Scout shooting locations
When scouting for locations for your short film, be sure to consider the practicalities as well as the look you want.
Remember that when filming interiors, you won’t just need to accommodate your actors but also the crew along with a camera, sound equipment and possibly some additional lights. Apart from being a tight fit, small rooms can limit the choice of camera positions and so the variety of shots that you can obtain. Make a note of the available power sockets so you can take along extension reels if needed.
Exterior locations can present additional challenges as you have less control over certain aspects such as the weather, or onlookers when filming in public locations. Make sure you scout exteriors at the time of day you intend to shoot. You may find that the deserted back alley you discovered one evening is full of parked cars during office hours.
As your scouting, pay extra attention to the audio conditions on location, and try to predict how things could change. This will help inform what audio gear you’ll need on set. It may be quiet during your location scout, but is there a multi-lane street near by? If you’re scouting on a Sunday morning but shooting on a Monday morning, traffic conditions may be dramatically different. If you’re in an otherwise quiet park, an unexpected dachshund owners club meeting may begin at the exact moment you plan to start rolling.
Research whether any permits are needed for filming in public spaces. You are unlikely to be able to access power outlets when filming outside so will need to advise to bring extra batteries for those shoots.
Be prepared to compromise. The setting you envisaged when preparing the script may not exist unless you wrote with a particular space in mind. Find locations that have the essential elements needed to tell your story and be flexible on the smaller details.
Think about creature comforts
For all locations that you intend to use, make sure you give consideration to cast and crew welfare. Where can people sit between takes? Where is the nearest restroom? What space is available to park vehicles? Is there anywhere to prepare food? For exteriors have contingencies in place in case it rains – even if that is just a selection of golfing umbrellas.
For more tips on finding the perfect location check out our top 5 tips every location scout should know.
Track down props
When assessing what props you need for a scene, don’t limit your thinking to specific objects or articles referred to in the script. Props can help to subtly establish the nature of a character in the mind of your audience even if they only appear in the background. Consider how the perception of an older person may change if their apartment is sparsely decorated compared with a room where photographs of family and relatives stand on every surface. A little careful set dressing can go a long way to help tell your story.
Make sure you have purchased all your props in advance of filming. It’s not recommended to rely on being able to pick up something you need on the day of filming — you will have too many other things to think about! Never rely on a location having what you need: if your character needs to drink a glass of water then take along a glass and some bottled water ready for the shot.
For more tips on how to make the best use of your props read Fully Furnished: 5 tips for using props effectively.