Here are ten things you NEED to learn before filming any part of your independent film on private property. These tips will help you to leave a good impression of your filmmaking abilities, build anticipation for your film and make a property owner more likely to welcome you back to film in the future.


1. Get Permission

As an indie filmmaker, there are times when you see a house or business and want it to be used in your film. I have had times when I have thought to myself something like “We could film in that old house. Nobody ever goes in there. I’m sure the owner won’t mind.”

DO NOT FILM ON A LOCATION WHEN YOU DO NOT HAVE LEGAL PERMISSION. If you are sure that the owner won’t mind, you should ask and prove yourself right. You may be right 99% of the time, but if you are wrong even once you can get a bad name for yourself and suffer possible legal penalties for trespassing.


2. Make A Good Impression When Scouting

Maybe you saw an old house and you want to see the inside for filming your new zombie apocalypse film. You contact the owner and set up a time to come by a take a look around. When you finally do get around to going into the house, do not treat it as if you are just scouting a location. Treat it like a business meeting as well. Dress up a little nicer then you normally would. You want to show the owners that you are a kind, professional filmmaker. Talk to them about the film, be personable, look them in the eyes and use a firm handshake.


3. Act Professional

If you want to be a professional filmmaker, act like a professional. You don’t impress people by meeting their expectations. You need to exceed the level of professionalism that they expect from you when you show up with your crew, equipment and actors at their location. Talk to them with the same level of professionalism that you did when you first scouted the location.


4. Keep The Owner In Mind When Filming

If your film has any sort of success, a lot of people are going to see your film. Keep in mind that the owner of a home or business does not want to have the appearance of their property reflect poorly on them. Clean up rooms that will be seen in the film and make the property look as nice as your script will allow. Obviously if the place is being used as the arch villain’s evil lair, it may not be the cleanest place. You may have to move furniture in or out of rooms when filming. Make sure you are not ruining the functionality of an entire house/business just to film in one small room. Keep your crew and yourself organized and be as efficient as possible.


5. Talk Openly With Owner (If They Are Willing)

A lot of times it would be easier to film if the owner of a building or home wasn’t around. If the owner is there you should talk to them. Get them familiar with your plans and the basic schedule. The owner can be an invaluable resource when filming. They know a lot more about the set then you ever will, so don’t underestimate the knowledge they have. It can be the difference between a successful shoot and a waste of a day of filming.


6. Include the Owner

Let the owner feel involved. Ask simple questions of them even if it’s not completely necessary. This will get them more comfortable telling you things they think you need to know and they will feel they trust you more. You need to build a bond with the owner if you want to leave them with a good impression. Listen to their suggestions and seriously consider the value they hold.


7. Leave The Property In Better Shape Then You Found It.

This is a huge huge huge part of filming on location. It’s also one of the most commonly made mistakes by all filmmakers. Don’t just put furniture back where it was. Sweep the floors. Vacuum the carpets of the rooms you’re filmed in. This is not only kind curious but it leaves a great impression on the owners. If you can leave an owner thinking they only gained from allowing you to film on their property, they will be more willing to allow you to return to film other projects or re-shoot scenes.


8. Keep The Owner In Mind When Filming and Editing

If you want to leave a good impression, keep the owner in mind when editing your film. Example: If you are filming in a business but the business is supposed to be evil in your movie, try to keep advertisements connected to the real business out of the shots you select. If you have the choice between a shot that shows a glimpse of a messy room and a shot that doesn’t, use the shot that will make the property look better. The owner may not thank you but they will be glad to see their property looking as good as it can.


9. Follow Up After The Film Is Completed

Let the owner know when the film is released and where they can see it. This is a great way to get them to show it to more people and start the marketing ball rolling for your film in groups you may not be directly connected to.


10. Send Them A Thank You Card

I know it sounds stupid but it can have a great impact on an owner. Once your film is completed you will have a little more time on your hands before starting your next project. Use this time to thank the people that made your past film a success.


Keep these in mind before filming on private property. Have any questions? Feel free to email us for more information.