A Simple Guide to Quickly Learn Location Scouting
Updated: Mar 12
So, you want to be a location scout? You want to explore the world and find some hidden gems, sounds great! Here's a simple guide to help you learn everything you need to know before going on your first location scout!
What is location scouting?
Location scouting is the act of finding and sourcing a suitable location for a film or photoshoot. This can be a long daunting task (especially when director doesn't give you much to go on) but a very achievable and fun one at that. So what are the things you need to consider when scouting a location?
8 Things to Consider When Scouting Locations:
Let's start off with the biggie, unfortunately a lot of the time... film locations cost money. If you're just starting out as a location scout you're going to be working with smaller productions and more often than not, the budget won't be great. Seeing as though the average location, costs around £500 - £3000 for a full day filming, you're going to have to use your charming personality to negotiate with homeowners for a lower fee, try offering them things in return, and if your film has a good cause, use that! Location Locker is a great place to start with plenty of locations under that 1k mark.
2. Know your script
Make sure that the location is suitable for the script, if a producer unleashes you to find the right location and you keep coming back with unrealistic options that aren't in the right ballpark, they're going to start questioning your skill. Take time to understand the script, what are the main locations mentioned? Are there specific colours mentioned? Specific home layouts? It's always great to provide options to the director, but remember, in their head they're visualising that perfect location that's going to be the foundation of their film; make sure you're on the same page.
I cannot stress enough how important this one is, if you don't take this step seriously, you're not going to be very popular with the sound recordist (I've been there). When you're on a location scout take a moment to listen, if you're outdoors, what animals can you hear? Any nearby traffic? If indoors, what ambient sound can you hear? Can you hear the neighbours water feature? Every little sound has an impact and should be considered, make a full report on sounds you can hear and don't forget to check if your desired location is on a flight path.
This one goes hand in hand with sound, if you're filming indoors, how many windows are there? Which way do they face? A lot of the time when indoors, the location will be blacked out, then lit by the crew for full control, but this decision will be dependant upon information from the location scout. When scouting outdoors, you should be looking for natural obstructions blocking light such as hills or buildings, make note of what time the sun will rise and set on the day of filming. Someone on the crew should be measuring the light levels with a light meter.
5. Power Sources
A lot of your production will be running on AC, there's nothing worse than being on set with a frantic crew trying to find a socket to charge their camera batteries. Additional power should always be considered, but whilst on a location scout you should always make it a priority to locate plug sockets and the fuse box for future reference should anyone need that information.
6. Travel Logistics
So you've found the perfect location and the director loves it, that's great until they ask where it is and you whisper under your breath an answer they didn't want. Sometimes even if everything matches, some places are just not plausible to get to due to certain constraints such as budget and crew size. You need to make sure you're scouting locations within the radius that you can get to. Parking should also be a primary consideration, find out what parking there is available, if there is none this could be a deal breaker.
Make sure you have legal permission to film at your chosen location by the means of location releases and permits. When working in residential locations this permission will likely come from the owner of the property, when outdoors this often comes from the local council. Remember, if you have permission to film at a house this doesn't necessarily mean you have permission to film on the street outside. When going through a council this can often take time so do this as early as possible. When on location, make sure you have any permits to hand!
8. Final Evaluation
So you think you have everything you need to know, take a step back and have a look around, what else would be useful information to pass on to your producer? Good phone service? Local amenities? There's no harm in over evaluating when it comes to working in the location department.
Final piece of advice
When scouting a location, always take pictures and take notes, your most important pieces of equipment are your camera and notebook. Want to go a step further to impress your director? Film a video of the location with running commentary over the top and source floor plans.