THE POWER OF GREAT LOCATIONS
Locations are a tricky thing.
It seems like a few years ago, before Youtube had good quality videos (Vimeo wasn’t a thing), when owning a 16:9 camera was a dream, and “making films” wasn’t something everyone and their cousin did, it was easy to film in a location without people getting super freaked out. We filmed a short film a few years ago in 2007. We had guns in the middle of city streets, with a notification to the local police (so we didn’t get shot), and that was it. There was definitely an “oh cool they are shooting a movie” factor when business owners saw us filming around their stores. No one kicked us out, no one demanded money, people were curious, inquisitive, and we had some great conversations. I loved it!
It seems now, though, that things are very different.
It could be that Utah cities are very different from Colorado cities, but I believe a big part of it is that film-making has become an everyday occurrence. Your friends have a youtube channel, their friends have a youtube channel, your cousin does wedding videos, and your sister makes viral videos about cats on Facebook. The uniqueness of film in certain aspects has faded, and the stories of people making tons of money from film have grown. In short, I see that the mood of outsiders towards film has changed from “Oh how awesome!” to “Oh, how much are you going to pay me?”
With that being said, it has become harder to find locations that actually inspire you when it comes to filming. But for me, I have to not let that be an excuse. After hiking for 30 minutes with equipment (still doesn’t beat our 10-hour hike into Havasupai Falls with 70LBS of equipment) our team came over the crest to the abandoned factory where we would be filming for an entire day. The script came to life. Needed adaptations to the dialogue came easily because the location lent itself to creativity. The actors were able to find their character in a whole new way. Camera angles leaped off our shot-sheet and holes in the coverage found much-needed backups.
It was an amazing experience.
It wasn’t a first, but it was a reminder of how a great location can really bring life to more than just the background. So, I have recommitted myself to put more effort into finding great locations, despite all the difficulties involved, it is worth it. So here are some tips that I have gathered over the years to aid in “keeping people from getting freaked out” in finding that location that you love.
1. Understand the purpose of your story and be ready to explain with passion and heart (and simplicity) why this story needs to be told.
Emotion is your ally, and if your message is truly inspiring, you will be amazed at what lengths outsiders will go to in order to help your message be told.
2. Do your best to find the true person-in-charge.
Human nature makes us want to feel we are in charge, so when you find people who aren’t the actual person-in-charge, they tend to be huge fruitcakes. By positivity, your purpose, and good explorative skills, typically you can find the real person in charge and 75% of the time they are much cooler than the fruitcake who isn’t.
3. Be respectful
The idea is to win friends, not make enemies. When people are concerned about your equipment, people, how you dress, whether this is “going viral”, or whatever it may be, take the time to address their concerns politely, often you will win an advocate. If the individual in question is still uncomfortable with the situation, try and find a compromise. Asking an outsider for input has helped us find better solutions, better locations, even once someone provided us with an indispensable prop.
Give it a try.
If you are one of those people who struggle at communication, then I don’t know why you are trying to tell stories; just playing, some of the best written or visual communicators are often horrible verbal communicators. Practice and work on your ability to communicate (I recommend the book “How to win friends and influence people”) but also search for someone to join your team who makes up for where you lack in communication. Filmmaking is a team game, especially when it comes to going that extra mile for a great location.
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