Finding Places to Shoot an Indie Movie and Making Them Work to Save Production Costs
An indie movie production truth I learned with smaller budgeted indie shoots is the fewer locations you need for filming the more money production can save to see the movie get done.
It translates directly to maximizing time by not having to move cast, crew, and equipment from location to location. Too many company moves burns money and shooting time.
When you do not have studio budget money to piss away or a trust fund or a rich relative paying to make your make movie you have to be on the ball with your cash flow as an indie filmmaker.
Using one location for as many scenes as possible is very indie movie budget friendly. I like to call this principal shooting out a location.
It is damn surprising how many different sets one location can be turned into if you put your mind to it and have a camera crew that can rock and roll.
Another smart planning strategy is to have your locations as close together as possible with the shortest travel time between.
This is common sense, but common sense deserves repeating now and then. Scheduling a film shoot requires logistics. Have film location agreements at the ready at all times when you are shooting.
This piece of paper grants you permission to shoot on their property. Locations are probably not high on your priorities as a producer, but it’s harder to find places you can film at than you would expect.
Renting private locations or a sound stage can get expensive killing an indie movie budget fast. There is an added cost of paying for a movie production insurance policy to cover your entire shoot.
If you weren’t planning on securing movie production insurance you will really need to find locations you can get for free through people you know.
The most readily available location you would have control over is where you live. Next move onto asking friends and family for use of any locations they can provide.
If you need a particular type of location like a liquor store and do not know anyone approach “mom and pop” stores for the simple fact company franchises are difficult to deal with.
When you approach an owner of a location try to pitch them on letting you shoot there for free. Too be honest I have never been successful securing a location for free from someone I didn’t personally know or was introduced to through someone I knew.
On one shoot a liquor store was needed as a location. Finally one owner agreed to let Slice of Americana Films us his liquor store for a couple of hours in the morning. The unit production manager was prepared to show the owner our production insurance policy and city permit to shoot.
The owner was not interested in that, it wasn’t Hollywood. What it took was a hundred dollars cash and a promise if any customers showed up we were to stop shooting immediately to let them purchase their items.
The owner was not impressed to have his liquor store featured in a movie. The hundred dollars and the chance cast or crew would buy something during the short time we were there was the owner’s motivation to let us use the liquor store as a location.
Honeywagons or “Star” wagons (trailers or RV’s) are common place on big money movie sets. On smaller budgeted movies they are a lot less common. Honeywagons house makeup, wardrobe, and other departments.
Most importantly they provide restrooms. When securing a location check to see if there are restrooms available and adequate space to handle makeup and wardrobe changes. Shooting at houses really works great because they have bathrooms and extra rooms to house different departments.
I ran into a production snag due to an oversight at a remote location. A bus yard we were shooting at had a tiny restroom nobody felt comfortable using and there was no space for makeup and wardrobe. Realizing the situation on the first day of shooting at this location it was a mad scramble to rent a small RV.
We lost time calling around to rent one. More time was lost waiting for the RV to be picked up and driven to the location. Not to mention money had to be spent that was never figured in the budget. At least cast and crew had a clean restroom.
Do not underestimate the importance of clean facilities for production team moral. If you’re using locations provided by people you know let them know what to expect. I cannot stress this point enough. It’s a huge commitment for people to open their homes or businesses up to a film crew.
If you tell someone you need their location for a certain number of hours and days stick to that. Do everything in your power not to be there more hours and days than you said. They might not say you’re imposing if you ask for more time, but you are.
It’s difficult for a person to be away from their home while you’re shooting. Some people choose to stay home trying to remain quiet in a part of the house you’re not shooting in while strangers basically take over their house.
When it’s time to shoot they’ll hear “Quiet on the set!” shouted. That means everyone needs to be silent. It can be a rude awakening to people not familiar with how it is on the set of movie.
I was using a friend’s house as a location. Even though the family, including small children, were in a back bedroom every noise they made was being picked up by the boom microphone.
Recognizing the situation my friend was a hero by taking his family to his in-laws until we were wrapped at his house. That’s the kind of sacrifice you will be asking from people.
Also no matter how careful the production crew is when moving and setting up equipment odds will be high a door gets dinged, a floor gets scuffed, or a wall gets marked.
Whenever you wrap a location leave it clean and check to see if anything needs to be repaired or replaced. Money out of contingency funds should be able to handle the costs of small mishaps that might occur during shooting.
This is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing FADE OUT