Filming locations


What are filming locations?

A filming location is a space where one or multiple scenes for a certain video project are filmed. Locations can be exterior or interior, natural objects or a built set.

Interiors are locations in an enclosed area, such as an apartment, hangar or a studio, while exteriors are all the locations outside in the open. Natural objects are locations not constructed by productions. They are rented from a person or a company for filming purposes. That can be an apartment, a church or a hotel, but a natural object can also be exterior – for instance, a beautiful park, the woods and so on.       It is also important to mention that a production can <<dress up>> a natural object in order to make it more suitable for the script.

Constructed objects are usually (there are exceptions) done in a film studio. A production will start building an object if it plans on filming a certain project for a longer period of time such as series and films and sometimes even just a TV commercial (when the weather, time of the year or the location make it impossible to film in a natural object).

Natural objects are most commonly used for filming TV ads, corporate movies (obviously) and feature films. They are convenient for TV because building a set is not advisable for just a couple of days of filming while feature films require objects that will, without too much meddling, evoke that emotion the director is trying to portray.

Corporate movies will, of course, be filmed at the location in question.

Each of these statements is not completely correct because production is such a diverse field and every project demands a new set of rules.

Who is a location manager and what are his responsibilities?

A location manager is a person who is part of the production team. During pre-production, he searches for suitable filming locations using the director’s input and the script as guidelines whilst staying on the production budget.

The location manager’s task is to acquire several locations for one scene – for instance, if we are looking for a beach the location manager will present the production with a few options. The producer will assess which one is best for filming considering the distance, nearby accommodation for the team, possibilities of equipment transport and so on, while the director and the client (if he is present in the project) will decide if the location is visually what they were looking for. The location manager cannot send just any location. He/she must be familiar with the production’s demands for every location and what kind of budget they’re working with beforehand. It is pointless to propose something that is over budget or inaccessible to a group of 5 to 50 people (roughly speaking).

His/her duty, besides finding a location, is to organize the following for the chosen location:                      

  1. Permits
  2. Parking
  3. Insurance (if necessary – such as firemen, police, etc.)
  4. Property damage insurance
  5. A contract with the property owner and so on

The location manager has to be the first to arrive on set and the last one to leave in order to make sure that the production didn’t leave behind anything that could potentially cause problems with the property owner in the future.

Why choose Croatian locations for filming?

Croatia is a country in Central Europe, bordering between what we call the East and the West. The surface area of Croatia is 113.000 km2 and its population is a little under 4 million. To the majority of people reading this article this information doesn’t mean a lot, so we shall simplify it. Croatia is shaped like a boomerang, which means you can travel East to South in about 10 hours by car.

The East constitutes of Slavonija and Baranja and according to soil configuration it is categorized as a lowland area. In regards of production, wheat fields, plains, vineyards, etc. are mostly filmed there.

On our way to the South we pass through Zagreb (the capital). If a production is situated in Zagreb, then it’s close to Zagorje and Međimurje, which are full of picturesque hills with vineyards, castles, rivers and centuries-old little cities where you can witness the Austro-Hungarian legacy.

Zagreb is a city first mentioned in the year 1094 and has been growing and developing ever since. If we envision Zagreb as a filming location, it has everything – urban areas, lakes, rivers, forests, parks, zoos and different buildings dating from historical times.

If we continue towards the South, we will encounter an intersection. One road leads to the littoral area and Istria through Gorski Kotar and the other towards southern Dalmatia via Lika.

Gorski Kotar and Lika make up the green alpine zone of Croatia.

Gorski Kotar has one national park – Risnjak, and Lika has three – North Velebit, Plitvice lakes, and Paklenica. Both areas are sparsely populated but they have high accommodation capacities and a handful of locations suitable for filming narrow mountain roads, the woods, saw-mills, rivers, little villages and so on.

The littoral area and Istria are visually most similar to Tuscany. Hilltop towns, vineyards, the sea, rivers and also luxury hotels are all allocated in these premises.

Driving next to Lika and passing through the tunnel of Saint Rok, we arrive to Dalmatia and the islands of the Adriatic Sea. Croatia has over a 1000 islands of which about 50 are populated. Dalmatia is a locality with beautiful sea and very diverse beaches (depends on the area). The most famous location in Dalmatia is Dubrovnik considering that’s where the filming of many movies and series took place such as Game of Thrones, Star Wars and others. The island of Vis is famous for being the filming location for the movie Mamma Mia 2.

Croatia encourages foreign productions and that is one of the main reasons to film here, besides the wonderful locations. Read more about this in the article Co-production.

Two more important points worth mentioning:

  1. Since Croatia doesn’t have that many residents, it is easier for foreign productions to acquire filming permits (with the help of a local production). Speaking in layman’s terms, the people working in this field are mutually acquainted and the productions in charge are already familiar with all the localities, as well as their upsides and downsides.
  2. Before going into production in Croatia, it is good to consult with a local production. Very often clients and foreign productions opt for filming in Croatia, especially Dalmatia and Istria. Since Croatia is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations, during high season (April to October) the number of people willing to work as extras or assistants on set rapidly decreases. According to the law of supply and demand, throughout this period the cost of hiring extras goes up and so does the cost of any local employee’s working day. Our advice to foreign productions is to incorporate this into the budget in advance or organize themselves and bring in people from other localities on set. Also, it is good to start the production preparation process early enough in order to gather the best group of this kind of associates.

How to incorporate the cost of a location into the budget?

The cost of a location is determined by the time of year and, of course, the filming location itself. Houses and apartments are priced at 2.000 – 15.000 kn, depending on their size, luxuriousness and shooting schedule.

The city or the company in charge rent out public spaces. The cost depends on the location and time spent filming. The city of Zagreb, for instance, is divided into three zones and based on where the chosen public area is allocated, the city will issue a permit and charge up to 18.000 kn at the most for a day of shooting (the first zone being the most expensive).  City parks with an administration of their own, such as Maksimir and ŠRC Jarun, will form their prices independently.  The prices stated above are all part of primary expenses.

Other location expenses are the following:

  1. Parking fees
  2. Hiring someone to watch over the parking spaces prior to and the shoot
  3. Closing roads or bridges and hiring the police and other sectors in charge of such actions
  4. Renting tents, portable toilets and other necessities if filming takes place in a location far away from urban areas
  5. Property damage insurance

Just like everything else in production, these expenses are a rough estimate and are determined by the project requirements.  If you’re filming with just one camera for a documentary or public announcement, then you won’t be needing a permit and you won’t have to bear any of the expenses mentioned above.

Ways we can help with searching for a location

Serena pro d.o.o. will be happy to help with searching for any kind of location you require in order to execute your project. This service is not limited to just video projects, we can also help with acquiring locations for photography production or an event.  We would be delighted to help with a friendly advice and offer the best possible solutions before you even start forming a budget, no strings attached.

Contact us without hesitation at serenapro@serenapro.hr.

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