This episode is part of an on-going filmmaking mistakes hunt that I'm determined to discover, explore and learn from. To join me along this journey, feel free to begin here.
Scout your locations early!
When I wrote the short film we shot last month I had a very specific location in my mind, it was the easiest location I could think of... a friend's house of course. Although I hadn't visited that friend for a while (I was busy writing my films, okay?) I had vivid images of what everything looked like so I knew exactly what each scene would look like. Because I was familiar with the location already I didn't bother scouting it before the shoot. You see where this is going.
Big mistake! The rooms I recalled were bigger than they really were. The furniture weren't what I remembered, they had a freaking flat screen TV! I swore they had a kitchen table against the east wall but it was a countertop instead. The detached garage was a lot higher than I remembered where I planned to have an actor climb the roof then jump off the other side. I wasn't prepared for the single location swamp cooler which didn't do a good job cool off a room full of lights and actors. We were sweating pigs. Good thing I brought lots of water!
I asked for permission to use the house and we just showed up the day of the shoot. All you professionals are shaking your heads, I know it! The good news is, it all worked out, the owners and their house were fantastic! We had to tweak the script to make it work and it worked out just fine. In fact, some scenes worked out a lot better than I planned and it certainly made the story more realistic and funnier.
There was one location I never found during the week of our shoot, an apartment. I kept putting off those scenes for a long as I could. I texted everyone I knew (between shots) for help to find an apartment to shoot in. At the very last minute I realized something stupid, "Why did it have to be an apartment?" We asked a neighbor near our existing location and the guy was more than thrilled to let us shoot there. Coincidentally, he was a crew member for the movie High School Musical, cool eh? He even got free cleaning service from us afterwards.
Another thing about location is, with a low budget film, you really need to be considerate of other's time and gas. While I was perfectly fine with driving an hour each way to the location every day, it got old very fast for everyone else and I really felt pressured to pay for their gas (which would have gobbled up 25% of the budget). Free food suddenly lost its value on the set. I winced every time I gave crew members the address to the next location. I'm fortunate that they were very forgiving.
Aside from the grumblings from the crew it worked out, we got through the week and finished the shoot. I swear I'm gonna scout locations better next time. Keep everything within a 10 mile radius. I learned for low budget films, you really have to be open to changing the script to fit the location not the other way around.
Now, go film yourself mad!