[Ditty Makes a Short Film] Part 2: Location, Location, Location

Back in March, I set forth my intentions to make a short film.  Well, so far, so good — good enough that I can report that, without a doubt, on May 22, barring any catastrophes, we will in fact be filming.

I’ve been able to secure a cast and crew (i.e., beg my friends and family to help me out), and we were able to find a date that worked.  Score one for Ditty.  Next up?

SECURING A LOCATION

I sent an e-mail to the office manager of the building I wanted to use.  It went something like this:

“I have a short film I’m planning to shoot in May that requires use of a couple of cubicles and an elevator, and I was hoping I might be able to use your facilities. I’m planning the shoot for a Saturday, so there would be no inconvenience to business as usual. I would also ensure that no confidential or company information was visible in any shot.  Is this something your team would allow?  I’d be happy to include a “special thanks” in the credits and answer any questions you might have about the film and crew.”

Unfortunately, my request was declined.  Score one for People Who Make Ditty Sad.  So, it became essential to move on to Plan B (and also to create a Plan C in case Plan B failed, too — I like to be as prepared as possible).

Plan B was to see if I could use the building where my lead actor and actress work.  Thankfully, we received approval for the date we had in mind, so now we’re good to go. If not getting my first choice of location is the only problem I encounter on this shoot, I will be one happy camper, folks.

PREPARING FOR THE VISIT

Because I hadn’t seen the specific places we’d be using for the scenes, I wanted to schedule a location visit well in advance of the shoot.  I asked for about an hourlong window of time, and I prepared a list of things I wanted to look for so I could use everyone’s time efficiently.

  1. Film issues: I wanted to take measurements (especially in the elevator), test movement and angles in the elevator, and test lighting.  I also wanted to get an idea of the cube layout and look at where exactly my single exterior shot would play best.
  2. Set Dressing: I wanted to check for anything that’ll need to be removed from or covered in the cubes for filming (logos, personal information, confidential information, etc.), and I wanted to get an idea of the props we’ll need to bring in.  I also wanted to see the color scheme we’d be working with.
  3. Logistics: I needed to check for outlets, any potential distractions, and any limitations on elevator use (is there an alarm that goes off if the door is held open too long?).  When it gets a little closer to the shoot date, I’ll also look up nearby businesses in case we need anything.

THE VISIT

In short, I found out everything I needed to find out, and I only used about 35 minutes of my hourlong time slot.  I pinpointed a few cubes I wanted to use and took some video so I can get an idea of how the colors play.  I chose cubes that didn’t back up to windows so I didn’t have to worry about the time of day for shooting or about any silhouetting.

We ran into the Guy In Charge of Facilities, which gave me the opportunity to ask about the elevator buzzer.  There is one, but he offered to give us the lock-open key for the shoot, which was serendipitous as it wasn’t something I’d considered.

It turns out that this key will be integral in getting decent shots, as there’s just not enough room in the elevator for the scenes to happen and for me to be in there filming.  A buzzer would have been annoying for the actors, though not a deal breaker as I was informed it doesn’t alert anyone or anything.  But this way we’ll have the best of both worlds.  There’s also an outlet maybe 20 feet from the elevator, which is great.

Also important, the lighting in each location we’ll be using, including the elevator, is completely workable.  I was worried about low lighting in the elevator specifically, since my camera gets a little grainy, but the elevator we’re using is well-lit, and the image looked fine in my test shots.

For my one exterior shot, the main entrance proved satisfactory.  There are logos on the doors, but they aren’t too visible from back where I’d like the shot to happen.  Worst case scenario, I can always cover them up pretty easily, aided by the fact that the doors are heavily tinted.

USING THE INFORMATION

Now that I have an idea of my actual set, I can start storyboarding and creating a shot list more effectively.  I’ve recruited my Sister the Artist as production and wardrobe designer; now she can take a look at the colors and start thinking about a look that will hopefully pop on video.  Basically, now I can start making a concrete plan for Shoot Day, which is both exciting and, if I think about it too much, nerve-wracking. But mostly in a good way.

Once Screnzy fades out, I’ll start working with more focus on the storyboards and shot lists.  So, if you’re interested in following this little adventure, look for more from me in May.

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