Shooting On Location: the Dos and Don’ts

There’s a thrill about shooting on location, but the logistics can be difficult to get right and there’s a lot to think about! Here’s some simple dos and don’ts to get you started when shooting out on location.

DOs

DO carry a copy of your Public Liability Insurance certificate with you, no matter what you’re shooting or how you’re shooting it. You could be asked to present it at any time. I like to carry a folder which has my insurance certificates, risk assessments and other important safety information on but if this isn’t your style then have a copy on your phone.

DO make appropriate provisions to safely dispose of litter – especially cigarettes! The latter is something frequently overlooked, especially be filmmakers who don’t smoke. Cigarette ends cannot be disposed of in plastic waste sacks and must never be left on site. A small metal bucket will do.

DO thank the location owners afterwards. This is a courtesy that costs nothing and will go along way. I like to buy a card and small box of chocolates for people who have helped a film come to life. You can even allow for this in your budget by creating an account or line-item for gratuities. You’ll also be doing a great job of representing our industry and help other filmmakers use fab locations!

DO think about your cast and crew when planning a location shoot, even if you’ve only for 4 or 5 people with you. Where can they use a toilet? Where can they find shelter if it’s too hot, too cold, or too wet? Where can they sit down and eat? Where can they park their cars or keep their personal belongings? Remember, filmmaking is seldom as simple as getting a camera and shooting something; as a producer, everything becomes your responsibility.

DO have a plan B. Unlike shooting in a studio where you can control every aspect, location shooting presents many variables that are completely out of your control. Recces are great opportunities to start planning shots and deciding where exactly your set will be, but you must also decide what to do if that set or those shots suddenly won’t work when you turn up to shoot.

DON’Ts

DON’T shoot anywhere without Public Liability Insurance. Even if you’re doing run-and-gun or guerrilla filmmaking or you’re not using any fancy equipment, if somebody gets hurt or something gets damaged the compensation will be coming out of your pocket unless you’re appropriately covered.

DON’T leave car engines, generators or lights running unnecessarily – or anything else that could cause public nuisance. Not only will leaving everything switched on cost an awful lot of money and increase your production’s carbon footprint, you’ll drive the public, neighbours, location-users and pretty much anyone else in the vicinity mad and they won’t be so welcoming to future film projects.

DON’T use megaphones and PA equipment unless you really have to. Film sets draw enough attention to themselves as it is, and you must always be respectful of neighbours and those near your location, plus the use of loud communication equipment will end up giving you and your crew a headache, too. Try to use a walkie with headsets to communicate across the set.

DON’T use offensive language. You never know who is listening and who is sensitive to what and you could inadvertently really upset the public or neighbours and then cause havoc for your Location Manager or yourself.

DON’T forget the weather. Especially in the UK where we live with a schizophrenic weather climate. Don’t just look at one weather resource – compare lots of different services and keep an eye on trends throughout the week. Let your cast and crew know on the call sheet what sort of weather to expect and if it’s anything too adverse, pop a banner across the top with a warning to dress appropriately!

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