Dawar Studios Scouting Checklist

Quintessential Movie Location Scout Guide and free Tech Scout Checklist

Movie location scouting is a vital aspect of bringing alive an idea from the page to the screen.

Location scouting is a vital pre-production step where the idea of a scene’s setting is translated into reality. A great number of factors other than appearance are considered while picking out a location. However, even the most stunning location may not be enough to make it suitable. The features of a location have a direct impact on the success of an entire day of shooting.

How can pre-production crews identify the pros and cons of particular locations? How can they accurately pick out the most appropriate shooting location?

You can get a better insight into location scouting by checking out our articles about 5 things for making scouting easier and 8 tips from an experienced location manager.

Keep reading this post to gain an understanding of how to scout for a location effectively. Additionally, you will find a free downloadable tech scout checklist and several essential tips for location scouting.
 

Take a look at the tech scout checklist below.
 

Movie location scouts follow the tech scout checklist

The suitability of a particular location with a story is an import factor to focus on during scouting. It can vary greatly between different movie projects.

Selecting the right location is crucial for even small shoots. It is easy to underplay how much footprint space is needed during an actual shoot. Your chosen location must have ample space for moving about freely, sitting down, eating and placing cameras.

The requirements mentioned in our checklist are listed in decreasing order of importance. However, having access to each of them is quite necessary to ensure a hassle-free shooting experience.


Referring to the list can help you avoid unwanted situations during shoots. The prep phase should consist of selecting the right location and identifying potential problems with it.

 

Lack of space to accommodate your talent might result in renting an RV. Complaints from a  neighboring property can mean that you need to get a city permit. Getting a permit issued can pile up your financial burden. This means that the location scouting step requires a great level of awareness.

While there are many filming locations, not all of them are of the same quality.

What is a tech scout?
 

The tech scout process involves giving the departmental heads of a production unit a walkthrough of the chosen location. Utilizing the tech scout checklist can help you boost effectiveness, prevent any major setbacks, and document any significant data.

The tech scout process is conducted close to the start of the shooting process when the time for major plan changes is minimal. The tech scout stage is an opportunity for planning and troubleshooting with the qualified inputs of the crew. 

 

Light sources at a filming location
 

Your chosen location should contain appropriate and adequate light sources. How well is the location naturally lit? Factors to take heed of on a movie location scout include - the location of light sources, their strength, and how they can affect a shoot at different times of the day.

Are the windows of your indoor location large enough? Do they need to be blacked out to fix the lighting? Will the shoot be during the day or night? Will shooting go on during both day and night?

These are some of the most common location-related questions to be asked. The answers to them will determine what steps need to be taken during the tech scout step when the key crew members are present.

Power sources at a filming location
 

After natural lighting inspection, the next step in the tech scout checklist is looking for power sources at your prospective location. This responsibility lies with the Gaffer during every turn of the tech scout.

 

The availability of sufficient power sources is something to ascertain before dealing with any set elements.

The things you need to check include available outlets and how much load they can safely take. It is crucial to make an estimate of the power that will be required during the shoot. If the location has a power level lower than that, a generator might be required.

If a scene is to be shot in the desert during the night, more power might be needed for powering up make-up and hair light sources.


If a scene is being shot indoors but the rented lighting kit is large, steps have to be taken to prevent blowing a fuse.

It is also important to know how batteries can be charged.

Keep these considerations in mind to cover all possible requirements of power sources.

Staging areas at a filming location


A staging area is a location where stage gear is placed during a movie shoot. If a scene is being in the hallway of an office building, there needs to be ample space for the crew to place lights, c-stands and other pieces of gear. Keep in mind that even a small production might require carrying around a good amount of gear. The biggest question to answer is, where will the gear be when the shoot is on?

Gear can be stored on a truck. However, most movie directors and crew members might need to keep some gear close by. This is especially true if a truck is downstairs, within a parking lot or parked across the road. Having some important gear nearby can save considerable time during a shoot. It is important to know how much time it can take to carry a flag from the truck to the set.

Crew members might have queries regarding how to have easy access to stage gear. Paying attention to ensuring ample stage areas is important while inspecting a filming location.
 

Finding parking on your location scout


Finding suitable parking spots can be a hassle during any shoot unless you can find a location with its own lot. Most locations do not offer that convenience.

As a scout, it is important for you to prioritize parking facilities to cover the needs of a film crew. One of the key aspects is finding a parking space for cast and crew vehicles. Keep in mind that cars can be parked, locked, and left to be, as they will not be required to be accessed during the shoot. 

Other questions that may arise regarding where to park trucks, and how many trucks are required to be parked. Even if the shooting crew does not need trucks, space might be needed for gear vans.
 

Scouts might also consider generator parking, trailer parking, or any other viable alternative.

Parking can end up being a financial burden, which is compounded further with parking tickets. It makes sense to approach a nearby parking lot and attempt to get a favorable deal.
 

Organizing a shuttle service from the parking lot to the movie set might be another requirement. Lack of adequate parking management and any confusion can lead to the loss of valuable set time. Presuming that your crew and cast members will arrange their own parking spots should be avoided. Be sure to make prior arrangements for parking at the location, or in proximity to it. Doing so will help you prevent unwanted messes like the DP going around in a circle finding parking areas. If they park their vehicle illegally, further issues may arise.

If the DP loses time due to parking issues or gets a ticket, you might have to accept responsibility and pay for the same. Moreover, the particular DP might lose his temper and refuse to work with you in the future. This can create a negative reputation.

It is possible to prevent all such eventualities by fulfilling parking requirements during the scout.


Sound at your filming location


Checking the sound of a location during a scout session is quite easy. You can observe the ambient noises of the place for some time. Try to ascertain if you hear sounds like a noisy AC unit, planes, traffic, or children at a nearby playground.


Making observations at this phase will enable you to give a heads up to your sound team. You can make them aware of the potential problems in getting clear, high-quality sound during production. They can then take the necessary precautions before the shoot commences. Try to ensure whether the sound team needs to carry lavaliere mics or whether the area is windy. These things determine how they prepare for the shoot. You can also gain valuable insight from a location rep regarding how the place sounds during specific times of the day i.e. when the shooting is likely to take place.


Holding and crafty at the shoot location


These are two of the most vital aspects of location scouting but are often overlooked. Without a holding area and craft services, your crew and cast members can be in dire straits. There needs to be arrangements close to the location where people can go over scripts, focus on make-up and hair, or relax over a cup of brew.

Keep in mind that the holding area is often utilized by craft services to place food and beverage options for cast and crew members. It is also a place where meals can be served to people.

Holding can also be utilized for charging up the batteries of several devices including walkie-talkies.
Ideally, holding should be close to the movie set, so the required cast and crew members can be quickly taken to it. 

However, it makes sense to position holding and crafty at a slight distance from the set, so that shots are not ruined by the noises of people having conversations.


Neighbors at your location and why permitting might be required

This step on the tech scouting checklist deals with finding out about the properties closest to the production location.

The example of a particular production experience can be cited to stress this point. A film crew had to shoot a scene at a home within a residential community. It was considered as an ideal location and the team was lucky to be able to shoot there.
 

A grip truck had to be unloaded before sunrise on a weekend day, prior to the start of shooting. 

The unloading noises disturbed some neighbors and prompted them to complain. But it was not a hindrance for the production crew, as it had already procured permits for the location, approached all neighbors, and dropped notes into their mailboxes in case they could not be reached.


While the production crew did apologize to the complaining neighbors, they had already taken care of all legal steps to continue their activities at the location. If they had not done so, the shoot might have been scrapped for the day.

Gaining a permit for the chosen location is always an intelligent step if there is probable concern regarding annoying neighbors near to the location.

If you attempt an approach of shooting without permits, tread with a good amount of caution. Otherwise, you might run into trouble and end up bearing hefty expenses. The results might not be to your liking if you proceed without a legal permit.

Taking pictures at the location


Since everyone has a camera smartphone today, taking photographs at a location is quite easy. In the earlier days, tech scouts and location scouts had to carry cameras to the location.

It is important to take photos of everything around you and be prepared to share them with all those who are not present during the scouting session.


The surrounding area of a location - routes, directions, road closures, and nearby hospitals


This is one of the last steps of the tech scout checklist, but one that is quite crucial. You should run a check of the surroundings and create a list of what you find. Some research in this regard has to be performed prior to committing to a location.

Your mini-checklist of the location’s surroundings can contain some call sheet-type queries. It is quite likely that the AD team will create this call sheet for you. However, it makes sense to ascertain all the factors on your own before a decision is made.

You should have a ready answer to how people can locate the place, and also the usual traffic conditions leading to it. Make sure you are confident about these before sending out your call sheet.


Paperwork and notes


During location scouting, you can become a bit more industrious and take a few additional notes, if necessary. Ponder over what you have observed that is not part of the list. For instance, if you are shooting within a restaurant with a large original artwork piece, it might need to be removed or checked with the art department. Noticing such things can help you surpass unnecessary complications. Do carry a pen with you while scouting, as you might not remember important details later on.

The requisite paperwork also needs to be carried to a location being scouted. Location owners or representatives should be approached for seeking authorization. Keep the location agreements with you as you might need them.

Call sheet template


If you have zeroed in on your location, it is time to focus on creating the final schedules and keeping your call sheets organized. You can download this free call sheet template to get started.

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