The Film Business

There May Not Be Free Lunches, But There Are Free Film Locations

Shooting on Location

Photo by Digital Cat

One of the biggest money savers on an independent film is having a free location. If you were to pay a daily or hourly rate, plus insurance requirements, your budget would skyrocket. During the writing phase, write your story around as many free locations as you can to avoid costly location rentals, especially in Los Angeles.


When you “scout” a location, the primary goal is to make sure that it fits the requirements of the script. It’s good to have your producer, director, director of photography and production designer come to the location to scout. If they are not available, you can videotape it and show them later.


  1. Power – Make sure the location has house power and that you can use it for your lights. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring in a costly generator. Check with your Director of Photography and/or gaffer regarding sufficient power at the location.
  2. Restrooms – There must be enough restrooms to cater to your cast and crew size, otherwise you will need to bring in honey-wagons or portable toilets, which gets expensive. Always bring your own toilet supplies, unless the location provides it free.
  3. Craft Service Area – Make sure there is an area where you can setup craft services, and an area where tables and chairs can be setup for the cast and crew to eat meals.
  4. Green Room – There is a lot of waiting on a set, so it’s a good idea to designate an area for people to hang out. Usually this is in an area far away from where you will be shooting so people can talk without disturbing the production.
  5. Makeup/Wardrobe Room – Your makeup crew will usually need their own area, preferably with a lot of light and a sink nearby. I usually combine this area with wardrobe.
  6. Parking – You need to make sure the location provides ample parking for your crew size. If not, see if street parking or paid parking lots is an option.
  7. Smoking Area – You should never let anyone smoke inside of a location. They must be outside and only on breaks. It’s unprofessional and potentially hazardous to smoke inside. It’s best to post “no smoking” signs, and put a large can with sand in it outside for smokers.


On GHOST MONTH, I wanted a location where I could have complete freedom. We simply called a non-industry-related realtor, and she found us the perfect place: a 6,000 square foot multi-level house. We rented it for two months and I shot the entire film there and there was even enough room to build sets in the eight car garage. The only difficult hurdle was that the house was empty and one hour from civilization, so we had to bring in all the set dressing and furniture. If you decide to go this route, it’s best to keep a low profile whenever you are shooting to avoid the authorities showing up and questioning you.

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1 Comment
   Viawshoosse said on August 12, 2011 at 7:58 pm

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