Student Handbook

Locations

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Locations Off Campus

General Location Information for off Campus Productions

The slug line in the script describes a “set”. Sets are either on stage or on location. There are local locations (those places within commuting distance) and distant locations (those places requiring overnight lodging).

Location or Soundstage

Shooting on a stage gives you greater control and the Permanent Set and other locations on the campus of CalArts can provide you with the necessary spaces for some of your productions.

The selection of a good location is essential to a successful project, not only in the way it affects the aesthetics of the picture, but also in the way it impacts the logistics of the production. An inappropriate location choice can result in wasted money, time and energy. As important as the selection of a good location is, however, the search for one is commonly passed off as a tedious and time-consuming chore.

Breakdown

The first step is to make a list of all the sets in your script – and where they will be – on stage or on location. If you have an art director, discuss colors, décor and other requirements for each set. Do the same for lighting, camera and sound.

Scouting

The usual process is to begin with secondary sources – location files, guidebooks, Chambers of Commerce, etc. The California Film Commission, Film LA and The Santa Clarita Film Office maintain websites with a large number of locations. You can access them at:

If secondary sources prove unsuccessful, it becomes necessary to get in a car and check out primary sources. All potential locations should be documented. Take photographs – panoramas are best. Write down the addresses, contact names, emails, phone numbers, and any other relevant data. Put all this in individual folders and create one for each location scouted.

Suitability

In selecting a location, appearance is only a part of the determination. Other factors are:

  • Permission
    Do not waste time on places you cannot get. This applies to locations you cannot afford. Not everyone is going to let you shoot on their property for free.
  • Existing Light 
    How does the sun affect your location? Can the windows be blacked-out for “night” scenes to be shot during the day? Is it in a canyon that only gets a few hours of sun each day?
  • Sound
    Consider air traffic and street noise, machinery and appliances, pets and children. Keep in mind that one on the biggest time-wasters while shooting on location is waiting for silence. Check the location at night if you plan to shoot there at night.
  • Access 
    Exterior parking spaces, road conditions (can the cast and crew actually get to the location?), interior elevators.
  • Restrictions 
    Are there time limitations? Some communities limit the hours of filming. Will you be restricted to the number of people or vehicles you can bring to the location, or the type of scene you can stage at the particular place?
  • Electrical Power 
    Is there sufficient power for your lighting needs? Will you have to rent a generator?
  • Destructability 
    How “student-proof ” is your location? Are there fragile objects too valuable to replace? What about carpeting, woodwork and artwork? No matter how careful you are, there will be damage – count on it.  
  • Neighbors 
    If your scene involves stopping traffic, blocking streets, working late at night or creating an inconvenience in some way you need to make sure the neighbors are agreeable – in advance.
  • Comfort and Safety
    Will the location be a safe and comfortable place? Is there a place where actors can change, rest areas and bathrooms? Is there proper air- conditioning, heating or ventilation? Is the location structurally sound and free of toxic materials? Do you know where the closest medical, fire and police stations are?

You should always have choices in case there is a problem with a particular location.

Technical Scout

The director / producer reviews the location folders – reduce the choices – then visits the potential locations with key crew members. The Technical Scout should include the Director, Producer, 1st AD, Cinematographer, Gaffer, Key Grip and Art Director.

The Director walks the location explaining how they plans to shoot the scene. The key technicians evaluate the location in light of that information as it relates to their area of responsibility. It is a good idea to document the scout with a digital still camera and to make a map of the location showing access, parking and so on.

Keep in mind that compromises will more than likely be necessary.

Securing the Location

Ideally, the location will be free – if not, a deal will have to be negotiated with the property owner. If you are lucky enough to get the location for free, offer some sort of compensation or gift to show your appreciation. Make sure you get the deal in writing. Additionally, you will have to (if necessary):

  • Provide a Certificate of Insurance to the property owner.
  • Have the property owner sign a Location Release.
  • Get neighbors permission if required.
  • Get a Filming Permit from the city, county or state.
  • Arrange for Police and/or Fire personnel if required.
  • Arrange for cast and crew parking.
  • Have the streets posted “NO PARKING” if necessary.
  • Make maps for the cast and crew.

Location Golden Rule

Good locations amenable to student filmmaking are difficult enough to find. Keep your promises and follow the owner’s instructions. Leave the location in better condition than you found it!

Here are the guidelines issued by FilmLA with each permit. You are required to follow them and should post them on your set while on location.

FILMMAKERS’ CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

The production company must comply with the provisions of the film permit at all times. Removing, trimming and/or cutting of vegetation or trees is prohibited unless approved by the owner, or in the case of parkway trees, the local municipality and property owner

The Filmmakers’ Code of Professional Responsibility will be attached to every permit, and both must be shown to any member of the public that asks to see them. If not specified in the permit, an area for meal service and consumption must be designated. All trash must be disposed of properly upon completion of the meal.

Productions arriving on-location in or near a residential neighborhood shall enter the area no earlier than the time stipulated on the permit. All members of the production company should wear clothing that conforms to good taste and common sense. Shoes and shirts must be worn at all times.

Moving or towing vehicles is prohibited without the express permission of the local municipality or the vehicle owner. Crew members should not display signs, posters or pictures that do not reflect common sense and good taste.

Cast and crew must observe designated parking areas. Parking of cast and crew vehicles on public streets is prohibited unless authorized by the film permit. Cast and crew shall refrain from using lewd or offensive language within earshot of the general public.

Parking on both sides of public streets is prohibited unless specifically authorized by the film permit. Cast and crew must not bring guests or pets to the location unless expressly authorized by the permit.

Production vehicles may not block driveways without the express permission of the local municipality or the driveway owner. All catering, crafts service, construction, strike and personal trash must be removed from the location.

Noise levels should be kept as low as possible. Generators and vehicles producing exhaust should be placed as far as practical from residential buildings. Do not let engines run unnecessarily. All signs removed (or erected) for filming purposes must be replaced (or removed) after use of the location unless otherwise stipulated by the location agreement or permit.
Cast and crew are to remain on or near the area that has been permitted. Do not trespass onto neighboring residential or commercial property. When departing the location, all signs posted to direct production company personnel to the location must be removed.

Designated smoking areas must be observed, and cigarettes must always be extinguished in butt cans. When production ID passes are issued, every crew member must wear the pass while on location.

Problem Locations

There are some locations that pose substantial problems for student filmmaking – primarily due to your lack of budget. As you are writing your script, you should be aware that it is going to be difficult and/or expensive for you to find some types of locations. Some of these are:

  • Businesses (Restaurants, Bars, Grocery Stores, Etc.) 
    The presence of a film shoot is going to mean a loss of revenue to the owners of businesses. If you are able to get a business to agree, you are probably going to have to shoot at odd hours.
  • HOSPITALS 
    Always a tough one.
  • OFFICES 
    If it’s a working office, no one is going to want a film shoot interrupting their normal business activity.
  • Churches
    Their basements are good for holding areas, but the sermon area is bad for filming.

Residences

Unless you know the owner, it is pretty unlikely that anyone is going to let you film in their house for free. There are a number of locations services and studios with standing sets in the Los Angeles area. These are “for profit” enterprises. They normally charge thousands
of dollars per day. They may cut a deal for a student film, but it is still going to cost you hundreds of dollars per day to shoot in their locations or sets.

List of Standing Sets

The following is a list of standing sets. Many of these sets will work out a deal for student filmmakers.

Students can look at various listings on peerspace.com to find a space that fits their needs, though spaces will cost money and are usually expensive.

Wrapping the Location

When you have finished shooting, take before and after photos to document the location’s condition. If you are shooting in someone’s home, consider paying for a professional cleaning service to clean up. Do not burn any bridges. You may want to come back to that location for pickups or re-shoots. Do everything you can to make certain the property owner is pleased before, during and after your shoot.

Locations On Campus

Location Information for Productions on Campus

The CalArts campus is your back-lot. There is a great diversity of locations to be found within walking distance. There is no need to fill out an insurance request form if shooting at CalArts. One thing you must remember: you need permission to shoot anywhere on the campus. If you are filming in a School of Film/Video facility, please contact the supervisor of that facility for procedure. The process for getting permission anywhere else at CalArts is relatively easy. Please follow guidelines laid out below.

  • Scout the campus and get permission to film in the area from the school or person responsible for that area.
  • Get an Event and Performance Checklist from the link or from the mailroom.
  • Fill out the form completely and bring to Production Services for Signature. Then take it to the mail center. They will tell you what else needs to be done.
  • Give yourself at least seven days before you start shooting to have the form approved.
  • If granted permission to shoot on campus, you must observe the rules and guidelines (described on the Approval Form) governing the filming on CalArts property.
  • Some areas that are off limits are:
    • No filming in the dorms unless you have permission.
    • Filming near the dorms, including the pool area, requires approval from Housing.
    • Filming in the Cafe kitchen is off limits; however, filming in the food service area is allowed but requires special consideration (dates, hours requested, availability of campus safety, etc.)
    • No filming on the roofs.
    • Elevators, restrooms, hallways, and stairwells are public areas and are not to be taken out of service for private use. Filming on weekends or early morning hours can sometimes be arranged in these areas.
    • Filming near the ROD and Wild Beast must be approved through the music school.
    • No filming in the Bijou Theater, Tatum, or sublevel without special permission.
    • No filming anywhere on campus the week of CSSSA’s arrival through the end of CSSSA (2nd week of July through 2nd week of August.)

Make a copy of the completed filming approval form and keep it with you when you are shooting – it is proof that you have permission to film in the location.