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One space, four ways: The benefits of flexible film locations

As any film professional knows, finding the right location is a key component of a productive shoot. Beyond providing four walls and room for equipment, the best video shoot locations become a character in the story and provide inspiration from concept through execution.

Yet finding a space that meets the requirements for art direction, crew, timeline, and budget can be difficult. Using one space to look like multiple locations can solve many of these logistical challenges, helping shoots stay on schedule and within budget. Rather than organizing transportation of cast, crew and equipment, savvy producers are choosing flexible video shoot locations with multiple backdrops, each with a distinct vibe.

Explore a curated list of flexible film locations

Lincoln Street Studios, a prolific Bay Area media creator, was faced with such a challenge when working on a recent product video for The Distillery and their client, Prysm displays. They had a tight shooting schedule, a complex setup, and the need for multiple locations. However, after finding three spaces they loved, they learned that their budget could only accommodate one space for filming. Rather than compromise in other areas, they found an eclectic, multi-purpose loft to play the part of all three locations. Watching the finished video, you would never know.

The finished video as the background on the Prysm homepage.

We talked with Lincoln Street Studio’s founder and creative director, Cheryl Isaacson, to discuss the importance of video shoot locations, the benefits of versatile space, and tips for using one as many:

How important is location when you are setting up a shoot?

I see location as the differentiating thing in shoots. We shoot in our fair share of client offices and we make it work. But when I have the opportunity to do something on a larger scale, location is absolutely a character in the piece. It’s important to me to find a space that supports and enhances the story, rather than just a blank slate that we have to work to build on. It’s been exciting to see more diverse locations opening up.  

Video Shoot Locations - Versatile WarehouseSavvy set decoration transformed this multi-purpose warehouse into a high end conference room.

What was so unique about this project?  

We were on tight schedule and budget. We decided to use one location and cheat it to play as multiple locations. I was initially excited about three unique Peerspace locations and wanted to shoot in all three. But due to budget changes we had to choose one. This is typical in production- it’s a constant process of finding creative ways to solve problems. So I was happy to find one location with a roof, mezzanine, and ground floor that were all distinct. We were able to cheat the space and make it appear to be four locations. It required an extra layer of art direction, but I am really proud of the team. They pulled it off perfectly.

See the multi-purpose loft where Lincoln Street Studios held their shoot

Were there any tricks that you used in production to make the space look like multiple locations, or was this all achieved just by moving around the building?

When you have done indie film as we have in the past, you learn to stretch a location with the art department. It still required work. First we built a wall out of reclaimed wood to bifurcate the space, custom designing it to house the client’s huge screen. The location also had a vintage swing out garage door that we wanted to utilize to create the look of a boutique hotel. With permission, we repainted it, which the owners were very happy about. It looked great. Then we used the art director’s trick of wrapping paper as wallpaper to give it dimension. The mezzanine area, we styled as a hipper, design-centric remote location. The fourth, bonus location was the roof. We made it look like a residential rooftop for morning. For evening we had twinkling lights. It looked like a party. The location was fabulous over all, and then having that roof was just amazing.

Video Shoot Locations - Unique LoftThe same multi-purpose warehouse as a hotel lobby.

How did having one location streamline your production process and help your budget?

Having the whole production in one space was wonderful. We were able to rent one location for four and a half days and didn’t have to shuttle around. It was nice and secure with a garage, so we were able to avoid having to do company moves. We set up, loaded in the gear, and were set for four days. Company moves cost time and money. One location was more efficient, easier, and cost saving. At the end of the day, the property manager was so helpful, the space was great, and the client is really happy with the footage. Everyone wins.

Did this process change your understanding of what video shoot locations can do to help you in the future?

I have learned something on every shoot I’ve done, this one included. One of my favorite shots from this production was being able to achieve something I have always wanted to do but never had the right location for it. It was a shot that was top-down from the mezzanine. It’s a really lovely shot. The location informed the shot so that was fun. I feel like the location often talks to you. When that happens you can do something that wasn’t on the initial storyboard, but it’s something that needs to happen in that space and becomes relevant. If you know the story and you’ve chosen well, the location is a character. There’s an element of discovery the space presents.

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