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Building sets can be really expensive. However, there are “pre-made” sets that will work for your project: locations! Finding the right places to film is a good way to raise your production values without sending the budget into the red.

Photo: Devek

Tidy Up Your Slug-lines

The slug-lines in the script determine the locations you need. Especially if you use a program like Movie Magic for scheduling, you want to make sure the locations are consistent. For instance, if you have the slug-lines “Ext. Forest,” “Ext. Woods” and “Ext. Near a Bunch of Trees,” these should probably all be very different looking woodsy areas…unless you want your locations manager to literally mistake the forest for the trees. Unless you are a neat freak, organization won’t get any more fun during the Pre-Production process, but it will help your project in the long run. As bad as it is to waste money, it’s even worse to waste time. And if you’re paying people for their time, you’ll ultimately end up doing both with this project. So find someone to edit your script if you have to, or simply ask the writer whether those locations with different names are actually different places.


Finding the best locations isn’t always like painting a pretty landscape. First of all, the locations have to fit the story as well as the style and atmosphere of the project. Then there’s the logistics of locations. Can you actually get permission to film in this location? If you do, is it realistic to haul and set up your equipment there each day, not to mention all the cast and crew members who might just be hanging out in between takes? Outdoor locations also may require generators to power the equipment. Does that sycamore tree also have an outlet for your extension cords? Also, don’t forget that locations exist in the real world. If there are busy streets or train tracks, you either need to schedule around the traffic, or spend money and fill out the necessary forms to shut them down during your production. Pre-Production is the time to plan for every conceivable obstacle that can arise in production, so think about the hidden problems with your locations. Even if you’re filming outdoors in the middle of nowhere, you will still have to contend with nature; anything from a wild animal attack to the position of the sun can send your production into chaos. And you might as well also consider the most unrealistic, highly improbable things that can go wrong…because film sets have a funny way of proving the statistics nerds wrong.

Further Reading:

Permits and Other Budgetary Considerations

There are a lot of different factors that can affect the cost of the location. What type of location, whether the state has tax incentives or how far behind your friend who’s lending you the apartment is on the rent – all these and more can determine how much you end up paying to shoot somewhere. On top of that, a lot of places will have permit fees, which can sometimes be unmanageable for lower-budget productions. And then there’s also the considerations of paying off the neighbors, not to mention anyone who did locations work for your production. So while a location can seem perfect in real life, on paper it can be a total nightmare.

For More on Pre-Production Planning:

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