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How to find a location film shoot

Why should you want to find a location film shoot? Easy - there is massive employment for sound engineers in film and television. Anything that gives you extra knowledge of what goes on in the industry is bound to be good to know. It doesn't have to be a major Hollywood feature, TV drama is just as informative, and often shot to the same high standard. It's easy to find a film shoot...

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The first question is why should you want to find a location film shoot? Easy - there is massive employment for sound engineers in film and television. Anything that gives you extra knowledge of what goes on in the industry is bound to be good to know. It doesn't have to be a major Hollywood feature, TV drama is just is informative, and often shot to the same high standard.

It's easy for me to find a film shoot. Firstly because I live near Pinewood Studios, where the James Bond series is shot, and I also travel to London regularly, which is also a major center of production. Plainly, if you live near New York or Los Angeles, or Bombay, then also there is bound to be a lot of shooting going on. If you live somewhere a little more remote, then you are just going to have to be lucky.

So how do you find a film shoot to observe? Let's start by saying that there are generally two places involved. One is the 'base', the other is the 'location'. Sometimes there is a third designated area for people to park their cars. The base is where everyone assembles but no shooting takes place there. The location is where actual shooting is done. Sometimes the location and base are co-sited, but this depends on how much space there is.

There are many people involved in a location film shoot and most will not have been to that particular location before. So clear signposting is necessary or people wouldn't get there on time. In film and TV, time is far too expensive to waste. In the UK, it is common practice to make small signs out of fluorescent, 'dayglo' plastic card. These are attached to lampposts or other street furniture at every junction on the way to the shoot from an easily recognizable point on the map. There will either be a prominent arrow on the sign, or the sign will be arrow-shaped. Generally the legend on the sign will be an abbreviated form of the production's name - for instance "W&M" for "William and Mary". Sometimes the sign just says "LOC", for "location", "BASE" or "UNIT" for "film unit".

Just keep following the signs and you'll get there with no trouble at all. In other centers of production the signage convention may be different, but everyone still needs clear directions so they will be there for an observant person to see.

When you get there, you may be disappointed. If the shoot is indoors or on private land you won't be able to see anything. However, many shoots take place outdoors and although you might have to observe from some distance, you will get an excellent flavor of what goes on. The scale of operations is often the most impressive thing, even for what you might consider to be a relatively low-end show.

Of course, elsewhere in the world there will be different conventions, but this system works very well and - for the moment - leaves the public largely unaware.

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By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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