5 Tips to ace your next location shoot
Travel shoots are a huge benefit to working in video production. Visiting new places and experiencing different cultures always get the creative juices flowing. And the best part is, you’re getting paid to do it! But travel shoots are a ton of work.
You have a finite window of time to capture all the footage you need.
You’re in an unfamiliar place.
Maybe there’s even a language barrier.
Regardless, you have to deliver.
Recently we traveled to Toronto to film a client story about one of Canada's largest teleco providers. We didn’t have all our gear. We didn’t have a ton of time. And we did it with just a two person crew.
Just because we travel lean doesn’t mean we can sacrifice production value. On the contrary. We always push ourselves to capture great content on the road because we never know when we’re going to get back there. Most of the time, reshoots aren't even an option. To make sure we have the time we need to get solid footage the first time, it’s all about efficiency.
Here are 5 tips for creating big production value on location with just a two man crew. Use this as a quick reference before your next shoot to keep your clients happy and your crew sane.
Tip 1: Pack lightly
Think about every piece of gear you’re taking when you travel. What can’t you absolutely live without? What can you rent locally that’ll fit in your rental van?
In order to pack lightly and efficiently you must have great pre-production. This is a point we stress a lot at Animus Studios. Time spent in the office planning as much as we can equals time well spent in the field. When you know you’re traveling light, storyboards and shot selection are crucial. Be specific in what you need to capture and plan how you can do it with just a few key tools.
Tip 2: Don't be afraid to ask for what you need
This may seem obvious but it can be intimidating to ask people for things when you’re in an unfamiliar place. But at the end of the day you have a job to do. Don’t be afraid to ask for the things you need to get the job done right.
For example, at our hotel we asked if there’s a view of our client’s building that we can film from. They upgraded us to one of the top floors so we had the view of exactly what we needed and knocked out establishing shots. It was a pretty sweet room too.
We got media rates on our gear at the airport. A lot of airlines have discounted rates for members of the media and as a professional photographer or videographer that means you too! Take advantage of it.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your client to do exactly what you want. They are technically the boss, but what you need to get done is more important. You only have so much time. So make sure your client is doing their homework.
Work with them on a schedule that makes sense for you. Keep them to task on arranging the various locations you’re filming in and funneling down information to the staff you’re going to be working with.
Sometimes your client doesn’t actually own the building you’re trying to film in and a property manager has to be notified and agree to filming in their building. These are loose ends your client may not be thinking about. Why would they? They’re not professional filmmakers. You are. Explain what you need and hold them accountable for making it happen.
Tip 3: Find opportunities to use local resources
Even if you're not in an area with an established rental house, these days it's not too hard to find an independent owner/operator with exactly what you need. We use social media to connect with new folks, and we keep a database of folks we love to work with. Bottom line, don't be afraid to call on local talent that can help you.
In Toronto, we used a local rental house and met a local filmmaker that we hired as a second shooter. It’s great to have someone local with you who’s in your line of work because they speak your language. You also have someone to turn to in case you need help after the production. That’s the power of meeting people and growing a network. It’s also a great way to learn how people in different regions operate. They have as many tips and tricks as you do. Filmmaking is so different than other industries. The more we encourage and learn from each other the better our final products will be. It’s mutually beneficial.
Tip 4: Go hard!
Make sure you get a good night of sleep the day before your shoot begins. Then, attack that shot list! On location, it's always a race against time to capture everything you need before your flight home. Prepare yourself to wake up early and shoot late. When you’re on the road filming it’s like going on a mini-adventure. Your schedule is packed and you’re in go mode for most of the time.
This part of location work can be fun and grueling at the same time. You have to go all out, especially for a client. It’s the little things and the extra effort that separates you from everyone else.
On this trip we started at 6:00am with a good breakfast, (that’s important for a long shooting day too) then we filmed… all day… into the night… everything we could. Even as we traveled in between locations we kept the camera rolling for any exciting b-roll we could get.
But traveling should be fun, especially if you’re somewhere you’ve never been before.
Tip 5: Take some time to enjoy it
Just because you’re working hard doesn’t mean you can’t have fun doing it. In between takes, keep it light and fun. While you’re running around the city to different locations, take it in. Talk to people. You’re going to stand out. You’re the one with a camera rig and lens bag.
When you’re talking to locals ask them where they love to go eat or grab a drink. If you can, book an extra day of your trip to enjoy the travel and schedule flights that don’t kill your sleep routine. While your work schedule might be grueling, try to keep at least one pleasurable travel experience for yourself. It’s a nice reward for a hard day’s work.
Toronto is a beautiful city and we hope we can go back soon. Before that, we've got a lot more travel on the calendar. We'll be back with more advice about working on location soon.Have a question or need consulting on this topic?
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