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Producing Within Your Means – Using Your Locations Wisely

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TanyaIhnenAs you may know, I have produced 3 full webseries, 2 short films and 2 webseries pilots. As you may not know, I’m not a millionaire. So, how can I do this without investors or outside money?

I produce on a small scale.

What does that mean, exactly?

It doesn’t mean we tell small stories, it means we tell the stories we want to tell, but then narrow the perspective to fit the available budget. It also means we need to get creative with how we use the locations available to us. You can tell a large story from a small perspective and still take the audience on a fantastic journey.

Look at the Breakfast Club, for example. It never really leaves the library and yet the audience never feels like they are lacking in story or don’t know the characters. During the scene where they explain what they did to get Saturday Detention the movie never once uses a flashback and yet you as the audience know for sure what the scenes would look like.

My fellow producers and I work hard to build a world around our characters. If you focus on telling an interesting story, the audience won’t notice you haven’t moved to a bunch of different locations.

But during the times when locations are necessary, there are ways to get what you need without having to spend a ton of money.

While shooting Vampire Zombie Werewolf we needed a morgue but didn’t have the money to rent a morgue location. So, we did the next best thing and turned one of our producer’s kitchens into a morgue set!

Here are some photos:

Image 1

Getting the kitchen ready

Image 2

Morgue-alicious!

Yes, it took more time than just showing up at a location and shooting, but, we got exactly what we needed without spending money we didn’t have. And we flexed our creative muscles!

Another, even better example is my webseries pilot Life’s Little Ultimatum. We shot that entire pilot for a competition and had 1 week to create and complete the pilot. Because of the time crunch, we didn’t have time to run around scouting locations while writing the pilot. So, we shot all of it in my living room with the exception of the one outdoor shot at the Sepulveda Dam. Using creative lighting and moving furniture, we made my living room:

A birthday party,

Living Room Party

Living Room Party 2

An office for a Top Secret Agency.

M.A.M.A Screen

M.A.M.A Grab

A random location for a mission

Living Room Sneaky

Living Room Preggers

Living Room Flashlight

and a nightclub

Living Room Club

Living Room Club 2

You can watch the pilot HERE and see our plan in action.

By shooting close and using colored lights, sheets, Christmas lights, moving furniture and placing shadows in specific places we got all of the locations we needed in 1 day.

While shooting the club scene, we created a background with sheets, Christmas lights and a disco light effect, sat the actors on a sofa and shot one side of the scene. When it came time to shoot the other side of the scene, we literally swapped out the actors, moved the keylight, changed the actors eye-lines and voila! Looks like we are on 2 sides of a club, but we are literally sitting in the exact same spots on a couch.

The biggest weapon I have in my arsenal is Zoe Van Brunt. Zoe is my Director of Photography on almost everything I shoot. Zoe is amazingly talented and fantastic at creatively lighting and shooting so that the space we have for our projects can be whatever we need them to be. If you have someone like this on your production team, you can’t go wrong.

So if you can’t get the location you want, get the location you need. If you want the White House but you can’t get the oval office, you can get a small office or a hallway within the building. A siege on the White House can’t be shot in your apartment. But someone stuck in a broom closet during the siege could be…

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About Tanya Ihnen

Tanya is an actor, director and sometimes writer, but mostly all-around new-media type person. By day, Tanya is an office worker extraordinaire, by night she is a Webseries producer who knows exactly how much food to order for a shoot. Because of both of these jobs, she's well-versed in email writing and supply ordering. Born and raised in Washington State, she still loves apples and tractors.