1) Hi – I’m doing a short film/student film/thesis film/low-budget/no-budget film, and need a location. I want to shoot for several days but have only allocated about $200 for the locations budget. Can you help?
Unfortunately, I probably can’t.
For the longest time, I tried to help out student and aspiring filmmakers with cheap locations, but the sad fact is that New York City is a very expensive place, and I’ve only worked on films that literally pay thousands, if not tens of thousands, for a couple days of filming. Finding an apartment or office to let in a group of young filmmakers for under a thousand dollars for days on end is simply unrealistic.
I’m happy to offer advice. But keep in mind, the first thing I’m going to ask is: why don’t you have a bigger locations budget? For some reason, low budget film productions make the mistake of spending all their money on the tech side, assuming the talent, crew, and location will all sort of magically appear.
Your location is literally the canvas on which you paint your film. If you write a screenplay in which a brownstone plays a pivotal role, that brownstone is just as important as your Red One camera rental. And if you can’t afford a brownstone, why did you write a screenplay that takes place in one to begin with?
Have a locations budget. Write around locations you have access to. Friends and family are your best bet. And when you can’t find a location, rewrite.
2) I’m working on a movie/TV/photo shoot with a budget. How does this work?
Shoot me an email with your budget first and your locations second, and I’ll get back to you quickly about how I can help.
3) What is this blog about?
I work as a film location scout in New York City. My day is basically spent combing the streets for interesting and unique locations for feature films. I started this blog to document the things I see along the way that interest, impress, or inspire me. Some of these are hidden gems. Others are in plain sight, but often ignored, or taken for granted. Others still are locations everyone knows about that I love regardless.
4) What is this blog not about?
This is not a blog documenting the behind-the-scenes action on New York film shoots. I never post pictures of any location that is actively being considered for inclusion in a feature film, or a location I was granted access to under restricted permission.
5) Are you willing to be interviewed? Would you write an article for an outside publication?
Yes – just shoot me an email at email@example.com. Here is a short list of some recent media appearances:
- The NY Times – Ask A Film Location Scout feature: Bio | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3
- Interview on The Brian Lehrer Show
- 2-Page Article for The New York Post: Hidden Gems of a Lost City
- Scouting NY on the Huffington Post
- Interview on Gothamist.com
6) Is there a map that would make it easier to find the places and things you’ve written about?
7) How do you become a location scout?
Most people who do it “just fall into it” one way or another. I tell people that if they’re really interested and live in major cities, they should write to their local Mayor’s Office of Film/TV/Theater and ask for a list of productions shooting in the area. Get the fax numbers and send over a resume addressed to the Location Department asking for scouting work. Though you can mention your abilities as a photographer, it’s far more important to stress your knowledge of the city and your social skills (in my experience, I’ve found that few productions are concerned with what kind of camera you have, or how artistic your pictures are; I started with a $200 Canon point-and-shoot, and when I finally upgraded to a really expensive DSLR, I don’t think anyone noticed a difference).
8 ) I live in New York City and was very aware of something you posted. Why do I feel the need to let everyone know that what you posted is old news, that I knew all about it long before it appeared on your site, and that you should really try harder in the future to impress me?
I’m not quite sure. I’d be annoyed by this kind of attitude, except that I’ve definitely been guilty of it myself on occasion. It’s just something to do with living in New York. Not only do you want everyone to know you live here, you also want them to know that you’ve seen it all. You’re handed this attitude with your apartment key when you first move here. It might also have to do with this.
9) Why do you only post about Manhattan/Times Square/Canal St/Soho/Williamsburg/Greenpoint/Astoria/[insert touristy/gentrified neighborhood here], you tourist/yuppie?? Why not find some treasures in real neighborhoods like East New York, Jamaica, The Bronx, Staten Island/[insert non-touristy/non-gentrified neighborhood here]?
If it were up to me, I’d absolutely spend my days exploring neighborhoods that are off the beaten trail. Frankly, it’s boring going around the same Manhattan streets again and again. However, my job is location scouting, not this website, so my posts are dependent on where I’m sent on a given day. On the film I’m currently scouting, for example, I’ve spent a lot of time in Manhattan, while on the last job, I practically lived up in the Bronx.
10) You guys shoot in my neighborhood all the time – what gives?? Why can’t you make your movie somewhere else?!?
If we shoot in your neighborhood all the time, it means you are probably lucky enough to live on a very beautiful or iconic block. Guess what – it’s New York City, and while you might own your apartment, the city is shared by all of us. Don’t be the guy who lives near Times Square and complains about the tourists. Take it as a compliment that we care to be there at all.
11) But the shooting can be such an inconvenience! The truck noise at 5am, the pushy PA’s preventing me from walking to my building, the lack of parking…You guys suck!
I generally have two responses to this. One, when we shoot in a neighborhood, it’s a big influx of cash to the area. We give money not only to the shooting location, but also to neighbors, stores, and churches or halls that we rent out for catering. It’s an inconvenience – I hate not being able to find a parking space when they shoot on my block (which they do a LOT). But there is an upside to it that will probably indirectly benefit you.
Second: think of your favorite movie shot in NY. Is it Godfather? Annie Hall? Ghostbusters? Let me tell you something, a LOT of people were inconvenienced on all those movies. Godfather shut down the 59th Street bridge, Ghostbusters shut down Columbus Circle. But long after the annoyance of having to slightly adjust your route home is forgotten, I think we can agree that they were worth the inconvenience. I personally think it’s very valuable to be the defining American city in most metropolitan film productions. If NYC were an actor, it would be the Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt of cities. There’s a reason people are not desperate to shoot in Philly, Chicago, or Boston. I promise, you will notice the day when people no longer care to shoot in New York.
Finally, if you’re really, really don’t feel like helping out the production, just tell the PA to go to hell and brush past him…Legally, he can’t touch you.
-SCOUT (last updated 4/11/2010)