Saturday, January 14, 2006

Documentary Location Management 101

Although documentary is a different animal than narrative production, you still must manage your locations with the same (if not more) deft social skills to insure the complete success of your shoot. Do not make the common mistake of thinking that just because your subject works, frequents, or has access to a location that you, your crew, and camera will be automatically welcomed there. Often that will be the case, but many times it will not be. Even if your subject assures you that everything’s cool and you trust them, you need to still make sure that they actually have asked the owner and explained the subject and scope of the shoot.

Your subject may be a doctor at General Hospital, but the hospital administration may have very strict policies about cameras in the building. Often subjects will be oblivious of such matters. If permission has not been secured from the proper people beforehand you may find yourself in a situation where your subject is embarrassed (or even reprimanded). Worse of all, your big interview in that great location won’t happen.

Corporate-owned locations, franchises, entertainment venues, government offices, schools, and places housing adult or illegal activity are all locations that must be researched and secured properly before you ever show up with a camera. Many of these institutions will have a Public Relations (P.R.) person whose main function is to act as a liaison between the institution and the media. That’s you.

If your story will show the institution in a favorable light or help educate people about their business, you are much more likely to get a “yes”. If your story involves a controversial topic, you can almost definitely expect to get a “no”. (I’ll get into how to combat this in a moment.) Either way, you need to communicate with these institutions, as far in advance as possible.

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