"It's perfect!" is always the goal when you're out location scouting for an upcoming project. Just because the aesthetic fits your vision, however, doesn't mean that the location will be a good practical fit. Always remember the following 7 points during your next scout:
Does the location offer ample and convenient parking? You want to avoid any situation where your cast and crew are forced to park a good distance away from the location. This will make load-in extremely difficult, especially if your crew has to transport gear over uneven terrain and/or up and down stairs.
Is there a lot of background noise at the location? That spot by the railroad tracks may look great during the scout, but how often does the train come by? If you have to stop the shoot every 10 minutes and wait for a train to pass, you will never make your day.
Are there restroom facilities on the premises, or will you have access to any restroom facilities close by? Are they in working order?
Once you and the crew are on location, will you have space to stage all of your gear? Where will video village be set up? Where will your hair/make-up artist be? Wardrobe? These areas need to be far enough away from set to avoid any interference, but not so far away that it becomes an inconvenience to fly people and gear in and out.
Will you have access to electricity while on location, or close by? If not you should either rent generators or re-think your choice. And if you do rent generators, will you have a spot to place them that's far enough away from set not to cause any issues?
When I was location scouting for my short film Final Hit I found a great exterior location for a scene between the two main characters. There was a fantastic aged building in the background with plenty of texture and character. The street was quiet. It was the perfect spot for a scene in which two mobsters discuss an upcoming job.
However, when we arrived to the location on the day of the shoot, the street was busy with people walking back and forth, cars parked along the curb, and a construction crew busy working on the lot next door. Hardly the secluded cityscape that I needed.
The problem was the time in which I scouted the location. It was early on a Saturday morning. The day was chilly and overcast. The shoot took place on a beautiful, warm Saturday afternoon when more people were out enjoying thenselves.
The point is, determine the peak hours for each location you scout. When is it the busiest? When will you see the most traffic, hear the most noise, experience the most interference? Once that is determined, you can schedule your shoot accordingly. All of the above, of course, assumes that you won't be able to lock down the location for your shoot.
Track the position of the sun while scouting. If you visit a location early in the morning knowing that you will need to shoot late in the afternoon, determine where the sun will be at that time (There are several good apps available that will help you track the sun's position throughout they day). Even if your scene is interior, the sun's position will affect the look of a room differently, depending on the time.
What have your experiences been like while scouting and securing locations? Do you have any horror stories or general words of advice? Leave them in the Comments section.