"Motion Pictures" can refer to feature-length theatrical release movies, including big-budget blockbusters or low-budget independents; television productions including episodic TV and made for TV movies; commercials; documentaries; corporate films; music videos; or internet only projects. Budgets vary and expenditures can include hotel rooms, location fees, office space, car rentals, caterers and building materials, as well as film-specific products such as camera and lighting equipment.
A film project arrives in a community with money to spend and a series of hoops that may require some flexibility to jump through. It's important to understand how the process works and why the production has unusual requests that need to be addressed quickly...hence, the birth of film commissions charged with attracting and facilitating film production. The State of Texas was one of the first states to answer the call by establishing the Texas Film Commission in 1971. Shortly after its inception, Texas hosted classic films such as "The Last Picture Show", "The Getaway", and Steven Spielberg's debut feature film "The Sugarland Express", which was shot in the Houston area. Though the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau was aggressively courting such films as "Terms of Endearment" and "Urban Cowboy" long before 1987, that year the GHCVB established the Houston Film Commission to ramp up those efforts.
There are a host of different jobs comprising a film crew and they're always in a hurry. The period of time that a company has to prepare for filming is "pre-production" and it can vary dramatically from project to project. Feature films usually may have one month of lead-time, but a television project may have two weeks at most. Commercials might move from prep to wrap in less than a week, with only a few days notice to their host locations.
A film project's Location Manager, or Location Scout, is usually the first person to make contact with a community and/or property owner. Their job is to find, photograph, and negotiate terms for the locations needed for any given production. If the script calls for two houses next to each other, one ranch style and one a two-story colonial, and both with large oak trees in the front, it's the location manager's job to find not just one such pair of houses, but several. The look of the location isn't the only consideration; the location manager also needs to keep in mind:
Once photographs are submitted to the production and it appears the locations might work both artistically and logistically, the Location Manager will return with additional members of the production team. On this technical survey, or "tech scout", the key creative team will determine what may or may not work for the project. The tech scout may include the following key players:
Once the camera starts to roll, the production train is barreling down the tracks, and it's full speed ahead. With possibly hundreds of people on payroll, if the train derails for even one day, it can cost thousands of dollars. There are numerous variables, most commonly weather, that can require a complete change in the shooting schedule, and these changes have to be addressed quickly and efficiently. Most film production companies keep a "cover set" (an alternative interior location) that can be used so the shooting day is not lost. A company may also get ahead or behind schedule, making it necessary to change or expand the use of a location. Other variables can include the illness of an actor, a script rewrite or the failure of special equipment to arrive on time. Production companies are used to dealing with this kind of sudden change, but they'll need the understanding and cooperation of the community to make it all work.
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