Carefully evaluate a potential location. If you don't find what you have preconceived, get a feel of what is already there and try to use it to your advantage. Change your script or preconceptions to fit existing conditions. Using what's already there is usually cheaper, faster and often more realistic.


Don't delay shooting scenics and one-time events. Conditions often change, especially the lighting and weather. Bring a production camera while scouting if only to get an establishing shot, a good sunset or a one-time event. Don't rush shooting real people. Get to know them first.

When faced with the question, "Should I shoot it?" "Tape and film is cheap." If it helps the story, "shoot it". If it is the first time that you see something, shoot. You can shoot it again if you find it better later on, now at least you now have it.

Often that feeling that you should turn back to get something is wise. A few minutes delay can save a much longer trip back later if you don't find it again or something better.

Don't reshoot something if it isn't a lot better than what you already have shot. It's easy to keep shooting something really interesting or exciting when you should, instead, be getting cut-a-ways and coverage and other material needed to advance your story.

Always consider what a small set, props or moving an event can do. Often things happen in a less than ideal shooting location and can be moved for better lighting, sound or backgrounds.

Any location can have people both sympathetic and non-sympathetic to your viewpoint. Your success may dependent upon how you are perceived. Many people distrust reporters, scientists, businessmen, writers, and filmmakers. But tourists and students with the right attitude and appearance are often more readily accepted. Your questions and attitude will often determine your access to things. Think about what you say and ask. Make sure it will be HEARD as intended. If you have a cause, suppress your need to tell people about it. They may or may not be sympathetic or understand it. They may pass your tale or their interpretation of it to others that may see you as a threat. Be considerate, listen, and don't tread on people or their turf. .

When dealing in foreign languages, assume people understand English even if they say they don't. Especially people in power.

Some interpreters color everything they tell you AND even your contact might. They may not even understand your questions, but not want to be embarrassed by saying so. Tourist guides and translators are notorious for having answers to every question that are designed to satisfy the tourist. The information might be 5% correct, but interesting. Often your request for clarification is seen as a threat to their position as a knowledgeable translator or authority. If you feel they are a questionable source of information, but are stuck with them, humor them, don't make things worse. You need them.

Communications with locals can be frustrating. Words and names for things can mean entirely different things. Time can be relative, especially in the warmer climates. What someone considers fast may seem too slow for you. Respect their culture and try to work with them, not around or over them. People can be very willing to help you, but also be very busy in their own lives and your needs will just have to wait their turn. Don't take tardiness as a lack of caring. Things may just happen at a slower pace than you are used to. People who want to help you may perceive your anxiousness as a lack of appreciation.

Often arrogant tourists and film people before you have left a bad taste in people's mouths. Americans and Hollywood types can to be demanding, demeaning and think that money will solve anything. Your attitude can break their perception of US. Asking about their own lives, dreams and aspirations will show that you do care about them and not just what they can do for you. If people already have a full schedule, you might try "Is there something that we can do to help make you available?" Don't start by flashing money.


Makes a plan: A schedule, LISTS of the actors, crew, locations, sequence of shots, props, wardrobe. CHECK THOSE LISTS OFTEN.

Plan for problems: Consider all that can go wrong and make plans for what to do if things don't happen according to your plan.

Prepare for the worst weather, lighting or sound conditions.

Know where the sun will be.

Make a conservative schedule with alternate "extra goodies" to shoot if you happen to get ahead of schedule.

Get the most important shots "in the can" as soon as possible.

Know what to eliminate when you get behind schedule.

Save inserts for last or the next day. Save shots that can be shot later till last. Get what you need in that location first. Consider crew, cast, location and equipment costs factors.

Get an early start: It's less embarrassing to quit early than to not finish on time. An "Easy day" can run long. Get enough sleep. Party after the awards ceremony.

Have the right props and wardrobe. SEE THEM BEFOREHAND.



The Onlookers: Friends, relatives and strangers.

The Equipment: Doubts about technical things cloud your thinking.

The Crew: You need to know what to tell them to do and not seem inexperienced or indecisive. Have a plan.

The Cast: (actors, talent) are often as scared as the director.

The Client: Most projects have a sponsor. A sponsor's rep. on the set has someone to answer to and is not always the ultimate authority. They have to answer to the sponsor and are terrified of coming back with the WRONG THING. Try to explain what your intend to do.

The Elements: Heat, cold, noise. wind, rain, overcast, traffic

airplanes, sirens, helicopters, trucks. gardeners, tree trimmers.

Your own Ego: The fear of failure, looking bad, or the shoot not going as well as expected.

Time: It almost always takes longer than you planed.

The Budget: It ALWAYS costs more

A bad report about yesterday's film or tape.

THE LOCALS: The people who's domain you are treading upon.

Officials. Truly busy ones, petty ones and bureaucrats.

Home/property owners.

Businessmen with customers to be serviced.

Workers with a job to do; gardeners and tree trimmers.

Gangs or unions with jurisdiction over your location.

The school group that always uses your location on Tuesdays.

The minor official that has jurisdiction over your location.

Any of the above "who was not informed."


Compromising too much when things are not going well.

Not compromising when things are not going well. "That's not what I had in mind." Sit down and rethink your plan considering what isn't working and why. Don't beat a dead horse.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.