Behind the scenes with solymi – location scouting how to find the perfect location for your video production


Hello cinema and movie lovers.
Movies are art pieces, however it differs a lot from a "normal" art piece. Making movies it not something one does alone, the outcome is the product of many artists working together to create a collaborative art piece.
To better understand this just pick any movie you like, watch it to the end. By to the end I mean to the end of the credits. In the credits you will see how many people are involved to bring the vision of the screenwriter to life.
Depending on genre and budget there is differing number of crew members involved, and a lot of these are not artists by definition. A carpenter building a movie set is not an artist per se but they are building a set that will be part of the collaborative art piece and they are building the set according to the art directors vision. Then again if you have many special effects involved you will have a ton of 3d artists, colorists, rigging artists etc.
Creating a movie is the sweat work and sometimes blood of many artists. I always look at a movie as a collaborative art piece.

The counter argument to the "art" would be that movies are mostly produced by private companies trying to sell the end product for money. And if the movie does not flop, it will bring profit.
I will still call it art, because the production company is paying many different artists to create a collaborative work. You could say it is a commissioned art piece.

This Intro is already going on for too long but I wanted to bring you in my talking behind the scenes mood. Today we are going to look on a few sets and we will talk about how the location was decided for.


Location scouting for your moving image production

Before the set is built before any actors are casted there has to be a fixed location where you shoot. Unless you are shooting a run and gun style mini production with a small team, you will have to think of many aspects before starting to shoot.

When it comes to producing moving images all important questions have to be answered before the actual shoot begins. This phase of movie production is called preproduction. This can be a timespan of a few days to weeks for easy small productions, and months to even years of preparation for bigger more complicated projects. Evrything in this phase is about the script and the producers. In the american style of movie making the producer has the final decision over almost everything. In Europe the director has the bigger say, but there is already a visible shift in this constellation here as well.

The script is broken down down for each department, let us read a few lines in a script.
I do not include any of the dialogue. This is just a small snippet from "Best Christmas Ball Ever" the screenplay was written by Sam Jackson and Anna Rasmussen and I worked as a unit production manager.

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The first row determines the location, external, the scene plays on a sidewalk in Vienna during day time and as we read on we see that Daniel and Amy are walking along a decorated street. Daniel also eats in this shot.

We have the location sidewalk.
We have two actors, we will probably have some extras walking on the sidewalk as well.
The actors and extras have to wear winter outfits.
We have several x-mas decorations.
There is an edible prop in the scene, that has to be eaten by the actor on camera.

All these different facts of this few lines of script set in motion a lot of preparation.
We now are going to concentrate on where the scene was shot. I can not show you actual scenes from the movie but if you hit a search on youtube you will find a ripped version...

I can show you the location itself though.

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And this is the google streetview version. This looks as it was taken in winter, but we where shooting in summer. This is a super frequented location at any time of the year. But imagine having people in shorts and t shirts walking in the background for a Christmas movie.
Anyways production decided that this is the best location so we did it.

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Image source Google

The actual scene is quite long and we did not only use this but several other locations as well.
Since the 2 locations are a mile apart we had to do a companymove to the other location.
The Cafe Sluka near the town hall of Vienna.

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image source Google

In this case we where looking for a cafe that would accommodate us for the time we are shooting there and is affordable for the budget of the production. It also had to have the old viennese Café flair.

Before the locations get decided on the location scout will go there and take pictures of the locations. Than these will go into a booklet for the production. Than in the preproduction meetings the location will be chosen and the next step of preparations can begin.

How to find your location

Whatever production you are preparing the location is a crucial part of your preparation.

What you need to consider when choosing your location depends on many factors. One of the most important is logistics.

Do you have enough space to have your base on the street? Or do you have a building nearby that can be used as a base? Do you have access to electricity, water and sanitary facilities? Yes your crew members also need to go to the bathroom sometimes...

The first and most important that the location has to fit the theme.

Let us take a look at my exam movie, that was shot in a cave castle built in the 14th century.
I wanted my time traveling professor in a real castle, and fortunately we had one right at our disposal.

If you have watched the full movie thanks a lot :)

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You can see we built a time machine in the castle.

The location was chosen by us for many specific reasons. Here are some of them.
The castle is maintained by a society. They gave us the location for free. They also helped us with getting in contact with clubs that have costumes for knights and also swords and all sorts of other stuff. The location itself is in Bavaria and there is a school building with dorms for students just beneath the castle. We could host the entire team there and could use several rooms of the school to set up our base camp. We had a team of 30 Students and 4 main actors and several extras. We had to feed and accommodate all of them.
We also had a limited budget of about 4000$ so we tried to make the most of it.
With saving money on the location we could spend more on equipment and rental gear. We also got ourselves the brewery which is also located underneath the castle as a main sponsor and we had almost free beer over the course of our 5 days spent there. This was a huge plus for a student production on a budget, as you can imagine.

Fit your script!

This is one of the most important criteria when looking for the best location for your movie.
The better your location fits the script the more you can concentrate on the movie, and the less you have to spend on building the surroundings.

This post is already getting too long and I could go on for another 2000 words, but here are the main focus points when scouting your locations:

Fit your budget!

If you have enough money you can shoot anywhere, if you are on a budget you will always have to make compromises.

Pay attention to logistics!

You might find the perfect location for a shot, but could run into problems with your logistics.
If you do not have access to municipal electricity you will have to take a Jenny (generator) and that boosts costs by a ton.
If you have to shuttle your team from base to location you will need cars and drivers again boosting costs.

Scout one location at different day times

If you want to be prepared for everything you will need to know how your location looks in good and bad weather conditions, also you might have perfect light in the morning hours but shitty light in the afternoon. You will have to decide which shot can be taken at what daytime for that specific location.

Check for danger

This might be obvious but I still have to state this because the life of your crew depends on you! If there is any danger or threat at the location you have to assess risk for your crew members. In our case we had to wear helmets in the castle because sometimes smaller stones fell from the ceiling, also since we where in a cave castle and the ceiling was sometimes very low.

Talk with the owners

This is also obvious but whoever owns the location you are shooting in will want to know exactly what you will be doing there. They will also know what they do not want to happen, and also have valuable insights on the surroundings. Remember: If you want to shoot at the location again you have to make the owners extra happy so they let you in the next time.
In our case we did this right and the next year we could shoot episode 1 of Portaled which is the next episode after Preportaled.

I probably have forgotten a ton but I will put that in the next post.

I hope you enjoyed a bit of behind the scenes with me. If you did so I would really appreciate your comments, and reblogs and of course your upvotes.
But most importantly comment! Engage! I really like to read your thoughts on my content.

Thanks for reading