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On Film Locations

In her second piece on Medium, Evelyn Lee shares her experience with losing a central location right before a film shoot, and what she learned from it.

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July 27, 2018
by Evelyn Lee

What I Learned from Losing Locations Before Filming

Preparation is key.

They always tell you to plan for the unexpected — what could go wrong almost always will.

When I was starting out, I learned a lot of valuable things from making mistakes. Just two days before principal photography was scheduled to start on a short film of mine, I got a call from the location that was central to the film. The owner said some plans had changed and they could no longer allow us to film there.

I panicked. Would I have to postpone the shoot? Would everyone still be available if I changed the date? Where am I supposed to get a new location in such a short period of time? Will my budget cover this?

I didn’t have the budget to really consider having a second location (or anything else) as a backup. I didn’t have the owner sign a release form (don’t rely on verbal agreements). I didn’t consider the fact that, quite possibly, things could go very wrong. As stressful as the entire ordeal was, I learned from it in the best way possible.

I contacted everyone in the cast and crew to tell them a problem had arose with the location, and if things don’t get sorted out in time, the shoot might be postponed. Everyone was understanding, and consoled me, assuring me things would be fine.

Then miraculously, one of my crew members told me that someone else he had worked with on another shoot might have exactly what I needed. I got in touch with the person, who was gracious enough to lend me a location that was exactly what I needed — and for free.

Some of the shot list and blocking had to be changed last minute, but otherwise, everything else went exactly as planned. The dates and budget didn’t have to change. Everyone was cooperative, and it was a smooth, quick, and fairly painless shoot.

While everything worked out, it was an important reminder that I wouldn’t get so lucky every time, so I needed to plan and prepare better — and for the worst. Always scout more than one location and have a backup. Make sure all the details are covered. And always sign a release form.

Also, keep the weather in mind. I was lucky this was an interior set and we weren’t affected by the weather. But I also did once film on an exterior set covered in snow and ice, with additional snowfall in the forecast… but that’s another story for another time.

For my following film, I learned from my mistakes. I had backups for everything from location to craft services, and made sure release forms and other necessary paperwork were signed. I ended up having to use one of the backup locations. While some additional accommodations had to be made, it wasn’t the same horrifying situation as the first time.

At least the second time around, I was prepared.