Friday, 20 November 2009

Tip # 21: Important considerations during the location scout

By Sinéad Ferguson (Producer/Production designer)

This is part seven in a seven part series on finding the right locations.

When looking for a location put the word out, email friends, family, post on film forums. Use the internet, it’s an invaluable research tool. Keep your eyes open at all times. I find I do it instinctively and now have a mental catalogue of lots of interesting potential filming locations all over Brighton that are filed away should we ever need them.

Once you find it, here are some important things to keep in mind:

1. Where possible have all the necessary people with you, producer, director, DOP, production designer. Everyone will be looking for different attributes in a location. Incorporate a proper recce at the same time. Ultimately it saves time and making unnecessary trips back and forth and you can all immediately discount or agree on the potential of a location. Also bring the right equipment with you, either a camera or camcorder, a note book for those important notes, a tape measure and a light meter.

Inside The Rainbow Inn, restaurant shoot.

2. You also need to find the balance between the aesthetic and the practical. The place may look great but will there be enough room for all your equipment? Parking for your cast and crew? What facilities are available? Will it be too difficult to light? What are the sound conditions? What are the power sources and are you able to tap into it? Are there separate circuits capable of handling your lighting? You want to avoid having to use a generator, it’s costly and a nightmare for sound.

3. On exterior shoots make sure there are facilities available for your cast and crew. We shot in Alfriston on two freezing cold days in November so had to organise somewhere to do wardrobe changes, use a toilet if necessary and stay warm when not shooting. Fortunately The Smugglers Inn was kind enough to allow us to use their premises.

The kitchen shoot in the Master Mariner,
Brighton Marina.

4. You must also take into account the distance between locations. Obviously when scheduling your shoot you will always aim to shoot in one location a day but there may be some days where it is unavoidable and you have to move from one to another. This time spent packing up and moving long distances from A to B to set up again, is valuable time lost when you could be shooting your film.

5. Finally when filming it goes without saying that Public Liability Insurance is essential and when securing locations this is a must. It is also an added reassurance to the proprietor that should anything go wrong he or she won’t be left out of pocket or liable for damages. When negotiating a location another good bargaining tool in your arsenal is offering a credit in your film and publicity for their business when and where possible.

The council shoot, Litlington Village Hall.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tip # 20: How to get permission to use a location

By Sinéad Ferguson (Producer/Production designer)

This is part six in a seven part series on finding the right locations.

Here comes the difficult part, finally finding your locations is one thing, getting permission to use them is another thing entirely and isn’t always particularly easy. In securing a location no matter how small and incidental, never underestimate how important it is to be sincere, enthusiastic and passionate about your film. It’s contagious and can often be the tipping point. It can be the difference between getting that important location or losing it. The genuine and friendly approach has yet to fail me. Be upfront, clear and honest when you approach the owner and tell them exactly just what filming on their premises will entail.

(Photo above left: Lead actor Jos Lawton on location
during the kitchen shoot at the Master Mariner,
with the production team consulting behind him.)

Admittedly it’s tempting to gloss over things to get permission, but don’t compromise your integrity and be anything less than truthful and respectful. Give the person the common courtsey of your honesty and allow them to make a well informed decision. Your honesty shows you are trustworthy and in the long run this is important. I formed good relationships especially with our two primary locations in particular Ed at The Rainbow Inn and Asher in The Master Mariner. Truthfully it wasn’t all that difficult as they happen to be very nice guys and I genuinely like them.

Top: The Rainbow Inn manager Luke,
with actress Verity Marshall.
Above: Rainbow Inn manager Ed
observes the crew in action during the night shoot.

Our two main interior locations were working restaurants and pubs. Now convincing someone that it’s a good idea to allow you to bring actors, and a film crew with lots of equipment traipsing in and out of their premises can be a little difficult. Also as they are working restaurants and pubs they are obviously in use all day. Our small budget meant we couldn’t pay to shut them down, meaning that they would also have to be willing to allow us on their premises overnight. Thankfully they did and so all filming that took place in these locations were night shoots. Not ideal to say the least, I know the cast and crew weren’t overjoyed by the prospect and neither were we. However they were all good sports and on a low budget some compromises have to be made to get what you want and this was one of them. Plus Dan, Itsuka and I were confident that the end results on screen would be worth those long and mentally exhausting night shoots.

Master Mariner (Brighton) manager Asher Burman on set
during the kitchen shoot, speaking with director Dan (left).

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Tip # 19: The unorthodox approach … Finding the flashback locations

By Sinéad Ferguson (Producer/Production designer)
This is part five in a seven part series on finding the right locations.

During the course of making Ambleton Delight we filmed in lots of different places like restaurants, gardens, in alleyways, in the beautiful countryside, car parks, a kitchen, a farm, in the streets, in an apple orchard and so on.

However perhaps one of the more strange or unusual locations we shot in was for one of the flashback scenes. We needed a room that John in a fit of rage could completely trash to pieces and so put the word out. Surprise , surprise..... we didn’t get many willing volunteers.

Then one day we happened to meet some real characters who as it turned out were squatters. We got talking, they were the first squatters we had ever met and I have to say I was fascinated by their stories and this lifestyle they had chosen. So of course, I bombarded them with questions. It soon transpired that they were living in a place other squatters had passed on to them. Apparently that’s what they do and they offered us an empty room to use in the place they were staying.

Above: The room to be trashed.

A little dubious at first eventually curiosity got the better of us so Dan, Itsuka and I checked it out. On first impressions the exterior was very run down and just creepy with boarded up and broken windows, it was like something straight from a horror film. Itsuka and I agreed it would make a perfect" haunted house". This was confirmed when we went inside, it had broken windows, creaky floorboards the lot, weird bits of dolls and children’s toys lying around just added to the eerie vibe and this was during the day. I swear you couldn’t have paid me to stay in that place over night.

Above: The room with props
strategically placed for destruction.

Then the guys showed us the bedroom and it honestly surprised me, someone had gone to the trouble of painting it, there was a bed and some furniture -it was perfect. We left and came back a couple of days later armed with our props and the guys just left us to it. We did our trashing, well Dan and Ben did most of it, and I had a feeling that they had a great time doing it. When all props were destroyed the place was a mess, but of course even in a squat we felt compelled to tidy up after ourselves and in the end, sure we left the place cleaner than we found it. Now admittedly it was perhaps an unorthodox approach to solving our problem, but you do what you have to do and we happily left with the shots we needed.

Above: The aftermath...filming is complete.