Written by Shona Smith on Jun 24, 2020. Posted in On Location

Why location Scouting takes on added importance in a post-Covid-19 world

Mariano Avellaneda, Executive Producer at Atlantico Content serviced a shoot for Nestle in Uruguay and explains why location scouting takes on a particularly important role as productions deal with new, uncertain conditions.

The European regional campaign for Nestle from French Production Company Capisco shot for two days on location in May. “At the time of the shoot, Uruguay was the only country where shooting on location was allowed” explains Avellaneda, “the task was to achieve as much as possible the two shooting days to do an integrated online campaign including moving image and still photography”.

Scouting locations was an important process which faced added pressure due to Covid-19. “We needed to get ready to have good locations and good back-ups. The Covid-19 factor makes things very unpredictable so you need to have always a backup plan in many areas. For example, a neighbour at one of the scouted location options tested positive for Covid-19 so the government shut down the entire block for two weeks. You need to be aware of the potential for things to happen under Covid-19 world. As a producer I needed to be ready to have a plan and be sure that we could provide a solution immediately to our clients”.

Added space for transportation and production was another element of the location scouting. The production company must provide transportation for the crew to each location in order to avoid the use of public transport. “Transportation needs are depending on each project but we need to keep in mind location parking, keeping the trucks organized, and avoiding crowds working in small areas at the same time” says Avellaneda.

The shoot was kept to teams of between twenty and twenty-five people. “We must keep social distancing as much as possible. Each project is different and will demand different set ups. Principally, the amount of people on set close to camera is kept to a minimum while the non-essential crew members are in a separate waiting area”.

Due to travel restrictions from Europe to South America, shooting crew including the director, DP, stills photographer, art director, stylist and talent were all local crew from Uruguay. Four different countries were involved in the live transmission of the shoot, and a zoom conference call during the entire shoot kept the communication going between the film set, the production team and clients.

“First of all, we miss the wrap party!” says Avellaneda. “but the live stream was like being all together at the video village, except for the catering craft service! Good communication flow during the pre-production process and during the shoot is key - we had a very easy-going system to share all the camera video assist feed directly to each of our clients in Europe at their homes”.

As one of the few countries allowing for on location shooting at the time, it was one of the first shoots with new health and safety protocols in place. There is an agreement signed and approved by the Labour and Health Ministry covering all the different aspects and stages for every audiovisual production in Uruguay. “The safety protocol has been written with collaboration of all the participants in the film industry, production companies, casting agents and workers associations. It has been made considering all the details to be able to work within safe and healthy conditions” says Avellaneda.

This includes location disinfection before the call time and after the wrap time for each shooting day. Staggered crew call times to get organized with medical pre-check before starting to work, prep, art work dressing, lighting, shooting. There was a medic on set all the time checking that everything was going well. The main talent and their back-ups were tested for Covid-19 48hs prior to the shoot date to be sure that all of them were OK to shoot, since the talent was performing on camera without masks or gloves.

“We were ready to react in any case that some of the talent were tested positive”. Avellaneda offers some advice to producers about shooting under the new circumstances. “Remote shooting requires a very detailed shooting schedule to achieve the most out of every minute and keep a fluid communication in order to get client approval on each scene to continue and follow to the next scene”.

“Allow some extra time within the shooting schedule for prepping, location cleaning, medical check in and location wrap. This safety protocol action can start earlier with minimum location and production crew, but it will take at least 2 hours to prep & wrap each shooting day. Having director approved backups for almost every aspect on the film including talent and key crew members is important too” he adds.

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