The City of Brotherly Love plays host to a number of productions each year, from commercial ads to feature films. It has served as the backdrop of all the Rocky movies. It’s one of M. Night Shyamalan’s go-to spots — he was raised in Penn Valley, if you didn’t know. Philadelphia would probably make the perfect locale for your next production, too. There’s enough variance in the available locations around the greater Philly area to provide diverse options, and you’ll enjoy access to all of the city’s historic urban architecture.
To take full advantage of everything the city has to offer, you’ll need some real on-the-ground expertise for location scouting. Location scouts handle much more than simply picking neat places to shoot. They’re the point person for any of the practical concerns associated with a location. This includes securing permits, obtaining police permission, knowing what time the sun rises and sets, and so, so much more.
All that said, it’s tough to know where to find a location scout in Philadelphia if you’ve never done it before. If you’re producing a smaller, low-budget project, you can be your own location scout with the help of some online resources. We’ll run those down below. And if you definitely want to enlist the aid of a professional location scout, we’ve got you covered there, too.
First up, take a look at Peerspace
Peerspace excels in connecting creatives with people who own stunning locations and event venues around Philadelphia and other major cities. In Philadelphia, Peerspace has listings for everything from stylish bars and posh residential lofts to elegant theaters and raw warehouses.
Why use Peerspace? You can search through an abundance of high-quality, beautiful photos yourself, so you can easily see which spaces match your creative vision. You can also narrow the search based on your budget, how big your crew is, or specific amenities that you need from the space. When you’ve made your decision, book the location right through the site — there’s no need to work out arrangements with the property owner.
Don’t forget ProductionHub, another exceptional online tool
ProductionHub keeps listings for anyone you might need for a production, which includes vendors and crew of all shapes and sizes. And, of course, that also means it can tell you where to find a location scout in Philadelphia.
Specific location scouts to consider:
Before we give you the highlights, we should point out that many location scouts based in other cities may cover Philadelphia as part of their territory. New York City is only a stone’s throw away, after all. For our purposes, we’re going to focus on scouts who specialize in Philly.
Dan Gorman is perhaps the most prolific location scout in Philadelphia. He’s from Drexel Hill, so he’s not an out-of-state transplant. In addition, he’s been attached to most of the films shot in the area in recent years that have scored Academy Award nominations or wins. That enviable list includes flicks like Hidden Figures, Creed, The Lovely Bones, Silver Linings Playbook, and Foxcatcher.
Bill Arrowood and the rest of the Blue Stone Road team have worked on numerous productions, from commercial spots to TV shows (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, for one) and feature films.
Troy Coffee started working in the Philadelphia area in TV and movies, but he’s since begun focusing more on commercial productions, making him a great location scout in Philadelphia for advertisements.
Ander Kazmerski is the founder of Floating Home Films, a production company. Kazmerski is a camera operator and creator of branded content, and he’s also able to scout Philly locations.
Check in with the Pennsylvania Film Office and the Greater Philadelphia Film Office
Both the state and city film offices are a wealth of resources and talent. The Pennsylvania Film Office believes one of the state’s biggest draws for filmmakers is that while Pennsylvania can look unique and distinct, it can also resemble other locales. They put it beautifully:
“Need a cathedral in historic Paris? You don’t have to shoot internationally. We’ve got cathedrals scattered across Pennsylvania. And we’ve got Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. And glass castles. And tiny hole-in-the-wall bars that seem to exist in a time warp.”
Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that the state has a generous 25% tax incentive for productions that spend at least 60% of their total budget in the region.
Both the city and state film offices maintain a shared ReelScout location database, so you can use this to view potential leads. It’s still a good idea to reach out to the offices directly as well, since they can offer way more assistance than you might expect in locking down locations. In Philadelphia, for example, you can use some properties free of any fees if you go about it the right way, and the city also has municipally owned properties they can make available to you.
Even setting locations aside, the film offices help with local government permits and compliance with local laws and regulations. They can help you secure police assistance, should you need it. They can also connect you with a deep roster of talented crew and reliable local vendors. The whole reason film commissions exist is to ensure your production goes off without a hitch, so take advantage of these resources.
IMDB Pro gives you a deep glimpse into the Philadelphia production scene
Vanilla IMDB can you get far, but IMDB Pro is even better, and the per-year fee is reasonable if you’re doing serious work in this industry. You can search by productions shot in Philadelphia, then look through the profiles of crew that worked on those projects. This offers a valuable glimpse into who the go-to crew members are for different types of productions.
Take advantage of LocationsHub
LocationsHub was developed by ReelScout, the company that creates software most city film commissions lean on to maintain location listings. That includes Philadelphia. Usually it’s a good idea to look through a city’s LocationsHub listings (Philadelphia’s are here) in addition to the version the film office maintains, as there are always differences.
These listings are just that — listings. This isn’t a Peerspace-like system, so if any of these locations are ideal for your project, you’ll need to reach out to the property owner directly and negotiate an arrangement to use the space.
Use social media to conduct organic research
Location scouts are just as active on social media as anyone else, and some more often than others. If a particular location scout makes it their business to really market themselves via social networks, that can be the ideal way to learn about them. You’ll get a sense of their personality and personal tastes, as well as their professional style. On LinkedIn, you can even see who else they’re professionally connected to and read testimonials from fellow pros.
Surround yourself with the right people and information, and your project will blossom beautifully. There’s no replacement for people who know what they’re doing. We can’t wait to see you do your best work in Philadelphia, and we hope you tag us with #MadeInPeerspace when you do.