK charged us, but then again we were umtpy-million-$$$ productions with the resources to do things the expensive way. You may be able to negotiate access without the usual fees, although insurance will probably still be required. As for finding out who to contact for access to a given place, contact the country registrar's office, give them the address, and find out who presently owns/represents the property.

4) One trick for creating a 'city lights' background is to make a lightweight frame out of 1x1s or 1x2s, trapezoid-shaped to create the appearance of perspective, then string small Christmas-tree-style lights on it to make 'streets' and 'building lights.' Placed properly to camera and shot against a black background, this works very well to create the impression of city lights in the background, particularly if the focus is soft, and you set up some of the lights to blink a bit.

Asphalt or tar paper is probably a Home Depot-type item, although their prices will probably suck. Check the yellow pages for roofing-supply outfits that might offer better prices.

aravance
11-10-2009, 04:19 AM
You can also try contacting your city's film commission (if you have one).
Just tell them what sort of location you are looking for and they will give you some leads for free, but it's up to you to make the calls and work out the details yourself.

aravance
11-10-2009, 04:37 AM
1) Should I even bother going through the city for a permit? I have looked at a couple of cities websites now and it just seems extremely complicated. I don't know if I should even try. I never have in the past. I mean, I can get fees waived maybe, but even then there are insurance issues etc. Do you think any business owners would have a problem with us filming if we had no permit? Am I just freaking out because I read all of the official rules? I mean I think I have had police drive by me before on other projects... I wonder if the key is to look more professional and serious, or less to make it seem like a very small thing.



As I said before, normally your best bet is getting to know your city's film commission and working through everything with them. That way when you are going to scoop out locations you can tell the building managers that this location was recommended to you by the film commission and you were told that they were film-friendly (aka...cheap, hopefully). It just helps add a level of professionalism when you are trying to get things done. Some cities don't require permits to shoot. It varies. You can sometimes find this information by searching for it on the film commissions website. For example, we were wanting to shoot on the beach in Galveston, but weren't sure about permits, etc. Looked up the Galveston film commission online and it said that no permit was required. Really helps ease the mind. Normally permits are required for public parks (usually around $115) and if you are blocking off streets/sidewalks.

I had to do a street scene for a music video where we blocked off a whole street block to stage a car accident scene. I had to get a little creative because I didn't want to pay for insurance considering all the quotes I was getting were ridiculously expensive.

So how did I manage this? First, I went through the film commission and rented out the block for like $80. Then, the film commission helped put me in touch with the police officers who do crowd-control for special events/shoots like this and then I just rented a cop for the shoot that day. The cop was optional (I didn't have to have him there), but having him there was my way around having to prove to anyone I had insurance. As long as the cop was there, no one was going to ask any questions.
For the cop it was a 5-hr minimum for like $40/hr. Not too shabby.

It was also recommended to me that I talk to the neighboring buildings and give them a heads up as to what was going to go on. Considering one of the buildings was Chevron with 24-hour security, this was a good idea. So I just walked in and talked to security who then put me in touch with whoever is in charge of such matters. I just explained to him what was going on (we were shooting on a Sunday) and made sure to drop the fact that this is a shoot through the "film commission" and that we would have a police officer there with us for crowd control. These details really help sell that you are in fact a professional production. The guy cleared everything, was extremely nice and gave me his cell number in case of any emergencies/problems.

Having to handle all these details is kind of a pain in the ass, but it helps in the long run to ensure smooth shoots.

Hope some of that information was helpful and will help you in the wonderful journey that is producing.