Take the time to find a space which oozes star appeal, that has wonderful textures and can help metaphorically and visually transform an interview from normal to amazing?
Keep walking, find the space
Lesson 30 from my course How to Kickstart Your First Documentary will help you discover why great locations for your project can make a difference, and sometimes make it, or break it!
Why do I need to think about a location to interview my subject in? My house is fine, that garden is great, the park will do, a cafe is perfect, my friend's car looks cool.
Because location scouting is paramount!
Fiction filmmakers do it all the time, so why shouldn't it be the same in documentary? Why shouldn't you take the time to find a space which oozes star appeal, that has wonderful textures and can help metaphorically and visually transform an interview from normal to amazing?
Take this magnificent photo of the Metro near Rue de Rivoli in Paris
It is a majestic location.
A Paris icon.
Place a person on the wall, sitting and looking directly into the camera lens, wearing red to dance with the red of the metro sign - well, I think it would look magical.
So, the moral of this lesson is go for lots of walks and find as many locations in your area that can help tell your story.
SILVERDALE HILL LANE UK
I march up Silverdale Hill 3 times a week with my granddaughter. Nothing much to look at, never really been much to look at. Squat houses, one after another, looking the same, built around the turn of the century. Suburbia in sleepiness. Up the hill we trot, Violette singing funny songs. I struggle, as the road seems endless. But what saves me as she sings, I create. No-one knows I am actually chattering away to myself - they think I am conversing with Violette. I can get a lot done as I go up Silverdale Hill Lane.
Then, one day I noticed a the graffiti on a ramshackle door constructed in front of an abandoned house
Around this time last year - the Euros 2021 - football was in full heat. England lost to Italy in a penalty shoot-out at Wembley stadium. Even those of us who were not football fans were sad. There had been literal fever-pitch energy for over 5 weeks, with its slogans, flags and hysteria.
To celebrate, IT'S COMING HOME - the slogan for the British team, as it was hoped the cup would come home, sprung up everywhere. It suddenly appeared on the huge board-door erected in front of a house, long left to rot into the earth, which one day will be knocked down on the corner of Silverdale Hill Lane,
What I loved, and beguiled me was the small hole-peep-window, where another inner world belonged. I took the first photo. Here it is below, July 2021. And since then I regularly take photos of this space.
A location with a constantly changing landscape
I look around me curiously, with a different eye, one I call my camera eye - one that is searching for visual impact, for the unique, the unusual, the photographically cinematographic space.
A location I can use for a backdrop, add to my documentary. Use in a digital story, or simply, just for the sheer look of it.
I find 'Door' edgy urban
Location scouting is fun
Locations change everything. Silverdale used to be a long and dreary walk up that hill, but now I have an objective. Door. It will be an on-going project. I will be photographing until the house is knocked down and the wooden panels go. I shall interview people standing against it. Eventually I will edit it together for an idea which is brewing in my head. What will come at the end of it all, I am still not sure, but what I do know is that I cannot look at this door in the same way. It tells me a story
Never think you are wasting time
You never know when that location will come in handy. So keep your eyes peeled, and when you find your place or places, experiment with them.
Have fun, experiment, and look!
Filmmaker, teacher, traveller and storyteller