Category Archives: Location Scouting

The Production Process

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give a talk about covering “The Production Process” at Film Oxford. Like many I feel nervous talking in front of an audience. They say you should do something each day which scares you, so I agreed to give the talk for an hour or so. One of the problems creating the talk was knowing how experienced the audience would be and how much information to cover. I decided to fall back on earlier experiences of filmmaking and focus predominately on pre-production.

The Production Process
If pre-production is well planned then hopefully the rest of the production should all go to plan (at least until post production). There was a dazzling array of talent in the audience (many who were specialised and had years of experience). I tried to overcome my initial nerves to deliver a candid and hopefully useful talk. Whilst some of the context may be lost I’ve included my slides here. I hope any other filmmakers reading will find some of this information useful.

Download The Production Process Talk Slides by Andrew Carslaw


Day 22: Going underground

There is something very cinematic about a subway, not that I would ever look forward to filming in one.

Directing the Subway scene

By October we had picked the subway location we liked and worked with Film Oxford and the city council to secure it. The good news was it was near to our main base, reasonably quiet and generally one of the safer environments we might have used (helped by the fact we shot it early on a dreary Sunday morning). The bad news was it was still pretty grim (if only you could have had “smell-0-vision”).

Directing the Subway scene 2

Ultimately it provided us with some pretty moody and menacing footage. In fact I think my favourite shot of the film was filmed here (even if it did need a fair bit of rehearsal and some pretty meticulous timing).

Subway Scene

Day 21: Bedroom antics

Sunday: day of rest. Thought I’d use this as an excuse to cover some of the fun we had dressing bedroom locations in Emmi. The first was a teenage bedroom. We were able to gain a brief insight into “the real thing”. The obvious conclusions were white walls are unpopular, posters need to be plastered everywhere and it shouldn’t be tidy. Pretty-much as you’d expect – so this came together surprisingly easily (with the exception of needing to find the right material to plaster the walls with).

More problematic was the bedroom for our main character Sarah. We almost took an easy option, but something was nagging me about it – it wasn’t quite right for Sarah’s character. In the end crew-member Alex kindly allowed us to come in and use his spare room for the location. There were a couple of small issues to overcome before we started filming however:

Bedroom pre-dressing

Pre-dressing Bedroom wall

It wasn’t just his nephew’s artwork on the walls, the funishings, a lack of curtains, doorways in the wrong place and windows going full-width across the room (the windows are square in the establishing location shots). We only had two days before we needed to start filming!

It just goes to show how some organisation, a lick of paint, a bit of set dressing and boarding up of windows can transform things dramatically in almost no time at all.

Set Dressing ideas

Fully Dressed

Thanks to Alex for this one, I’m definitely glad we went the extra mile to achieve this – it really made all the difference.


Day 13: If you can’t stand the heat

Okay enough with the stairwell now! Completing the well-known saying in the title above – let’s move on to kitchens. There were two kitchens required for the film. The first kitchen we found was in the same complex as the stairwell. We really liked it’s slightly dated 70’s looking decor (with lilac walls).

Original Kitchen

However, imagine our surprise when we turned up a week later and found the whole kitchen was completely redecorated (unknown to us)! So we have a slightly less grungy looking kitchen.

Film Emmi and Janine Kitchen

We also needed to find a second kitchen. We originally considered another nearby location for this, which probably would have worked well against the original decor:

Possible Kitchen Location

This location was going to cost however and wasn’t ideal in terms of layout. We were also no longer rocking that grunge kitchen look. So what to do with only a few days to go?

Whilst visiting our runner Alex, I noticed his kitchen had space to film and the right type of look for Sarah’s character. So really this post is sending a big thank-you in Alex’s direction for letting us come in and rearrange his entire kitchen for the film.

Filming Amy in the kitchen

I’m sure there might be more thanks heading his way again soon…

Day 11: Compact and Bijou

If you have no idea what I’m referring to with this title, then perhaps this old Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie advert might help explain. If you are still none-the-wiser, then I’m talking about lack of space (with regards to filming).

One of the challenges filming Emmi was shooting in tiny spaces: tiny bedrooms, cramped kitchens and – as mentioned on my previous post – legendary stairwells. In particular this location was a challenge. I remember doing a recce asking the location managers for the seediest looking stairwell they could find. There were a number, but we ended up going with this one:

Grungey Stairwell for The Choice

We liked it because the top housed a tiny corridor area which could also be used. Little did we know!

Stairwell Chaos on The Choice

To say there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat is perhaps an understatement (poor choice of phrase considering we had three characters, a baby and a cat for this scene – that’s before the crew and equipment were also factored in and we only had around 4 hours complete it). We made it through thanks to plenty of humour (and Image App which allows you to see what’s being filmed on camera over wifi).


Day 7: Let Nothing You Dismay

After yesterday’s post, this might look like yet another non-Christmas entry. Good news however, it is! As I type, the Film Oxford Production Group is out filming a motley-crew of choir singers for the Let Nothing You Dismay, a comedy short where the Death gets bored at Christmas and decides to take a holiday in Oxford (as you do!). I was hoping to make it along to the set today to be an extra, but sadly I can’t make it. However I did pop in to the crypt location (just down the road from me), so will share a few photos of this instead (along with it’s wonderful set design):

Death's Crypt Photo 1

Death's Crypt Photo 2

Death Made-up Photo

I’ll be on music composing duties for this one, so expect to hear a bit more about it soon!

The Flat, The Cat, The Penguin

Yes the post-title is referencing the original tag-line from Batman Returns (which whilst not the best film in the series, is definitely the most stylish and under-rated). Although this isn’t really going to be a post covering the caped crusader (this time).

Batman Returns

This blog has been very quiet recently, but not down to any inactivity on my part. We will be filming our mini-opus in 3 days time (I’m not sure why I think I have time to write this entry really, I just need a break and this is as close as it will get). The film is by far the most ambitious thing I’ve attempted to date. On paper it all sounds so deceptively simple, in reality it isn’t.

The Flat
Most of the film takes place in a block of flats. So the first decision is do we go for grim/gritty (in which case is it safe?) or do we go for somewhere a little nicer (safer)? As most of our characters don’t really want to be living in this place, this  influenced our decision. Cue fun times scouring around the city in all the lovely glamour spots trying to find something suitable and hobnobbing with the locals (one of whom introduced himself with “You don’t know me, but I’m the bad boy of this area.”). Nice!

Towerblock location

We did consider filming in the above location (which may still be used for exteriors), but the place was both unsafe, unclean (the room we looked at is to be fumigated this week) and we didn’t have any real control over the environment. So we have been frantically looking everywhere for suitable locations which can double as flats without upsetting the locals. Hopefully it’s mostly together now, although we still haven’t finalised all locations (yes, I know – we are filming in a couple of days – but a lot can happen in that time – right?!)

The Cat
There is a popular show-biz saying “never work with small children or animals”. Nothing like a challenge, we are doing both (young baby and a cat), not only this –  in the same scene together. Goodness only knows how this aspect will work out! But at least we *do* have both a cat and a baby, we just need them to perform on cue and on camera together (laughing maniacally to self).

The Penguin
The Penguin is just one of the many props we need, (and perhaps the easiest to source). We are now frantically flapping trying to get all the set dressing, props and  costumes ready for the shoot. A lot is dictated by the actual locations. One of the biggest problems with filming in more than one location (aside from the time it takes to move a small army from A to B) is making sure everything appears to be part of the same environment. This is a massive headache (it’s not as if I don’t already have enough to sort without worrying whether the carpets/doors/windows match across the locations – newsflash – they probably won’t!). We also have limited kit available, but to be honest this is probably a good thing considering some of the confined areas we are going to be working in.

Did I mention that most of it is also set at night? I’m pretty sure I said after Spare Change, that I definitely don’t want to do another night-shoot again!

So at the moment, disorganised chaos (even the crew aren’t entirely finalised), although the reality we are shooting in a few days has definitely kicked in (I need waaaay more sleep!!). The one thing which has clicked however is our amazing cast, who I couldn’t be more thrilled with!  Small victories such as this are just the beacon we need to counter the fact we are lacking money, time, space, sleep and whole bunch of other things which will need to happen before the weekend. Once I’ve recovered from the first weekend of shooting, I’ll aim to post an update on how everything went. That is – if I make it that far!