Make Smart Scripts Using Smart Locations
NOTE: The following article is written by staff at Wrapal.
Pre-production can be tough. From securing equipment to securing crew, and especially when securing locations, there’s a lot to keep in mind when getting your production off the ground. If you’re a writer, the way you craft the script can lend itself to the way the production process is handled, particularly when securing locations. Keeping track of what locations you need and how much each might cost to use can set your project up for success even before you hit save in [Insert Screenwriting Software of Choice Here]
What’ll It Be?
When setting out to write your screenplay, it’s important to know or at least have a firm idea of what you plan to do with it. If this is just going to be a spec or writing sample to send in to agents or showrunners, then go nuts with it, because if you don’t plan to get your script produced, optimizing it for production might be unnecessary.
However, if you do want to get it produced and/or trust that you have an army of CG artists waiting in the wings...Read on! Because you’ll definitely want to keep the budget in mind.
Remember that everything you put on the page somehow has to end up on the screen, so if you’re concerned about budgetary restraints, it’s good to have a grasp on what might cost what, what it might take to get a certain shot, and even how much time it’ll take to shoot.
A good way to keep track of things is to outline your script. Whether it’s a treatment or perhaps even a beat sheet, having a general road map of the twists and turns your screenplay will take can help you keep track of the big picture and what you’ll need to produce it.
One popular method is to create a script breakdown. If you’ve never had to make one, it’s a useful skill to pick up. While there is specialized software you can purchase to make it simpler, you can still accomplish a basic version by marking your script into eighths and classifying the different elements you’re concerned with, including the locations, props, actions, stunts, etc.
For instance, a warehouse might charge a base rate of $1,000 per 12 hour day, and if you’re shooting a short film, it’s important to know how much that can add up to and how long it could take to get the coverage you need before deciding on it as your location. You don’t want to have to cut the shooting day of your character’s climactic inspiring speech short because you underestimated how much it would cost to keep your location. Fortunately, location websites like Wrapal.com make things easier by listing the price range up front.
Setting the Scene
It’s also important to consider the artistic aspects of your locations, as they will create the mood of your piece and will be more than just a backdrop to the action. Reacquaint yourself with the idea of mise-en-scene (Unless you just went over this in your film aesthetics class), the concept of objects in the shot that can add context to the story. Certain locations can naturally contribute these things to your project, even the architectural style itself. Something gothic or victorian can give your location a creepy vibe, and a mid century modern home might ground it in reality or give it a sense of nostalgia.
Even going so far as to consider the texture and natural lighting of an interior space can enhance the tone of your project. Consider the church in Kill Bill Vol. 2; The interior is very simple, referencing the life that The Bride is looking for, but the lighting is also dark and somber, underscoring the dangerous nature of the wedding. Even the exterior shots help to flesh out the context of the scene, thanks to the desolate but isolated landscape surrounding the building.
Also consider a set like The Red Room from Twin Peaks, with its scarlet curtains and black and white zigzag floor that accentuates how strange and off-putting literally everything about Twin Peaks is.
It’s also worth considering narratively how a certain type of structure or location fits into or enhances your script. For instance, a large open space like a field, or even a home with an open floor plan and few items of furniture could help elicit a feeling of loneliness for your character after their “all is lost” moment. Or you can pick a study filled with papers and junk to emphasize an intellectual character’s cluttered mind. It’s important to consider how the locations you choose can affect the final shot, and they certainly should be included when doing preliminary script breakdowns.
Sometimes things happen during production where you’re unable to use the perfect location you planned for. Whether someone didn’t carry the 3 in the pre-pro budget or someone in the cast or crew wasn’t clear on the property owner’s ground rules, it’s always good to be flexible in terms of what locations can achieve the desired narrative or cinematic effect. Think about how you can get one location to play for another if necessary. Consider using location marketplace sites like Wrapal.com to find alternate locations in case you need something that can be easily used as a substitute in a pinch.
Budgets and cinematic effects seem like a lot to keep in mind when crafting a script, but that’s what revisions and multiple drafts are for. If you can keep a handle on what your location needs are financially and cinematically, your production should go a lot smoother. And even if you feel like you’re writing with constraints, it can actually be better for you because once you can write well within those constraints, you’ll be able to do much more with much less.
Wrapal is revolutionizing the location scouting process by connecting filmmakers and photographers that need locations with property owners who want to make extra money. Finding film locations in Los Angeles and New York has never been easier!