Friday, October 31, 2008

Where Did the Locations Come From??

Before I get into this, be sure to check out some of the post comments.  People are asking really good questions--and I am giving really good answers!  I don't know how much longer I will be able to keep going back through past posts to answer since they are getting longer with each day!

There are SO many misconceptions about locations, I think I'll address that now since it's Halloween and I've got things to do and locations to haunt!

"Please pick my house to film in!!!"  Ok, do you having a full square block of parking for just the basic equipment within a short walk of your house?  Are you on a quiet street away from a freeway, airport, or other noise?  Do you have neighbors that will agree to the lack of parking,blocked driveways, cable running, lights placement, and maybe even rain towers if called for?  Are you ready for at least a day of prep, a day of filming possibly for 12-14 hours starting at 5:30 a.m., and another day of wrap?  Ok, this is just for the EXTERIOR of your house!  Want people inside?  Do you have room for 25 not counting the actors in the scene?  Can your floors take  many hundreds of pounds for a camera dolly, very hot lighting and sound equipment, and possible damage to your hardwood floors even if they tell you they will have rubber tips on all the equipment?  Do you mind having all of your furniture, pictures, family photos and personal items, moved out and other things brought in that you can't use?  In fact, you will probably be moved OUT of your house and put in a hotel and not allowed back in while they are filming!  So, no, you won't be having a leisurely breakfast with Tom Selleck in your kitchen, sorry!

How do people find your house, business, farm, or back alley?  There is a Location Department with a locations manager.  They  have thousands of photos (now on CD's) of locations that have been used in the past or clients who want filming in the future. The location head reads the script to imagine what they might be looking for.   The director will describe what they are looking for in the old farmhouse, abandoned factory for the big shoot out, or family home on that quiet street required by the story in the script.  First looking at photos and then driving to see preliminary locations is the director, assistant director, maybe a producer, a production designer or art director, the location manager, an assistant location manager, and sometimes a DP (director of photography) all crammed in a van for days at a time.  Sometimes they may even pass a location and like it and direct the location manager to check it out later.   They may find the perfect location for each scene.  However, the schedule and page count at that location can also dictate where they film.  Ok, if according to the schedule, the house and the farm have to film on the same day (each one being only a half day in film time estimation),  then they need to be fairly close to each other since the company (a small city on wheels) has to pack up in the middle of the shooting day and move to the next location.  While they are packing and moving, the are NOT filming.  When they are not filming, they are costing the production company many thousands of dollars an hour in salary and equipment rentals in non-productive work.  So even if PERFECT locations are found, a money producer can say "NO, find something closer to each other.  We can't afford to move that far."  So, once the perfect locations are finally found, the right amount of parking nearby, and they are affordable (more on that later), now the REAL location work starts!  There are City and State rules regarding filming on City or State property.   There is a City and a State Film Department that generate these permits to make sure the public is not overly inconvenienced or interrupted.  Traffic may need to be held, security hired, parking reserved, maybe an explosion happens, rain, we even did snow and ice once downtown on "LOST." With multiple locations it takes multiple permits which are for specific times on specific dates.  The schedule changes (all the time!), the permits have to change and maybe not be approved the second time because of a conflict.  But we're still not the preliminary scout happens with department heads to check out those problems and situations that pertain to their department.  Lighting guys are looking for power access, I'm looking for set problems, construction people are measuring, etc.  Then a few days later there is the final scout which can include 25 department heads and their assistants looking to finalize and minimize any problems.  They don't like problems.  Now as exhausting as this location process is, those people who are scouting are still working on the current episode that is filming during this process and your "normal" work is still going on.  It's called STRESS!!!  Sometimes 24 hours a day and 7 days a week are still not enough time.  And then you are told you can't work any more overtime!

It is very rare that a location had everything I needed on Magnum.  If we did film inside a home, like we did in the episode where Tom went back to Virginia and Gwen Verdon played his mother (I spent the whole morning talking with her--I didn't care how busy I was!) I might get lucky.   That house had appropriate furniture and things which could stay.  Sometimes we try to get old photographs of the actors to "personalize" the set.  Keep in mind when an actor opens a door on a location and walks into a room.......that same door might have been taken or duplicated so the actual room is now on the sound stage maybe 4 days later.  Filming in a home with fixed walls, low ceilings, and having to worry about their floors, walls, heat, noise is not as desirable as filming on a sound stage with "wild walls" (that move), no noise problems, AIR CONDITIONING!, etc.  When homes were not appropriate inside from a set dressing  standpoint (but worked for every other department) then we had a lot of work.  Sometimes the rooms had to be painted or walls added.  Unfortunately this was done by the construction department that for some reason always thinks that the 1 or 2 days we have to prep the house is ALL theirs!  Many times I have hung art work on walls that still had wet paint because the painters had just finished and the company was moving in to film!  We would move out the owners items, construction / paint would move in for a day or so, and then we would have very little time to unload our 5-ton truck (or sometimes 2) and dress the set.  Sometimes we couldn't even get our truck near the location because grip and electric had gotten there before us and were unloading their equipment at the same time. These were daily occurrences and somehow things got done.  Many times I thought that what went into getting a set dressed was MUCH more interesting than the story that was being filmed there!  But does anyone listen to me..........?    Aloha


rubber chicken said...

You don't make a convincing argument for going into the entertainment business!

I wrote out some questions below, please respond to however many you wish. Thanks again for your great insights to the behind the scenes world of Magnum P.I. !

1. You've made it very clear that it can be a real hassle to find and use good locations. Is that why some houses, for instance, were used a number of times as "homes" for different characters? After reading this I could see how using a place everyone already knows would be a big help.

2. How much power is needed to run all the equipment? Was a generator truck needed or could, say, a house provide enough power for everything?

3. Were the homes of people who worked on the show ever used as locations?

4. You talked about the expense of locations being far away from each other (and the studio too I guess). But then occasionally we'll see in one show locations that are far far away. In an extreme example, "Rapture" filmed at Ka‘ula Bay (or Secret Beach?) on the West Coast of the Oahu and also Dillingham Airfield in the extreme North West. Even before reading your post, I was wondering how that happened. Now it really seems odd. Was the money producer on vacation or what?

5. For those locations that were far away from Honolulu, maybe an hour drive or more, according to google maps. Was it common for the director and stars to be flown to these locations in a helicopter? If so, was the "Island Hoppers" helicopter used for this?

6. And last but most importantly, do you make a killer Halloween "set" at your house every year? : )

Magnum Decorator said...

See what happens when you ask so many good questions? I wind up having to do an entire post! Well, don't get too spoiled as now I have to get back to getting some work done here and move on to a new topic. Thanks again for your interest! Aloha, Rick

Judy said...

Great post! I am kind of going through some similar issues right now, I work at an NFL stadium and we are hosting Superbowl this year. In one short month construction crews will be taking over doing what needs to be done to film a major football game!!

Anonymous said...

hey Rick cool web site.

Derrick K.