Monday, January 7, 2013

Location, Location, Location

This weekend we secured an absolutely perfect house for the primary location of Predatory Moon. It's the kind of house where every room is in a different style and can easily be shot to look like the interiors of several different residences. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, lots of extra rooms and closet space, plenty of parking space,and there is even a pool.

I'll be living there for a month while Predatory Moon is shooting on the West Coast of Florida.

Our producer found this amazing house by working with a real estate agent who also handles managing vacation rentals. She told the agent about our needs and made no bones about the fact that we needed a shooting location and would have cast and crew coming and going at all hours. Everything was very up-front, and our Producer even talked to the owner of the property at one point to let her know exactly what kind of scenes the house would be used for.

This weekend our Producer, DP, AD, and I made the trip out to walk through the house and take a ton of photographs. While we were there we put down the deposit and the agent had the signed location release all ready for us.

Our second biggest location is where we are filming most of the bloody, violent scenes in Predatory Moon. For messy scenes like that, we knew that we needed a location that we had total control over, so they are being shot on sets on locations that we own. (Not rent, but own outright.) I have a very large storage building on my property that has hosted many a bloody massacre on film. The reasoning is very simple... damage control.

Currently we're working on securing permits for a few minor locations.

Notice that I said "permits". That's what I'd like to address with this essay.

I understand the temptation to go guerrilla when it comes to shooting a film on a shoestring budget. It's easy to think "Hey, nobody ever uses this park/building/house/field, we can shoot here for free and no one will care." However, I've been on quite a few production sets where someone did indeed care, and the producers were lucky that they didn't get arrested. (On one such set, the police ran a check on everyone present and one actor did in fact go to jail on an outstanding warrant.)

When you are working with bloody F/X, there's a good chance that you are going to draw some attention. When we were shooting Psycho Chicks Anonymous, there is a scene where Snoopy gets a terrible bloody nose after being hit by a can of beans. We shot this scene in my front yard, and at one point a police car rolled up to make sure that everyone was alright after seeing the girl laying on the ground with blood all over her. As soon as he learned we were just shooting a film, the first question he asked was "Do you have permission to film here?"

Just because you've rented a house, apartment, or even a hotel room doesn't mean that you have permission to film there. I've known of cases where entire productions were shut down after spending a lot of money on the rental fee because they failed to mention that they'd be shooting on the premises. An owner or manager is completely within his rights to boot you off a location if you fail to tell him your intentions right from the start when renting (or borrowing) a property.

I think that a lot of indie film-makers are just terrified that they might be told "no" if they ask. While it is true that you might not always get your first choice because an owner declines to give permission, it can be lot worse if you go ahead and shoot without an okay.

When Siren Productions was doing photography projects, my husband and I were living in a resort-like apartment complex that had many beautiful locations that we really wanted to use. The photo project featured vampires, and they often got a bit bloody. So we went to the managers of the apartments and just asked for permission to shoot. We told them exactly what we'd be doing, how many people would be around, and what days we would be shooting. We drew up a location use agreement and had it signed by the property manager.

As it turned out, we shot hundreds of photos over the course of several days. We found out later on that a few residents did in fact call the office to report a lot of strange people roaming around covered in what appeared to be blood and taking pictures. The management office already knew all about it and were able to let the tenets know that everything was fine. No fuss at all, although I am certain that things would have been very different had we not secured permission ahead of time.

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