Location Scouting

Location scouting can be one of the most fun, and most futile parts of making media.

It can be fun in that it can take you to absolutely amazing places you would never otherwise get to see, and while you’re there for scouting there’s very little of the regular production pressure you have once you’ve got a fully operational production on premise.

It can also drive choices that can make or break your production.

Sometimes you fall in love with the look of a certain place, and the deal terms seem workable; but there’s no place to park your production vehicles, or crew vehicles.

Sometimes you fall in love with a place, only to realize that you’re in a historically significant building, and your grip & lighting crew tell you where they need to be able to mount lighting. You then say “OK,” not knowing that you’re going to be stuck with a bill that doesn’t just cover “repairing” whatever happened when they mounted their kit, but for a full “restoration” to original condition.  Something that should cost a few hundred dollars in spackle and paint is now a $10,000 bill for using “historically accurate” materials and labor to do the repair job.  It’s funny in the not funny kind of way.

At the end of the day, choosing a location for your film or video project there are 5 major points to consider:

  1. Look – does it fit the look you and your creative team are searching for with the least amount of modification?
  2. Accessibility – What’s the BIGGEST truck you’re going to have on site?  Will it fit down the driveway? Is there anywhere for it to park?
  3. Parking – Is there enough parking for your cast AND your crew on site? If not, where are the closest spaces that will support your cast/crew, and can you afford the time, personnel and vehicles to run shuttles?
  4. Permitting – What area is it in? Are there any permitting issues? What’s the lead time and cost for a permit? Filming restrictions on hours? Neighbor sign-off required?
  5. Potties – Seriously y’all – a house with two bathrooms isn’t going to cut it for a crew of 60.  Find space to bring in enough restroom capacity to suit the crew size.
  6. Power – If you’re bringing more than a few K of lighting, you need to have a plan for a generator. You’ll need a place to park it where it won’t be heard on set, and you’re lighting teams will need to know how far a cable run will be needed to get power into the location.

At any rate – I used to send some of my teams out with sheets I made up just for the folks who weren’t necessarily location managers (*ahem* – segment reality producers, I’m looking at you); but still had the responsibility of looking at and assessing locations for production.

Hopefully you’ll find it helpful in your productions:)

Blank Location Scout Sheet