Location, location, location. We all know how critical scouting is to your production, why picking the right filming locations can make or break your movie. But have you ever considered just how significant it can be to your story? Some settings matter so much to the plot, they take on a life of their own — and they are just as necessary as the characters themselves. Let’s take a look at a few examples when filming locations took center stage. We’ll start with a brief video of the Texas-loving football drama, Friday Night Lights.
The Character of Locations in “Friday Night Lights”
Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.
Locations are also used to highlight plot points, character reveals, themes, etc. As mentioned in the above video, juxtaposing locations specifically was often used to show class divides.
By seeing Matt Saracen's less than humble accommodations, we become aware of his situation, especially as he goes to deliver the pizza to spoiled, J.D. McCoy (his eventual Season 4 QB replacement). Just from two shots, we learn quite a bit about the characters. If you want to see more FNL footage, watch the video below.
What other movies can you think of where the filming locations are vital to the storyline? There are probably thousands but we'll give two more examples that use location in two very different ways.
VITAL FILMING LOCATIONS
Do we need the desert in Mad Max?
Referring to Mad Max: Fury Road, where would the film be without the desert of Namibia? Could it have taken place on a traditional highway? Technically, sure, but it’s unlikely the film would’ve had the same effect, or success.
*An entire analysis could be done on vehicles as characters, but we’ll stick with the location for the time being.Mad Max: Fury Road didn’t even have a script. It was created in storyboards with only location, characters, and cars in mind. The film was a giant “car” chase, with the endless desert as its canvas. Without it, the epic visuals and extraordinary color of the world, would transform the film into something much more mundane and practical.
The specific location of Mad Max gave it an authenticity and uniqueness we’ll always remember...and the vehicles, we’ll never forget those either.
Filming LOCATIONS AS CHARACTERS
Lost in location
Sofia Coppola’s, Lost in Translation, also has a setting that functions like a character — the entire city of Tokyo.
Bob Harris (Bill Murray), an aging movie star meets a young woman named Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) while they both are staying at the same hotel. The city is otherworldly to both of them, alien and strange. If the strangeness of the city disconnects them from themselves, it simultaneously and inevitably connects them to each other.
If this film took place in an American city, they might not have any real reason to meet. The city provides them common ground and becomes the foundation for the entire story.
Shot List Like a Pro
If you're familiar with shot listing, great. You obviously know how critical it is to planning shoot days, and how significant planning shoot days are to a successful production. Take a look at our next post on how to use software to shot list your vision as clear as possible.