So, I called the director of a veterans cemetery today to discuss the possibility of filming a scene for gone Elvis on the property. He was pretty wary about it for reasons I’ve heard all too often in my 20+ years of production work. “We’ve had film crews here before. They didn’t pay us what they promised; they were here for days; they made a mess and they did damage.”
Let’s face it: filmmaking and egomania go together like sex and sorrow; but every time I have to go the extra mile to prove that my crew won’t behave like the the last horde of cinemarauders who visited some place, I get a little cranky. Often the bad blood between a location like this and film people is not so much the result of true callousness or malicious intent. Instead, it’s usually just plain bad or inexperienced planning; and when the damage is done, y’know . . .we’ll be at Sundance.
If anyone’s asking, the first advice I give to inexperienced, and especially low-budget, filmmakers is Think of everything and then think of everything else. If you’re scouting a location and don’t have a seasoned Production Manager on your team, it’s your job to wear that hat after you’ve done the Director thing deciding where you want the camera to go and the action to take place. What else is coming with you? Are you going to be minimally invasive, or are you asking to descend like an army? Do you have trucks, extras, dollies, jibs? How many people? Where will they use the bathroom? Who’s hauling any trash away with you? What disturbances might you create that affect what day or time you should film?
No matter what it is you need from a location, especially when you want a cheap or free favor, providing an honest assessment of your request and sticking to it goes a long way toward leaving this location available for the next filmmaker who comes along.