Reel Life got in touch with film student Cara Weatherley from Arts University Bournemouth who was very happy to talk about her experiences in films and finding locations.
With three years at university under her belt and a further two years doing film production and media studies at college beforehand Cara has always been into the intricate study of film making and producing
We asked her a few questions on her experiences with location scouting and what the ins and outs are to getting it right.
Q: So Cara, how do you know which is the best place to film?
A: A location may have the look you hoped for initially, but if it can’t accommodate a film crew and their equipment, or it isn’t safe/secure, then it’s not going to be much use. Ultimately the best location is one that isn’t too far away from unit base (where the cast and crew are staying), spacious, quiet, and doesn’t need too much labour to make it work. And that can be as simple as a room being a layout that fits with the action in the script.
Q: Have you ever been lucky and just walked across the perfect location?
A: Yes! Last summer I was working on a film that was looking to shoot across several towns in order to get the look they wanted for the film. The film in question was meant to see the two leads run from the heart of a big city to more suburban areas – at night. As a result, I spent about two months walking around different cities and towns, day and night, looking for the perfect bus stop, subway, concrete steps, bridge, river bank, church yard, park, alleyway, high street, house and flat.
Cara’s top tips!
1 – The location must be aesthetically pleasing
2 – Find your own inspiration
3 – Find the unique selling point
4 – Filming in odd locations can be hard but keep trying!
5 – Have a location that fits with the story you are trying to tell
Q: When looking for locations, do you ever take inspiration from other films that are similar?
A: More often than not I’m given inspiration to work with, usually by the director. Then the production designer gets involved and finds their own sources of inspiration, though usually they find it from places other than film as you always want your film to have its own distinct look. It’s difficult to take inspiration directly from other films, for the most part it’s dictated by the era you’re setting the film in, and then by the characters. One mid-19th Century English country house looks much like another, as does a derelict urban street. It’s the job of those who are dressing the location to look into inspirations but then make it unique for the story they’re helping to tell, where when scouting for a location you’re working with a far more practical mind-set.
Q: What intrigues you most about a location?
A: I’m a sucker for history, so if a location has any kind of history behind it I’m already hooked. But a location which has a genuine connection to the story you’re telling is always more interesting than one that doesn’t. I was involved in a film that touched on the subject of suicide, and there is a scene shot on a large bridge. The bridge we shot on is an actual suicide bridge, and once when the director, producer and director of photography were reccing that location they actually had to pull someone down who was close to jumping and walk them to safety. Not nice at all, but it gave our choice of location and our story that added sense of authenticity.
Q: Some locations are quite high profile, have you ever had issues getting permission to film in certain locations?
A: All locations present their different challenges. For some it can be difficult gaining a location owner’s trust, for others it can be a challenge in itself to find the right person to contact. For me houses are the most difficult. Everyone has one, so you’d think it would be easy. Finding a vacant house for the dates you need, with rooms that can fit a crew of at least thirty people and their gear, that is the right age, colour and layout is incredibly difficult.
Then once you find one you have to persuade the owner of the house that their property will be safe in your hands, and for them not to up the hire price beyond what you can afford.
Once you’ve achieved that, you have to negotiate days that you and key members of the crew can visit the location before shooting to get all the technical information needed, all without being an inconvenience to the poor people that own it.
Q: Where has been the hardest place to be able to film in so far in your career?
A: Filming in churches also always prove a challenge. They always have strict weekly schedules and it can take some time to get an understanding of what you can and can’t do on site, especially when those that run them have a very limited understanding of what filming at a professional level involves. Though they can be very accommodating, you don’t want to take liberties. At the end of the day it’s all about being courteous, and being fully aware that filmmaking is a big, messy, inconvenient, organised chaos and anyone who allows you to bring that upon them deserves the upmost respect and greatest show of thanks.