Location, Location, Location!
If you had asked me in film school, "Will you be my locations person?" I would have walked away laughing--I know, I was kind of rude back then. Maybe it was the idea of sitting in a location until the entire crew left and then cleaning up their trash that turned me off. Or maybe it was begging someone to use their place and promising not to mess it up, but being a locations anything sounded worse than craft services. Um, yes I will guard the food... It would really be my pleasure. As I've gotten older though, I've started to really enjoy location scouting.
Without a doubt, I love shooting on location and traveling for different assignments more than studio work. It's one of the best parts of the job. Of course it gets frustrating when you've been searching for a few days and still haven't locked a location. But, over the years I've learned a few tricks that I always use whenever I'm on a location scout.
First, dress like you're going to an interview. This may seem obvious, but I've worked on plenty of films where I've sent people home for dressing inappropriately. You don't want to wear your work clothes on the scout. If you're asking someone to borrow their land, house, or whatever it may be, whether you're offering them compensation or not, you want to appear as if you're responsible and will take good care of their property.
Next, bring a location release. It doesn't have to be anything fancy and can be as simple as stating when you and your crew will be arriving, wrapping and anything you are offering for the use of their property, facades and signage. Be honest and accurate and generally speaking, if they are already agreed to let you use their property, the location owner should have no problem accomodating your additional requests.
Finally, when you're wrapping for the day, clean up!!! Even if that's not your crushed beer can in the woods, pick it up and throw it away. We don't drink on set, but I've had some location owners swear to me that my crew left a case of beer in the woods. I'm sure some rednecks dumped that years ago, but leaving the property in better shape than when you arrived will get you bonus points. Especially if you're coming back the next day... and the next.
After the shoot, always follow through. At the very least, make sure you show the location owner a copy of the final product. Whether you're taking photos or making a film, they want to see it! It's no big deal anymore to send someone an email with a few attachments. Don't flake out at the end. If you broke something, most owners do not want you to fix it. Instead, bring some flowers and a card. A genuine apology will get you a lot further than you think and keep you and your crew on good terms.
Sure, this advice may have been common sense to some of you, but when your grip and electric team walks off at the end of the day with grip tape stuck to the hardwood floors and black wrap scattered throughout the house, you'll wish you had a copy of this to show them!