COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 12: LOCATION SCOUTING
“Location. Location. Location.”
Picture some of the greatest films in cinema history and y0u’ll be blinded by a vast canvas of filming locations… we’re not talking constructed film sets here, we’re talking places out in the real world that the crew have travelled to.
Filming on practical locations is at the very heart of cinema itself — Just watch this stunning tribute montage to the late, great Tony Scott (expertly crafted by sigug) and keep an eye on all the amazing locations he used…
Sadly, this video also highlights what a talented filmmaker Tony Scott was. A true loss.
Obviously some of those locations were specifically built film sets but the vast majority were real world places. Just like his brother, Ridley Scott, it’s breathtaking how Tony Scott used these locations as another ‘character’ within his films; embedding a sense of tone and belonging into his stories.
With this in mind, there’s a hell of a lot the independent filmmaker can learn from the Scott brothers about visual storytelling – you don’t need a Hollywood budget to shoot sunsets and thunderstorms.
The world is all around you. Wherever you live on the planet you’ll have a unique setting just outside your window that other filmmakers would love to shoot in. It may be ‘the norm’ to you, but to others it’s unfamiliar, foreign or even exotic — so use it to your advantage.
In the big league, Location Scouting involves an extensive search during Pre-Production. Scouting involves many departments and senior crew members, each considering the feasibility of working at a particular location from their departments’ perspective. Take a look at this great featurette highlighting the Location Scouting work on SKYFALL.
Zander Location Scouting
For the Independent Filmmaker, Location Scouting is just as vital in order to discover the perfect setting for your story. Look for locations that compliment the story you want to produce, but be flexible and be creative — you don’t have to conform to the trends. A Western doesn’t have to be shot in the desert. A Crime Thriller doesn’t have to be shot in the city. A Horror doesn’t have to be shot in a forest; follow the Robert Rodriquez school of filmmaking and ‘use what you’ve got’.
When scouting, study your locations in-depth — How does the light change across the day? What path does the sun take? What time does it get dark? What is the ambient sound like? Can you hear traffic, wildlife, machinery, air conditioning? Is there an accessible power supply nearby? How easy will it be for the crew to access? Are there any toilets?
Take notes, take photos, record test audio, speak to locals. Do as much research as possible to understand what this location is like. Just because it’s quiet and sunny now, doesn’t mean it will be when you return in a months time.
Another important consideration is do you need permission to film here? Checkout this blog on tips and info on getting Filming Visas and Permits.
For COSMOS we’re scouting locations that suit our story. Below are a few photos from a recent scouting trip to the Jodrell Bank Observatory in the North West of England, featuring the Lovell Telescope which was built in 1955, and is the third largest steerable dish radio telescope in the world at 250 ft in diameter — Believe me, when you stand beneath this beast you’re truly awe-struck by it’s size and super structure.
Zand & Ell
Elliot Weaver, Director @CosmosMovie