Let’s Commiserate About the Pros and Cons of Shooting On-Location

pros and cons of shooting on locationIf you’ve ever found yourself scrolling through a listicle of all the crazy filming locations of the day’s most popular tv shows, eh-hem Game of Thrones, it becomes pretty clear that the practice of shooting film and television on location has become popularized to mythic proportions.

On-location filming is a simple enough idea. Instead of building a whole set, you travel to a real place and use it as your backdrop.

This can range anywhere from taking your actors to the supermarket for a grocery shopping scene to taking your entire cast and crew to a distant corner of the globe to film amidst natural splendor.

Needless to say, on-location filming has taken on the rosy glitz of Hollywood’s shadow. While it can be utterly great there in that shadow, there are drawbacks too.

It’s always best to be realistic about these sorts of things. And it’s especially important to do so when you’re considering whether to jump into a project with a component of on-location filming.

Pro: Travel is Always Worth it

Let’s start on the rosy side.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t taken that trip to the Maldives.” Unlikely.

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If the project you’re involved in has an opportunity to take you overseas, from a purely personal perspective it would be hard to pass up. While working on a movie set is far from being on vacation, after filming or in between shoots, there is plenty of room of exploration.

One of the best ways to help cast and crew members make the very most out of an on-location international shoot is to encourage them to plan a family vacation after filming wraps up. It’s easy to book a resort for the whole family, and when the crew member is done with work, he or she can go join the fam for a tropical vacation.

Nothing helps a cast and crew relax after work like some quality family time and the chance to swim with some sea turtles.

Con: The Environment Rules Us All

One of the most discussed concerns with outdoor, on-location shooting is, of course, the weather.

If the scene calls for sun and it’s dismally cloudy, you’re out of luck. Filming will have to be postponed, which of course costs time and money, but filmmakers often take the risk because the rewards are just so high. When the elements work in your favor, like catching a thunderstorm roll over the hillside during a dramatic battle scene, that’s just priceless.

A less-discussed environmental factor of large-scale outdoor filming is that it often falls to the filmmakers to be honest about their own role, the power they wield, and take extra care to be respectful of the countries in which they’re filming.

Here’s a classic example:

Game of Thrones producers were given permission to film the Dothraki wedding scene in Dwejra Heritage Park, a fossil-rich protected area in Malta.

Presumably caught in excitement of that rosy showbiz shadow, the Malta environmental protection agency (MEPA), gave GOT producers permission to lay sand over the rocks. The sand adhered to the rocks and led to irreversible damage to the ancient fossils below.

It was a huge gaffe all-around, everyone involved failed in one way or another. But if the GOT producers had taken a little more care to learn about the value of the land on which they were filming, and taken extra steps to protect it, the whole situation could have been avoided.

Pro: Save Some Money

Not all on-location filming operations are as grand as Game of Thrones, which is lucky for the fossils of the world. One of the great perks of filming in a real location is that it can be much more cost-effective than creating a set from scratch.

If you need to film that scene we discussed earlier of a couple buying groceries in the market, it makes much more sense just to drive the crew down to the nearest grocery store and film the scene there. The alternative would be to hire a set designer and have them create all the trappings of a grocery store. That would include, of course, buying groceries to fill the shelves.

In terms of budget, it’s a no-brainer.

Con: What Savings?

There is a definite tipping point for on-location shooting being a money saver. It all comes down to numbers. How far do you have to travel (are we talking gas money or airfare)? And how many people need to make the trip to make filming a success?

If you’re traveling far, considerations like housing and food of course need to be taken into account. A rule of thumb: start small.

Even for small filming ventures, it’s wise to pay for expenses using a rewards card. A rewards card is a credit card that accumulates perks like travel miles and other points. In order to utilize the perks to their fullest extent, be sure to use the card strategically.

Pro: Creativity is King

We’ll end on a positive note.

At its core, filming on-location is a fun and inspiring way to bring the real world into the timeless world of film. It’s a way to celebrate the planet — glorious nature, iconic buildings, and so much more — just by dropping a storyline into it.

Not only will the cast and crew of a project filmed on-location get to experience the richness of the environment in which the characters would realistically live, but all of that inspiration and  flows all the way through to the audience. That’s what filmmaking is all about.

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Let’s Commiserate About the Pros and Cons of Shooting On-Location
There are pros and cons of filming a movie or tv show on location, we explore what goes into the decision making
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