Jason Brubaker is a Los Angeles based Producer and distributor of movies, having previously worked for several film distribution companies. He now runs his own company Filmmaking Stuff, where he shares his tips on all aspects of filmmaking and marketing indie or micro-budget films to sites like Netflix and Amazon. Check out his blog at FilmmakingStuff.com
6 Tips To A Great Location Scout
A good location can add serious production value to your film. The good news is these locations don’t need to eat up all your filming budget if you do your research and choose your locations carefully.
Make sure that when you’re looking for locations, you take many wide angle photos of the space and try to go at the same time as you want to be filming. You don’t want to scout a parking garage which has amazing aesthetics for your gritty kidnap scene in the daytime only to come back at night for your shoot to find out there’s a giant flashing screen advertising toilet cleaner right where you want to shoot. Or at night when the nightclub next door starts churning out music and patrons and causes a lot of noise.
The natural and practical lighting in your location are very important factors to keep in mind when scouting. The position of the sun throughout the day, lights that can and can’t be turned off, overheads, reflections, and all the different ways you can control the light within the space. Bring your camera to take photos of the lighting levels while you are there, lights on/lights off, just sunlight, shades drawn, anything that would relate to your film. Also, apps like SunSeeker can help you predict where the sun will be traveling throughout your shoots.
You also have to think about the amount of traffic, vehicle or otherwise, which is going to be running through your location. Not only can cars moving quickly on roads spoil your shots, but they can also create a dangerous workplace for your actors and production team. You’ll also want to think about the amount of foot traffic your location gets unless you have an army of PA’s to control your space. The last thing you want are random people wandering into your shoot wanting to use it as a shortcut on their way to work.
Always remember to check your local film commission to see what kind of permits different locations require. For example, LA does not differentiate between private or public, indoors or outdoors. Everyone needs a permit if they are filming, even students. See what else is involved in securing a permit here.
Finding the perfect space for your shoot is great but remember you also need to have space for things which aren’t going to be on film, aka your basecamp. This frequently includes, but is not limited to, hair and make-up areas, space for your crew to put their belongings, space for props when not being used, space for cars and other large camera equipment you may have. If there is no proper space for craft services, you’ll likely have a small riot on your hands from hungry actors and crewmembers. Don’t scout a small cottage fit for five people to find out you have a crew of 15 and the gear they require in tow.
It’s all well and good to find a great location but don’t forget you are only using it as a tool to tell your story. So be flexible; if the color of the sofa is different to what you imagined but isn’t a pivotal detail of your script, let it go and make use of the good things the space has to offer. In the event that something has to be a certain way, setting your sights on a specific location only to find the owners don’t allow filming, or wandering around Los Angeles for days trying to find the perfect house with a Jacuzzi next to the kitchen window can be demoralizing for all involved in the film production. Save time by doing an initial search online. Wrapalhelps connect filmmakers to property owners who want people to film in their properties, so you know they are open to filming and with many photographs and property details on the site, you know what to expect when you arrange an in-person scout.
Our interview with Jason!
1. You’ve worked as an Actor, Producer, and Distributor. What got you into the film Industry?
I thought the film industry offered a fun challenge and lots of rewards both personally and professionally. I wanted to work with cool people and help produce interesting projects. And like all of us, I just wanted to find a career that I enjoyed.
2. What inspired you to create Filmmakingstuff.com?
After self-distributing our first feature, lots of people emailed about the digital distribution process. Starting Filmmaking Stuff was a good way to share what I learned with everybody.
3. As a distributor, what qualities do you look for in a micro-budget film?
You need great production value, a great cast, and a great story. Because budgets are limited, you also need a film that really leverages the resources you have. For example, trying to produce the next Star Wars as a backyard indie probably won’t work. But you could create a really cool story within your resources.
4. Do you have any tips or advice for up-and-coming filmmakers?
Produce small projects. Then use these to “level up” to bigger projects.
5. What do you think helps a shoot go smoothly?
You not only need a Plan A, but a Plan B and a Plan C. Having a strong production manager and first assistant director can really help as well.
6. How important is a good location to the filmmaking process?
If it fits the story, a location can dramatically improve the production value.
7. What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen and why?
Probably every one of my short films. They are terrible because I once thought they were brilliant.
8. If you could choose an infinite supply of something worth less than $5, what would it be and why?
I’d probably want an infinite supply of donuts.