“On Location”

All this talk about new locations and sound stages got us thinking about the very concept of location and what it means to be on-location. So in this issue of Tips and Points, we discuss the challenges of coordinating an out-of-town shoot.

Many projects require footage from other locations around the world. The first question that always arises is: Should people be sent to those locations or hired from those locations? In order to answer that question, first ask yourself the following:

Who is this project for, your site or the out-of-town site?

If the project is being made for the latter, it is best to have someone from that location coordinate the people and events to be shot and to interface with the camera crew. If the project is for you, you may want to be there or you will need to send someone there whom is experienced with video in order to get the shots and/or sound-bites that you need. Ideally, there is upfront planning and communication about the objectives of the shoot with point-people from both locations.

Who is putting the piece together?

Presumably, you have already determined who is writing the script and editing the video. That production entity should be able to help you make a decision about the out-of-town shoot. Since the scripting and editing processes can be extensive, it is important that those resources are near you.

Once you have determined your client point-person and your main production entity, discuss the following with each of them: How much screen time is devoted to the out-of-town location? If only short references are made in the video to this location, the issues involved with producing these shoots are not as critical. For example, your video may only require an exterior building shot, in which case a local videographer can be contracted and sent to get the footage without a great deal of consultation and instruction. An existing photo or broadcast-quality video may also serve the purpose. If the footage needs to be more extensive or specific, the video crew will need more guidance and the shoot will require more coordination.

How many locations are involved?

With multiple out-of-town locations, it becomes even more imperative to have at least one person responsible for the overall message of the video to go to each location in order to maintain consistency. The project should ideally be shot with the same kind of camera and with similar lighting styles, etc.

Once you have answered these questions, you can weigh the pros and cons of hiring locally versus sending a crew.

Finding and hiring an out-of-town production resource

Keep in mind that production company rates may vary from city to city, as may the levels of service and quality they can provide. In certain remote areas, it is simply not an option to hire a local crew. Again consult with the video production company in your area. If the production company chooses to subcontract the shoot to a local resource they use, then they are responsible for the quality and for payment.

If you are searching these capabilities yourself, the Net is an excellent resource for locating resources as are production manuals available from State Film Commissions (many of which also offer web-sites). Look well ahead of the shoot date if possible, so you can review references and demo materials from prospects, just as you would for a turn-key job. A post-production facility may also be able to recommend to you locals crews they are familiar with. Keep in mind that hiring an out-of-town production resource will most likely entail paying C.O.D.

Arranging Crew Travel

Shoot day rates may already be covered in the original budget, but travel expenses are subject to so much change, that they are best left off the production company’s proposal. Let them worry about the video and call a travel agent to get an approximation of average air fares and the advance purchase requirements. If you make the reservations yourself, you do not face the risk of paying for a mark-up, plus most production companies would prefer that the client handles this.

Similarly, hotel accommodations and rent-cars can be reserved in advance on the client’s credit card, even though the persons traveling may be required to produce their own credit cards by certain establishments. Meals, parking, transfers, tips and tolls are all reimbursable travel expenses that should be accounted for. These costs do add up, but keep in mind that you may be getting certain volume discounts from hiring one supplier to turn-key produce the entire project as opposed to hiring several different contractors in each city. It is even possible to fly a crew to more than one location in a day, but pushing a crew too hard will meet with diminished results.

Consider the travel time involved for the crew as part of the shoot day. Some companies will bill for the time sitting on an airplane at a reduced rate; some will not bill at all, but it should be factored into the total hours worked for the day. Also allow for time-zone changes and the time needed to adjust to them. For long distances, it is best to fly-out the evening before the shoot, if possible. Most production companies will not charge for their time if it allows them a good night’s sleep before a shoot.