Roger Deakins on Location Scouting for Film — Cinematography Techniques Ep. 5

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Roger Deakins on how to location scout for a film — stories from Skyfall, Blade Runner 2049, and more.

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00:00 Intro — Location Scouting Like Roger Deakins
01:19 Pre-visualization & Storyboarding
02:53 How Deakins Problem Solves
04:57 Advice for Smaller Productions
05:38 The Location Scouting Workflow
06:19 Get Your Free Tech Scouting Checklist

How to location scout for a film — it’s a question that faces every filmmaker during Pre-Production. Will sets need to be built or does the perfect location already exist? Is it cost-effective to shoot on location or will building the location from scratch actually save money? These are the questions Roger Deakins answers on his podcast, Team Deakins. In this video essay, we’ll let Deakins take the driver’s seat as he relays the real-world challenges he faced in location scouting on films like Skyfall, No Country for Old Men, and Blade Runner 2049.

For Deakins, the process starts at the storyboard stage. Before location scouting can even begin, the conceptualization starts in Pre-Production. Identifying the needs of the scene and the logistics involved gives you clear objectives when location scouting for a film. Granted, for larger budget productions, the decision can be made upfront whether these scenes should be shot on stage vs. on location.

On Skyfall, Roger Deakins encountered two such situations. As he explains, location scouting for the iconic Shanghai skyscraper encounter was initially planned to be shot on location. But when faced with the potential budget considerations, Deakins was able to replicate the office building on a soundstage where budget and logistics could be much more easily controlled.
Similarly, the abandoned island city set off the coast of Macau was initially considered to be shot on location in Japan. Again, rather than incur the massive expense, Deakins explains the workaround was to use stills taken during the original location scout as a reference for VFX artists to recreate the island digitally.

Even if a production has a Hollywood budget, there are still less expensive and creative solutions when location scouting. Knowing how to location scout for a film isn’t just knowing what locations already exist, it’s understanding all of the alternatives available to make the best decision for the story, the budget, and the film.

#FilmTheory #VideoEssay #Filmmaking

Songs Used:
“Skyfall” - Thomas Newman
“Faded” - Red Licorice
“Disconnected” - Phil David
“The Chase” - Rudiments
“The Look Through The Sunglasses” - Live Footage
“R Naught” - Kevin Graham
“Brave New World” - Thomas Newman
“Jellyfish” - Thomas Newman
“Shanghai Drive” - Thomas Newman
“New Digs” Thomas Newman
“Primal War Drums” - Kyle Preston
“If You Can’t Let Go” - All Good Folks
“Work It” - All Good Folks

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