Production Tip: Maximizing Free Locations

Shooting on little to no budget can be daunting. While you may be able to call in favors for people in front of and behind the camera and wrangle equipment with the promise of more favors, one of the hardest elements required for filmmaking to arrange for on little to no budget are locations. Whether it’s a home, a bar, a restaurant, or an open field, you need to shoot your project somewhere and you’re likely to have to contend with some difficulties trying to make the location fit your vision. When you find a versatile and inexpensive (or better yet: free) location milk that space for all its worth. We’ve certainly done that on many of our projects.

One such example is Brighton Beach/Coney Island beach and boardwalk. About two years ago, Nicole and Yessica Curiel Montoya shot half of her “Joan of Arc” segment for the anthology Bring Us Your Women there. Years ago, she shot a bunch of footage to be projected during The Shondes set at their Hartzveytik event there. She’s worked on friends’ shoots there. And, most recently, she directed not one but two 4MileCircus productions that were largely shot there: Mare and The Shondes new music video Everything Good.

Another example is the now closed People Lounge bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Sean helped out on Christina Raia’s web series Kelsey in 2013 and that series utilized the bar to stand in for multiple locations throughout the season including 2 different bars and 2 different restaurants. With a little set dressing and taking care with camera angles they made it work. Since working on Kelsey, Sean utilized the inexpensive versatile space offered by the People Lounge while shooting his feature film, Meme (coming soon).

If you find a solid, cheap or free location, use it. Reuse it. Creatively repurpose it. If something works, work it. Locations can make or break a project–aesthetically and financially. Brainstorm what you can get for free or cheap, and what you can do with it. Not much can compete with the splendor of nature and historic landmarks, like the old boardwalk so heavily featured in Everything Good. Think where you might be able to shoot in your area. And as long as you’re not repeating yourself otherwise, don’t worry about using the same location twice.

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