Filmmaking 101: Locations Pt. 2

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Filmmaking 101: Locations Pt. 2

The ups, downs, tips & tricks with Location Manager Garrett Schecher (Silicon Valley, Westworld, A Black Lady Sketch Show)

Which shows have you worked on that you love? 

I’ve had the opportunity to work on a bunch of shows I love: Silicon Valley, Westworld, LAs Finest, American Auto, A Black Lady Sketch Show, and more. 

What are some BIG fails you’ve had as a location manager? 

Big problems tend to be debating rates and damages. I could bore you with price negotiation stories, but I’d say the worst blunder I’ve had was …wait for it…almost losing the homeowners beloved family dog. Crew member left the gate open. 

The terror! 

I spent the afternoon running around this upscale Malibu neighborhood yelling “Charlie! Charlie! please c’mere boy!”. I probably looked like a young Hunter S Thompson meets Ace Ventura Pet Detective. At this point I’m thinking, I would have rather burned down the house than lose the beloved family dog. 

Wait…did you find the dog? 

Oh yeah! I’m still working. Luckily a neighbor brought Charlie in for a little doggy airbnb experience and no one was the wiser. Close call! 

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What are a few things that can go wrong? 

Damages to the property and house are always a big concern. When you arrive at a location with 150+ cast/crew members, 5 ton trucks, and mountains of equipment, the odds of effecting the landscape definitely skyrocket. 

Have you ever worked in any …undesirable locations? 

Oh yeah. I’ve had to work in straight up unsafe environments. There was actually a tragic incident on the Narcos: Mexico production in 2017 wherein a legendary location scout, travelling alone, was shot and killed by actual Narcos. 

Ok, that took a dark turn.  

Lastly, what are a few tips everyone should keep in mind when considering location? 

The most important thing is aesthetic. It’s all about discovering the look and feel of the script and finding the vibe that fits the director’s vision. 

Secondary are all things location logistics: Parking, Access, Basecamp, etc. All the boring stuff that is paramount to a successful shoot. 

Can you leave us with a final tip, piece of advice or warning? 

Yes. As a guerrilla filmmaker you should never do anything that risks safety, or endangers the cast or crew in any way. There can and often needs to be a fair amount of “law breaking” when you are working with a low budget but you should never act outside the rules so egregiously that someone could get hurt. 

Here’s my list of avoid at all costs: Moving traffic, dangerous neighborhoods, animals, stunts or pyrotechnics of any kind. Keep clear of these and live to shoot another day! 

Finally, let’s end with the five things you wish you knew when you were a filmmaker on a budget, guerrilla-style! 

1. Be Light On Your Feet.

Because you won’t be paying for locations, you will either be using public spaces or sneaking shots in unpaid for locals. This means you’ll have to be able to move quickly when security or the fuzz comes to break it up.

No lights, no grip equipment… except maybe a bounce board… and no tripods. Definitely no sound carts, crafty table, or honey wagons. All you really need as a guerrilla filmmaker is camera, sound, and talent.

2. Keep Your Crew Small 

Absolute stealth. Low profile. Incognito.

A dead give away you’re filming where you shouldn’t be is 10 people standing around a cameraman, holding gear. Limit crew to 5. This includes: Director, DP/Camera op, Sound, and two Talent. If you need an extra person to hold a bounce board or a screen, that could work, but keep it low key.

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3. Find Free Locations

Outdoor public spaces are great scenery and can be used mostly for free as long as you follow the rules of “be light on your feet” and “keep your crew small”.

4. Use What You Have 

You don’t need expensive cameras or lights to make a film. You need the ability to tell a convincing and cathartic story. It can be done with an iPhone and sunlight. 

5. Improvise

Because you will be shooting in areas and using scenery that might not remain endlessly available to you (especially if the cops kick you out) make sure you leave mental space to call audibles and make changes on the fly. For example, a parking garage that is suddenly off limits could mean the backdrop of the scene is inside someone’s car instead.