LOCATION SCOUTING CHECKLIST

I’ve got your location scouting checklist and it applies whether you are a directing a music video or photographing. The needs for photographers and directors can be similar. On this blog post and video, I’ll take you on my location hunt for the upcoming Tamar Braxton music video. You’re getting access to my jobs and seeing first-hand what it takes. Here’s how you can learn even more:

 

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LOCATION SCOUT CHECKLIST: THE FIRST CALL

 

  • Find the location you want to book for your shoot. It’s common to review 3-4 locations that made the cut from the online photographs. You can find locations through a few websites like Giggster, Peerspace, or Setscouter. Many of the pages will have the information that you need but always ask the questions. Collect the information from their site first. This is the first step of our location scout checklist.
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  • Inquire about the date. If your date is unavailable then there’s no point in continuing the conversation any further. A great way to ask the question is:

    Hello I’m looking at rent your studio for (date) and we would need it for ____ hours. Our crew size is about ___ and it’s for a _________ (photoshoot, commercial, etc.) – Would we be able to do a scout before we book?
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  • If the date is available, arrange a time/date to visit the site. The sooner the better because film locations are often gone overnight. Sometimes you’ll get a bigger production offering more money, and you’ll want to sign the agreement sooner than later.BTW, told you that photo studios can be very profitable! 
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  • Collect a list of questions and your people, visit the site together. Allow each person to ask the questions they need. What a producer sees will be different than what the DP or director sees.

LOCATION SCOUT CHECKLIST: FOR THE PEOPLE

 

You’ll have many people on set. They are talent, visitors, crew and vendors coming through. They’ll be eating food and drinking water. Do the math. Make sure that the people are taken care of and you protect your set. Lets go through your location studio checklist for the people.

 

  1. Bathrooms: People need to pee. Make sure the place you book has bathrooms with good toilets, running water and lights that work. Sometimes you’ll be renting an abandoned warehouse or a big field. You will have to figure out the bathroom situation.
  2. Parking: Will the studio have parking and how many spots are reserved for your production? Is there street parking? Will you have gravel, dirt or paved lots? People need to know this stuff. Maybe you’ll have to permit the area and reserve street parking. Perhaps you’ll need to warn people (on the call sheet) about the parking rules of the neighborhood.
  3. Ramps/Steps/Elevators: Let people know if they have an elevator or how many flights of stairs they’ll need to climb. Remember that crew will need to carry heavy equipment up & down the steps all day. Will you have wheelchair access? Is the ground uneven? You will need orange cones to warn people and WATCH YOUR STEP signs everywhere. Protect your people and protect yourself.
  4. Heat/AC: On my call sheets I like to add the time we’ll show up and what time we’ll expect to wrap. Then I put our weather conditions on the call sheet with the high and low temperature for the day. Yes, it’s common sense but people don’t always have it.
  5. Safety: How is the neighborhood? These are things you’ll need to check during your location scout (and a Google Map search). If the neighborhood is sketchy, then hiring a security guard to stay outside with the gear would be smart. It would also be smart to provide a shuttle van if the film location is a distance from the parking lot. Take care of your people!

LOCATION SCOUT CHECKLIST: PRODUCTION NEEDS

 

By now, I hope that you realize how many questions you should have about the perfect location. For every setback there will be an answer and this is where a producer is worth their weight in gold.

 

Now let’s go over the production needs. I cannot stress enough that you should invite your key people on the location scout with you. Let’s start the location scout checklist for the production crew:

 

  1. Noise: Are you recording sound? Because nearby noises and echos in the room can set you back and your audio sound mixer needs to be aware of this.
  2. Number of plugs: How much access do you have to power and while you’re at it, see if they’re on the same circuit or even spread out. One light and a blow dryer can destroy a shoot.
  3. Ramp: They are nice for people who need wheel chair accessibility and for all the carts from the grip truck. Ramps are nice and your crew can make sure to have some carts, making sure they suffer less.
  4. Bottom floor or upstairs: If you a huge production, make sure that the location has elevator access.
  5. Drive up access: Sometimes warehouses will have a giant rollup door. This allows the grip truck to roll in and unload everything. It’s a time saver for you, which means it helps your budget.
  6. Natural light/Direction of windows: Do they have windows? OK that could be great or a bad thing. Find out which side the windows are because that means you either get nice ambient light or direct sunlight that can slow a shoot down.
  7. Blackout curtains: Do they have blackout curtains for their windows or do you need to purchase a roll of duvetyn
  8. Dressing Rooms: If you don’t have access to dressing rooms then a little popup tent is essential for the talent to feel safe. Here is the tent I’m talking about.
  9. Makeup and Hair Room: Do they have a designated room for glam? If they do, is the power on its own circuit? If it’s not then they’ll need to almost schedule use of the blow dryer, so they don’t blow out any lights.
  10. Access to Circuit Breaker: Circuits do blow out. Make sure you know exactly where it is and how can reset the circuit. If they don’t allow this to happen then maybe you’ll need to get the name and mobile number for the person who can reset the circuits for your shoot.
  11. Access to water: You may need a hose. See if they have access to water and if any special tools are needed.
  12. Props to use: Sometimes studios will provide props for you to use. They could be built by the studio or remains of past shoots. See what fits your look and if they allow you access to their props, that could be a big money saver.
  13. Rental Access: do they rent gear? If they do get a list of what they have and what it costs. It could save you money by spending less time going out to another rental house.
  14. Grip included: see what gear they have included. Often times they will have big bounce boards, C stands or sandbags available for you.
  15. Insurance requirements: find out if they require insurance to book the studio. What you’ll need to do is a list them on an individual insurance certificate.
  16. Ladders/Scissor Lift: If you need access to the rafters above, see if they have ladders (safe ones) that you are able to use. The most ideal and safe option would be the scissor lift.
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