Location scouting for film. Tips on finding and prepping your film location

 
location scouting for film
 

Location scouting for film , tips on how to find locations for your films and what to keep in mind whilst sourcing them. This post also comes with a free location scouting checklist which you can download below.

I am guilty of limiting myself whilst writing film scripts, deliberately downplaying a scene as I write to make them easier to film later on. In many ways this is good practice for student productions, as tempting as it is to go full out, why not make it easier for yourself, shooting on location (especially exteriors) can be very hard. Location changes take up a lot of time, In my last short film one location change took  3hrs out of the shooting day, Which is why you should ideally shoot one location per day. It takes a lot of time to move people around, it takes time to re-set up equipment, even a short drive from A-B can easily cut hours out of your filming day.

Whether you choose to keep things simple, or be more daring there are still guidelines you should follow when location scouting for film. These guidelines are not there to stifle creativity but to help you make the most out of you pre-production time to make it easier to film later on.

You can download a helpful checklist below with ideas to keep in mind during the location scouting of your next production -

How to find your location

1. Needs vS Wishes

When searching for a location keep in mind your scenes needs. It is unlikely you will find the ‘ideal’ location you have in your minds eye (that is to say don’t shun a location just because the wall is painted the wrong colour you imagined it to be). Consider what is vital for the location to have for the scene to be carried out. Filmmaking especially when the budget is not there to build sets from scratch is about compromise.

2. Where to look

Your local film office might have advice and help for scouring locations, they may also have a list of locations you can use. Google maps is also a simple tool that makes things easier – you can check out your location with a 360 degree view straight from your home. I usually find a few locations online them check them out in person. I found these sites which could also be helpful Creative England Locations , Locations Hub

3. Permission for locations

It can be very expensive to acquire locations. High budgeted productions pay thousands to use locations (as these films are being made for guaranteed profit). For private property a fee may be agreed upon between the producer and owner. For low budgets sets we are lucky to even pay our crew let alone pay for locations. Public land such as streets, beaches, some parks are classed as public property and you will be able to film here for free. With persistence you may get permission - on one of my student short films I had access to the underground train stations in Liverpool – Thanks to my brilliant producer.

3.5 Shooting without permission

If you don’t get permission you will be shooting guerilla style, in which it is best to keep crew minimal. You may be asked to move even on public land (usually by the police, security or busy bodies) – at this point explain that the film is non profit, that no one is getting paid. Saying you are student can also help, claiming the film is a student production or personal project stresses the low budget nature of the film. Be friendly with anyone who challenges your right to film at your location, likely they are just curious. Filmmaking is more accepted in the world these days, people are not as intimidated by a camera as they once where. Its is good to have a friendly, chatty producer or AD with you to explain the situation. 

4. Location Recce

The act of going to a location to see of it is suitable for filming is called a Location recce. The first recce may be done alone by the location manager, The next by the director and DOP. A group recce may also be done with all heads of department so that every dept can foresee any problems that may come up during filming. This will save you time, money and surprises during production.

5. Public Liability Insurance

'Public liability insurance protects you if clients or members of the public suffer personal injury or property damage because of your business. It can pay for the costs of subsequent legal expenses or compensation claims and is an integral cover for businesses that interact regularly with customers.' - I copied that straight from Google, having PLI can also give you peace of mind and it need not cost a lot of money for an business or individual. For the UK I recommend BECTU PLI 

DURING YOUR RECCE

During Location scouting for film there are questions to keep in mind during recce - 

  1. Is there power - Do you need power for your equipment and lights. Are there enough plug sockets for indoor locations will you need to hire out a generator.

  2. How is the ambient sound – Especially if there is dialogue in your scene, is there any distracting noises to be heard such as traffic. It is best to have a quiet location and place background sounds in later than have unclean dialogue.

  3. Is there a nearby bathroom – where will the cast and crew go to the bathroom. Is there a nearby, pub, hotel, restaurant, inform the owners - ask nicely if your crew can use the restrooms for the day. Return the favor by ordering food from them, or come up with a deal.

  4. How is the lighting – consider how the light changes throughout the day. Weather can be unpredictable, shadows can change throughout the day, check to see which way the sun is going down.

  5. Is there a car park – you need a space for the cars and vans to be parked, can you park close to set, do you need to pay for car parking

  6. Is there space for a Green room – Is there a quiet area for actors to wait and for costume and makeup to be carried out

  7. Safety – is the location a safe place to film within and what can be done to ensure that cast and crew are safe during the filming

During the location recce take many photographs to remind yourself of the location later. Also consider taking video footage of the scene.

Resources - How to become a Location Scout

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

Tips for beginner filmmakers , what is the best camera to start filmmaking with?

 
What is the best camera to start filmmaking with
 

Tips for beginner filmmakers , what is the best camera to start filmmaking with? When I first started making films I used a handycam with DV tapes to record on, the slightest knock to the camera body and you would get interference on the screen. Digital grey squares would appear in and out of frames, internal sound recording meant you heard a constant mechanical hum throughout the footage.

It doesn’t matter what camera you use when you first start out. It really doesn’t, use whatever you can get your hands on. Most Mobile cell phones now have high quality cameras, technology is improving every year, HD is not hard to obtain. I have made a list of filmmaking equipment below to guide you if you wish to start spending money on filmmaking equipment.

This is a beginners guide! I am referring to high quality products and brands that do the job well but don’t cost a fortune. I am not techy minded, I figure there are other filmmakers out there which lack a technical care like I do, so I made this guide easy to understand. Feel free to add your own thoughts or reviews of products you have bought in the comments section below. 

Camera

What is the best camera to start filmmaking with ? From the lowest price and easiest to get hold of a DSLR camera with video will give you a great start. The camera quality is high and you get full control of your focus (allowing you to make those blurry background shots). 

A Canon 750D costs from £450 ($570) usually coming with a zoom stock lens so you can start filming straight away. For a lower price any DSLR with video will do, for the lowest price I recommend a second hand Canon 550D (£200 / $250).  

Sound

We often forget about sound when we first begin to make films but bad audio can ruin everything. The DSLR cameras do record internal audio but this will come with internal camera noise. A quick fix is the RØDE VideoMic this fits on top of the camera and is good for close up audio and interview recording (£80 / $100).  It is the cheapest of fixes.
For further improved audio use a Lavalier Microphone (£150 / $190  ) this attaches to the actors shirt allowing you record their dialogue even if far away from the camera -  but you will also need an external recorder with this such as the Zoom H4n (£180 / $230 ). For more versatility a BoomPole , with a Shotgun Microphone and an external recorder (Zoom h4n). A complete Boom pole set up like this will cost you around £450/ $575 so you see sound recording can cost you as much as a camera.  
what is the best camera to start filmmaking with
what is the best camera to start filmmaking with
what is the best camera to start filmmaking with

Lighting

Tips for beginner filmmakers Natural light can go a long way, remember you can use the lights you already have in the room to create atmosphere. Lamps, torches, the light glow from a TV can all be used as a cheap alternative to paid for lighting.

For outdoor lighting a simple Light Reflector (£10/ $15) can reflect light from the sun to light up your actors faces. 
For white natural daylight Photography Soft boxes £60/$100) can fill a room with light. A set of Red Head Lights (£100 / $130) can be used on any student film set, you could also get colourful lighting gels to peg to the front of the lights to change the colour of light in scenes. Remember cinematography is all about creativity.

 

Accessories and packages

For your camera you will also need a tripod, the best company for this is Manfrotto which do a whole range of tripods, ideally you want one will a fluid head allowing you to move freely.

The Manfrotto is rather expensive so I found a cheaper, recommended alternative Magnus (£160 / $200) Your cameras will also need cards to record on to (SD Cards). A recommended camera bag company is Lowepro. Below I have built a list of eqipment packages so you can see the price of a starter filmmaker kit.

Filmmaker Package ONE -  £500 / $640

Canon 550D, (comes with a 18-55mm lens), SD Cards X2 , Magnus tripod , Zoom recorder, light reflector, 

Filmmaker Package TWO –  £1000 / $1275

Canon 750D (comes with a 18-55mm lens), SD Cards X2, Magnus tripod, zoom h4n & lav microphone, 

Filmmaker Package THREE - £1500 / $1900

Canon 750D (comes with a 18-55mm lens), SD Cards X4 , Manfrotto tripod head and legs,zoom h4n, Rode boompole, Rode shotgun Microphone, Set of red head lights and gels, Lowepro DSLR camera bag, Manfrotto tripod camera bag

Of course you could always do what I do and borrow equipment  from others (all universities and colleges will likely have equipment you can borrow).  

You don’t need to splash out money to make your first films, you can very much learn the basics for free, and create high quality content for a low cost.

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

Storyboarding my short film

 
how to storyboard a short film storyboarding a student film
 

How to storyboard a short film.

I have started to storyboard my short film. I need to get a move on, I hope to start filming in as a little as a month. The more prep I do the easier the shoot with be, the more smoothly it will go and the less chance I have of messing up.

Storyboards are used in filmmaking, animations and theatre to help visualise a scene taking place. Storyboards are like the comic book version of the film, using them can help you see any problems that may occur during filming.

Storyboards show various camera angles that would be used on screen – close ups, mid shots, establishing shots etc. A white  arrow is used to show a camera movement – zoom, pan, dolly etc. A black arrow is used to show an on screen movement such as a character walking off screen.

  • White arrows – camera movement

  • Black arrows – on screen/character movement

A lot of new filmmakers  worry about their drawing skills.

It can look impressive to have well drawn storyboards (if only to show off with) but for practical purposes it doesn’t matter how good your drawings look. Stickmen still do the job.

When I made student films I storyboarded every single shot in the film. I was not great with communicating what I wanted with the cast and crew so I relied on storyboards.  In the past I was mostly a one man crew, I felt a lack of experimentation during filming, I was afraid to mess up since I only had one chance.

These days I still have one chance but I am more confident. I am going to try and step away from storyboarding, be more relaxed, open to changes and spend more time with my actors.

I am only storyboarding special effects and complex transitions for my short film. I have also done a few location and character sketches since I will likely be art designer too. You don’t have to storyboard every scene in your film.

Some directors choose not to storyboard at all, they believe it stifles creativity during filming. Werner Herzog and David Cronenberg refuse to storyboard. Directors such as the Coen brothers and Ben wheatley storyboard all of their films by the shot.

  • Not every film is storyboarded

  • Special effects and stunts are more likely to be storyboarded

I have made a video explaining how to storyboard a short film that can be watched on Vimeo. L

How to storyboard a short film video

I also created the E-book ‘Find Work In Film’ which explains step-by-step how to find and apply to film industry jobs.

It took some time to create the short film storyboard templates. So I have made them downloadable so you can use them too. Next time you are storyboarding you can download the templates here –

How to Line a Film Script

This is something I learnt in my days of Script Supervision – how to line a film script.

It is a technique to show visually what coverage has been shot for each scene. One day you may find yourself on a film set and see someone drawing wiggly lines on a script, no need to be confused it’s a very simple system that has been used in filmmaking since screenwriting began.

To make things easier I have also made a video here

Why should I know how to line a film script?

Because it is easy! If you’re a Screenwriter, Script Supervisor, Director, Editor or Producer you should know this.  Some directors like to line their script during filming so that they know what shots they have filmed in each scene (Ridley Scott does). You don’t need to use it as a director but some directors do like to line their scripts up during filming.

So what do these lines on film scripts mean?

A Straight Perpendicular line on a film script means that coverage for the action it crosses has been shot. That could mean either action or dialogue has been captured on screen. The line begins at the start of a shot and the line ends when the shot ends. In the script example below we see a conversation between Matt and John.

The-marked-up-script-example.jpg

At the top of each line the slate number and the amount of takes are written down. The first line above is slate 23, there were 5 takes for this slate. It is a Close Up of John so the line goes straight through John’s dialogue.

What is the significance of a wiggly line?

Wiggly lines on film scripts indicate action that has been recorded off camera. So in the example above the first line has a wiggly line on Matt’s dialogue because it is a close up of John and only he appeared on camera. The second line is Matt’s close up and so there is a wiggly line through John’s dialogue. These days Lined scripts can also be carried out in digital format. See an example below of a digital lined film script. In this example the green lines are being used to indicate sound files to the editor. The sound files 080 and 009 are wildtracks of the location.

How do lined scripts help the director?

It is hard to remember during a long day on set what you have covered. I have had directors before stand up and announce to the crew that we have finished filming the scene. Only for the Script Supervisor to quickly prompt them that a piece of dialogue has no coverage on camera (we know this because only wiggly lines pass through that dialogue)

If a straight line is not covering a piece of dialogue then you have no coverage of this dialogue on camera. The lines on a script are just a visual way of letting you know what coverage you have per scene.

How do lined scripts help the editor?

The lined script is used by the film editor as a reference to what coverage was shot and to changes made to the script during production. Lined scripts give editors a quick view of all available coverage at a glance, so that he or she can make quick editing decisions without having to sort through all the footage repeatedly.

The Script Supervisor at the end of every day will pass on a Marked Up Script to the editor containing the lined script and any changes to dialogue or action.  I have had editors shun the lined script, then beg to see it when a tough edit comes along, it is an easy visual way of getting your head around a scene and what shots are available for the cut.

Does that sum it up?

I hope this sums up the basis of lined screenplays and now you know how to line a film script. Any questions please ask below. There is hardly any writing on this online but I guarantee you will start to see people drawing wiggly lines on scripts now that you know this. 

Notes

  • You draw your lines left to right in shooting order.

  • Red is the standard colour used for a lined script

  • Sometimes multiply colours are used to indicate different shots i.e. –blue ink for single shots, green ink for cutaways, wild tracks taken by sound etc

  • If a shot continues to another page an arrow is placed below the line and continues onto the next page.

  • Lined scripts are also called Marked Up Scripts or MUS.

If you are interested in learning more about film continuity I highly recommend the book Script Supervising and Film Continuity by Pat P. Miller - Find Here

I have also written an E-book called ‘ Find Work In Film’ which shows you step by step details on how to work in the Film Industry - Find Here

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

5 Techniques for Directing Actors - Filmmaking Tips

Filmmaking tips directing actors

A film director has many endless job roles on set but the most significant is directing actors and making sure that the best possible performances are given on screen. 

There is not a lot of advice out there about how to go about directing actors for film so I have made a list based on my own experiences (from directing my own films and from watching directors direct).

I have also read the book by Judith Weston Directing Actors, I do recommend it and it is probably the only book out there on how to direct actors. 

1. Write a detailed background for each character

Before you start to audition actors write a detailed character background for all of your main roles. You may have done this during the screenwriting stage. A detailed character background with information on the characters past, upbringing and personality will really help the actors understand the character you have created. I have been directing before and had my actors ask me all sorts of questions about the characters lifestyle, where they are from originally, whom they live with. Know your character inside out so you are never caught out with questions.

2. Remember the scene previous

Film sets can be confusing, they hardly ever shoot in chronological order. In the morning you could be filming a chase scene and in the afternoon an emotional piece. It’s easy to forget where you are up too. As a director you need to remember where your characters are emotionally within the script.

Read through the previous and current scene you are about to film before you start filming. Make notes on the characters emotions. Remember to keep the emotions consistent.

3. Have some time alone with the actors

As a director the actors performance will not be the only thing on your mind during the shoot (On an Indie production you might be doing more than one job role). Everyone on set will want to talk to you before filming begins. It will be loud and busy, so you need to find the time alone with the actors.

Talk about where the characters are emotionally within the scene you are shooting (mention what happened in the scene previous), talk about what the character is trying to achieve in this scene and what is on their mind.

4. Block all of the action before shooting

Blocking A Scene On A Film Set Is The Process Of Rehearsing The Action Within The Location You Are Going To Shoot Within. Before Costumes Are On, Before Lighting Is Set, The Actors Will Rehearse The Scene A Few Times Within The Location So That The Crew Can See The Physical Performance.

By Doing This The DOP Will Be Able To See How To Set Up The Lights, The Art Director Will Know How The Location Needs To Be Dressed, The 1st AD Will Be Able To Direct Any Extras Efficiently Etc.

5. Stay focused

When that camera starts rolling focus on the actor's performance first. Leave the lighting, costume, hair and makeup, to the rest of your crew.  Whilst you are watching the actors perform think about whether they are acting emotionally right for the scene and think about whether their performance is believable.

I like to write notes on the side of my script i.e – John should be sad since his dog has died a few scenes previous, when I look back at the take - I might think IS John acting like someone would whose dog has died- maybe he is too sad.

It’s not always possible to just ‘direct’ as a director – especially if you are an independent one – but you must make sure that you give the time needed for directing the actors – after all if the performances are not believable on screen, then that is your responsibility.

Directing just like anything will get better with practice. How many films must a director make to achieve 10,000 hours. I am not a professional director by any length just someone who gets the chance to direct once or twice a year. 

25 Tips for directing actorsBooks on directing actors.

6 Examples of Color Theory in film. Red is the color of power, lust and love

 
Colour Theory in Cinema color theory in film
 

I would love to make a film and focus on every shot with obsessive detail. Indie filmmakers have so much to focus on (often the director taking on multiple roles) that there is no time to put the effort into every shot.

The basics of color theory in film for cinematography was something I first read about many years ago in this fantastic book If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die: The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling which looks at many scenes within films to show how color has been used to enhance every shot.

I will be using this book as reference for the examples used below. Color Theory technique for cinematography, color can be used as a technique to bring more layers into a story. Different shades of color can provoke different responses and emotions within humans.

Although noted in the book filmmakers should avoid using color theory in film purely as an abstract notion. Some colors can be planned to be placed into films prior to weeks of pre-production, other time colors are chosen to be introduced into a film on the day by gut feeling. I have referenced 6 main studio films as examples of their use of color below.

1. Red American Beauty 

americna-beauty-color-theory-e1448308114694-1024x469.png

Red is like visual caffeine, it can give power, create desire- lust and love. The colours of red, white and blue are used throughout American Beauty. The family is portrayed as the traditional happy American suburban family, complete with white picket fence. Then there are the dark red petals that surround Angela in Lester’s hyper-delusional lust filled fantasies. American Beauty has a color pallet of red, white and blue throughout. I have created a Pinterest board of the use of red in cinema here.

2. Yellow Dick Tracy

dick-tracy-use-of-colour-in-cinema-e1448309818276.jpg

Yellow is the colour of caution, it brings power, energy and anxiety. Dick Tracy wears a bright yellow coat and hat, the screen becomes energised whenever Tracy enters. The color is brash, daring, it is the color of obsession (according to scientists the colour a person sees first and forgets the least ) , there is a reason poisonous reptiles have yellow skin. Tracy is the obsessive detective caught up in his case . Yellow being a perfectly symbolic color for Taxi Driver’s obsessive Travis Bickle.

3. Blue Shawshank redemption

Blue can be a tranquil pond or a soft blanket of sadness. Throughout Shawshank the film is surrounded by the color of blue. A smog of grey blue surrounds the film. Shawshank is a film of sadness, and is this emotion that cinematographer Roger Deakins wanted the audience to feel throughout the film. That we are amongst the prisons. When Andy escapes the prison he finds his friend Red on an island, with vibrant green land – the first time vivid colours have been used throughout the film.  I have created a Pinterest board of the use of blue in cinema here.

4. Orange The Godfather

Orange is the welcoming color, warm sunsets and Halloween pumpkins.  In the opening scene of The Godfather the Don’s office is lit with an amber and orange light. The film is lit romantically with pastel orange shades. Throughout the film the orange shades turn more red as more is revealed within the crime underworld. Not to mention the use of physical orange props used throughout the Godfather movies.

5. Green Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Green can signal health, danger or decay. It is the colour of fresh vegetables and spoiled meat. In Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Jen and her master Li Mu Bai are about to have a fight in a green vibrant bamboo forest. The fight is non-violent Jen’s master is afraid that Jen is turning evil, he chases her through the forest, she disappears diving into a green lake.

The oppositional nature of green plays a significant part in the story. The sword’s name is Green Destiny, and the villain’s name is Jade Fox. Li Mu Bai’s concern that Jen can become a poison dragon is his primary motivation in wanting to teach her

6. Purple Chicago

Purple the colour of mystery, the paranormal and death. In Chicago purple is used to show both death and delusion. Roxy stands on stage she looks out into the crowd purple light covers her and the piano player. Roxy is imagining that she is a famous singer, the story is about the glamorization of criminals. Purple is consistent throughout the deaths that take place in the film.

I enjoy using color in my films, I feel that by putting a color gel on a light a film could be made to stand out against the majority of indie films being created. The master's use color theory in film as a deliberate device in their films, every little detail is helping to tell the story.

Resources

Link to a great book on color theory in cinema,  Article What’s with all the Oranges in the Godfather? , Lots of good reads  on cinematography and color theory in film Stephen Murphy DOP Documents, You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms