Tips for Choosing a Location

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Indie filmmakers have the benefit of perspective that professionals don’t have. Bottle Rocket is a perfect example. Shot in Dallas, Fort Worth, the movie uses the openness of the area to help compound the ineptness of these characters. These are small towners executing a plan they barely understand, who end up caught in something else entirely.

The setting can be a character in your film, as it was in greats like Papillon, or it can be just a backdrop. What kind of finished product do you want to create?

Work With the Script

You should give the script a thorough reading before you begin scouting for locations. The writer may have some thoughts on location already (like exterior establishing shots that set the scene) that can inform you as to where you might begin your scouting.

View the Site at the Proper Time

Time of day affects everything. Lighting and colors change depending on time of day, even down to the week or day of filming. A wind storm can knock a limb off a tree and mess up the aesthetic. That old car you thought fit the scene might be moved somewhere else or towed. Be vigilant in watching the site and prepping it for a shoot.

Obtaining Permission

In most situations, you’ll need permits to film somewhere publicly. Typically, you can ask a building manager. Kevin Smith famously requested to film at his liquor store at night to finish Clerks. Be polite, follow protocol and be patient. If something falls through, scout new locations as backup. Don’t get married to one place, but do whatever it takes to secure the shot if you can.