#locations

Location Scouting

Here are some guidelines & policies as you begin location scouting for your project.

Location Searching

You can do a virtual scout through Google maps/street view. If you need to know who owns a particular property, you can do a search on the Leon County Property Appraiser site. Searching by address, or pointing to it on a map, will show you who owns the property. Then you’ll need to do some more google-sleuthing to find out their contact info.

You can also look for locations by driving around and just showing up at the location to ask in person. Be considerate of the time of day (e.g. if it’s a home, then not too early in the morning nor after dark; if it’s a restaurant, not during their lunch rush).

We do not currently have a searchable location database. If you know of a location that was used in a previous project, you can find that project in Motion and find the location info under the Location tab for that project.

COVID-19 Protocols

Be particularly vigilant about following covid protocols. Here is some more info on this in the handbook.

Safety

When showing up at someone’s home, be sure to take safety precautions. Not everyone appreciates having strangers show up at their front door. Being able to show some credentials will help identify you as a film student.

  • Here is a link to our Location Pamphlet in the handbook that you can print and hand out to them.
  • You should also have your student ID on you for further identification.
  • You can also check out from the ER a large car magnet with the FSU logo and “Location Scouting Vehicle” on it that you can put on your car door.
  • Consider going in pairs so you know someone’s got your back.

Communication

Always be professional and courteous. Remember that you’re asking them to do you a big favor. Be sure to discuss:

  • all of the logistics involved
  • the content of the script (especially if there may be anything objectionable)
  • the dates (not just production, but pre-pro also for tech scouting, set dressing, shot designing, photoboarding, etc)
  • the spaces you want to use (not just set, but also all the equipment staging areas, greenroom, craft services, parking, etc)

Location Rental fees

Historically, we have seldom had to pay to use a location. Most of the time, people have been very generous in allowing us to film without charging us anything. The exception to this may be for places that normally charge for their use (e.g. a hotel room), or that require that you pay one of their employees to be there on the shoot date (e.g. at a business). If they do want to charge you, make sure you’re clear on what the rate will be.

Documentation

While location scouting, be sure to complete a Location Hazard Assessment form. This will help you identify any hazards that may be at that location. If there are any, and you’re still planning to use that location then you must also complete a Hazard Notification form for each hazard, detailing how the production will deal with the hazard in a safe manner.

Ask the location owner the questions that are listed on the Location Shooting Plan Agreement and fill in the answers they give you. Do not give them a blank form and ask them to fill it out for you. Then have them sign on page 2 and give them a copy of this form for their reference. You will also complete and have them sign a Location Agreement.

Location Search Responsibilities

Typically on most projects, searching for locations is a team effort, led mostly by the Director and Producer, though other pre-pro crew members can certainly assist. It is fine if someone other than the Producer makes initial contact with the location owner, but the Producer should be the one who completes all of the paperwork with them.

Documentary Tech Scouts

Under normal circumstances, it is not uncommon for documentary filmmakers to shoot in unfamiliar or uncontrollable locations. The COVID era is of course far from normal, however, so we must pay much stricter attention to how shooting locations are scouted, prepped, and secured. One of the most important steps in this process is performing a tech scout at the location, ideally at least a day in advance of the actual shooting, so that a safety plan can be developed for how the production day will be run.

Prior to the Tech Scout

As early in the process as possible, begin to gather information about any locations you are considering. This will enable you to anticipate more things in advance of arriving at the location for the tech scout. For example:

  • If possible, visit the location in-person to scope it out, take photos, and make some preliminary notes about how you’ll use the location.
  • If it’s not possible to scope it out yourself, ask the owner or someone with access to the location to send you photos or video walkthroughs.
  • See if you can get hold of a floor plan and measurements, so that you can start mapping out the production zones. Looking up the street view and satellite view on Google Maps can also be helpful too.

At the tech scout

The tech scout should ideally be completed at least one day in advance of shooting at the location, with all crew members present. If that is not possible, you’ll need to get approval in advance from Tony to do a tech scout on the same day as production, and you’ll need to allow for at least one hour to complete the scout.

  • Treat locations as if they are infected and use PPE accordingly. Do not touch items native to the location while scouting unless absolutely necessary.
  • Have as much conversation outdoors as possible.
  • Try to maximize space and air flow when selecting spaces to shoot. Plan to film outdoors as much as possible.
  • Create a plan for maintaining a secure perimeter at the location for a controlled work area, free from outsiders to the production.
  • Create a sanitization plan for the location:
    • What surfaces need disinfecting?
    • Who will be responsible for doing this?
    • When and how frequently will it occur?
  • Map out spaces for:
    • Parking;
    • Staging equipment;
    • Green room (if needed);
    • Shooting spaces;
    • Outdoor mask-free zone – with room for physical distancing;
    • Lunch – with room for physical distancing.
  • Assess and determine:
    • If any spaces will make physical distancing difficult;
    • Access to bathrooms and hand-washing/sanitizing stations;
    • Whether any special considerations need to be made regarding air flow and/or HVAC, especially in Zone A areas.

Information for Location Owners

If you are reading this, then most likely one of our students has asked you if they can use your home or place of business as a film set. We appreciate you taking the time to consider this request and sincerely hope you can help our students. We make nearly 200 films a year and without the generous support of people like yourself, we simply couldn’t do it.

Your gift to our students is important to us. We hold our students to the highest standards of professionalism, and stress the importance of working in a safe, courteous, and organized manner. We know how valuable your property is to you, and we understand that asking you to share it with us is a huge imposition. And with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic we understand that any concerns about allowing students into your home or place of business are elevated right now. The protection of you and your property is our number one priority, and the school has developed strict safety protocols to mitigate risks posed by the pandemic.

WHAT TO EXPECT

How many people will be here?

It takes many people to make a film. A typical student crew consists of 12-15 students, plus actors and a couple of extra volunteers. Be sure to ask how many students, actors, and volunteers will be involved.

What will they bring?

It takes a lot of equipment to make a movie; cameras, sound, lights, stands, sand bags, rigging gear, generators, cables, camera dollies, and more. Our students are trained to operate this equipment safely and securely. Be sure to ask where this equipment will be “staged” when not in use, where the main cables will be run, and where trucks and cars will be parked.

How long will they be here?

Our students work by union rules, which stipulate the number of hours they are able to work. A typical work day is 12 hours, plus one hour for lunch. However, the crew will begin arriving approximately a half-hour before work and usually take a half-hour at the end of the day to pack up and clean. Be sure to ask what time the crew will begin to arrive and what time the last person will leave. In addition, the students will typically need to come to the location to plan and decorate in the days leading up to the shoot.

COVID-19 protocols

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Film School is operating under a set of heightened safety protocols based on new industry guidelines and practices. These protocols include seven overarching principles:

  1. Preparation
  2. Scope management
  3. A “zone” system
  4. Health monitoring
  5. Physical distancing
  6. Face covering
  7. Sanitization

In preparation for each production day, students have a series of logistics meetings with their instructors to ensure that all safety concerns are being thought through. This includes a “tech scout” to determine a specific plan for the safe use of your location — such as how the location will be sanitized at the start and end of production, how the physical space will be organized into different zones to protect personnel, how the location will be secured to prevent outside people from wandering onto set, and how the crew and location owners will keep each other safe.

For the shooting day itself, the students are required to follow a detailed daily production protocol that outlines all the extra safety precautions they need to take throughout the day to mitigate the risks posed by the pandemic. By following these protocols, students will enter each shooting day with sense of mindfulness and caution, and with specific, well-organized safety procedures for the production.

Location agreements

If you choose to donate the use of your property, be sure that the following happens:

  1. The student gives you a copy of the script and answers any questions you may have.
  2. The student completes with you a Location Shooting Plan Agreement that states in written form exactly where they may work, where they may park their vehicles, what times they have access and any other terms which you may wish to stipulate.
  3. The student presents you with a Location Agreement to sign. This allows us to use the location and waives your liability should one of our students get hurt.

Distant Location Approval Process

BFA AND MFA THESIS FILMS

BFA and MFA thesis films may request permission to shoot at a distant location outside of the studio zone. Please note however that — due to the added complexity of shooting films at distant locations, the added wear-and-tear on school equipment, and the added stress placed on the crew — shooting at a distant location is not approved automatically. It’s a privilege that needs to be earned.

The Producer will need to present a thorough plan to the Head of Production (Tony) that addresses the following:

  1. A description of the distant location.
  2. Why this location is essential to the success of the film.
  3. The schedule of travel days and drive times during the production week.
  4. A budget/plan for transporting, housing, and feeding the cast and crew for the duration of the distant shoot.
  5. A budget/plan for transporting, housing, and feeding a faculty member for the duration of the distant shoot.
  6. A plan for transporting, parking, and securing school vehicles and equipment during the distant shoot.
  7. A back-up plan if the camera or other essential equipment goes down.
  8. A schedule showing key deadlines for locking locations, securing accommodations, and any other critical plans. Permission for shooting at a distant location will be revoked if these deadlines are not hit, and the production will need to shoot locally.
  9. A local back-up plan, in case permission is not granted and/or the distant location falls through.

The request to shoot at a distant location should be made to the Head of Production as early as possible in the development/pre-production process, and no later than two weeks before the first day of production on the show. The Head of Production’s decision on whether to approve or deny a distant location request is final.

Studio Zone

The College of Motion Picture Arts has an established “studio zone” for local productions. The zone is based on a set driving distance from University Center A. All shoots within the zone are considered “local” productions; all shoots outside the zone are considered “distant” productions.

Inside the Zone

All F1, F2, F3, D1, and D2 productions must shoot within the studio zone. This restriction is in place for a number of reasons: to make it possible for faculty and staff to visit locations during preps and shoots; to reduce wear and tear on production vehicles; and, for safety reasons, to place a cap on driving times for cast and crew.

Outside the Zone

Under some circumstances, BFA and MFA Thesis productions are permitted to shoot outside of the studio zone. Permission must be attained in advance by submitting a Distant Location Request to supervising faculty members, the Head of Set Operations, the Head of Production, and the Associate Dean.

Documentary productions are also permitted to shoot outside of the zone. Permission must be attained in advance from the Documentary instructor.

Location Damage

Each crewmember should make every effort to protect the location from any damage. If a crewmember does cause damage to the location, that crewmember should immediately notify the Producer. The Producer should notify the location owner or authorized agent, and then take whatever steps are necessary to repair the damage as quickly as possible and to the owner’s satisfaction.

If an individual crewmember is responsible for causing the damage, that crewmember is solely responsible for paying for the cost of the repairs. If multiple crewmembers are responsible for causing the damage, each crewmember must pay an equal portion of all repair costs. If it can not be determined who caused the damage, the Producer and the Director must pay an equal portion of all repair costs.

Location Shooting Policies

Location shoots are defined as any productions shot away from the immediate facilities of the College, located in University Center A.

The College relies heavily on the generosity of location owners to support our productions, so it is the responsibility of students to be good ambassadors for the College and leave location owners with a positive impression of the production.

Please note that it is not a requirement, necessity, or right for students to shoot on location. The College reserves the right to deny location shooting privileges to any production for any reason, be it safety, distance, community relations, storytelling concerns, or other factors.

Producer Responsibility

The Producer is responsible for communicating with the location owner or authorized agent all pertinent information concerning the production. Initially, this should include the schedule, the use of potentially hazardous conditions (e.g., weapons, animals, open flames, smoking, etc.), and potentially objectionable content (e.g., violence, profanity, sexual situations, drug use, etc.). 

The Producer is responsible for getting a signed Location Agreement and Location Shooting Plan from each location where the company will be staged and/or filming. The location owner or authorized agent must sign these agreements prior to the start of any work at the location.

The Producer is required to complete and submit a Location Hazard Assessment checklist for each filming location prior to Production Prep. If any location hazards have been identified, then the Producer should complete a Hazard Notification Report to provide more information about the hazard and what corrective action will be taken.

The Producer should also do a walk-through of the location with the location owner or authorized agent after the company has wrapped from the location in order to make sure the location has been returned to a satisfactory condition.

Local vs. Distant Locations

Local Locations

A local location is any location within the school’s studio zone.

When shooting at a local location the travel time will always be calculated from the College’s production offices in University Center A to the location base camp area, regardless of where individual crew members live.

Each day of production is allotted a penalty-free, one-way drive time of 30 minutes at the speed of the Grip Truck. Any distance from the production office to the location that exceeds 30 minutes will be considered a drive-time penalty and that additional time is subtracted from the 12-hour shooting day. Any drive-time over 30 minutes is a minute-for-minute penalty. Any unused time of distances shorter than 30 minutes may not be added to the shooting day or applied towards overtime.

All F1, F2, F3, D1, and D2 productions must be shot at local locations within the studio zone.

Distant Locations

A distant location is any location outside of the school’s studio zone. When shooting at a distant location the travel time from the production office will always be calculated from the hotel or temporary residence where the BTL crew is being accommodated.

Each day of production is allotted a penalty-free, one-way drive time of 30 minutes at the speed of the Grip Truck. Any distance from the production office to the location that exceeds 30 minutes will be considered a drive-time penalty and that additional time is subtracted from the 12-hour shooting day. Any drive-time over 30 minutes is a minute-for-minute penalty. Any unused time of distances shorter than 30 minutes may not be added to the shooting day or applied towards overtime.

Documentaries, BTH, and MTH productions may request approval to shoot at distant locations outside of the studio zone.

Inquiry Letter to Location Owners

Below is sample verbiage that you may use when contacting location owners by letter or email. Replace the elements in parentheses with the specifics for your particular request. You can, of course, also use this as the basis of a script for when you talk directly with a location owner.

Dear (location owner’s name),

Hello, my name is (your name) and I am a student at the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. My team and I are currently in pre-production for a short film that I’m producing. The film is a (genre) and a few of the scenes take place in (briefly describe location). During a recent location scout we noticed your (home/office/location) and felt it might be just perfect for the project. We have some flexibility on the filming date but ideally our shoot would take place on (date) and between the hours of (when to when)

If you wouldn’t mind, I would love to take a few minutes of your time to talk about our film and see if arrangements could be made to film at your (home/office/location)

Safety is of utmost concern for our team. Our film crew is well-trained and professionally advised. Our crew understands the importance of working professionally with location owners and we take this responsibility seriously.

With regard to COVID, we maintain industry-standard protocols and establish proper “safe zones” on all of our film sets. This includes having one crew member assigned as the set steward to ensure protocols are being met and followed. Our crew and actors take extreme precaution with regard to masking, distancing, and sanitation. Barring when the camera is “rolling” all crew and talent remain masked and distanced. 

Please feel free to email me, or call at the number below if you would be interested in discussing the possibility of hosting our film shoot. 

All community support we receive comes with a special thanks credit at the end of each film. 

We appreciate your time and consideration. 

Sincerely,

(Your full name)
(Your crew position)
(Your email)
(Your cell)