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  • As you reach the end of a movie's credit sequence, usually long after everyone has

  • left the theatre, you start to get to some of the names of people that might not have

  • written the script, might not have played the characters, and might not have operated

  • the camera, but were crucial to the success of that film.

  • Quite a few of the names might not have dealt with filming at all, but rather dealt with

  • getting those who did housed, fed, and transported to where they need to be.

  • As much of a challenge getting the story and picture right in a movie is, another distinct

  • challenge that only escalates as budget does is the logistics.

  • While most movies will film quite a few of their scenes in a studio using sets, green

  • screens, and other tactics to portray the supposed location, still most film a number

  • of scenes on location, all around the world.

  • Filming on-location is an enormously complex, multi-month or sometimes multi-year process

  • that all typically starts with one personthe location scout.

  • We'll use the example of what is now the most financially successful movie of all timeAvengers:

  • Endgame.

  • As one of the biggest-budget films of all-time, this movie had a whole location department

  • that wrapped many of the location-based functions into one.

  • For smaller films, though, locations scouts tend to be more separate, freelance roles

  • working temporarily for a given production.

  • Essentially what they do is take the wishes of the writer or director of a given movie

  • and do their very best to fulfill them.

  • If a scout is asked to find a sunny yet run-down street in a small coastal Mediterranean town,

  • they do their best to find a location that looks like that, but it doesn't necessarily

  • need to be sunny, run-down, coastal, Mediterranean, or even a small town.

  • Some of that can be fixed in post, some can be fixed with decoration, and some doesn't

  • show up on film at all.

  • There are a lot of reasons a film might use a stand-in for the real location they're

  • trying to depictcost, time, practicality, availability, bureaucracy, logistics, even

  • down to tiny reasons like weather, lighting, noise-level, and more.

  • A film set in a small Greenlandic town might choose to film in Iceland just because it's

  • easier to get to, has better infrastructure, and has a larger and perhaps most experienced

  • local labor force.

  • At the same time, a film set in Antarctica might choose to film in Greenland for the

  • same reasons.

  • Once the location scout finds the perfect location, they then have to make sure filming

  • is actually possible there.

  • If it's a privately owned location, they have to figure out who the owner is and negotiate

  • with them, which isn't always easy, while if it's public space they have to work with

  • the government, which also isn't always easy.

  • In the case of Endgame, some location scout at some point was asked to find a location

  • to serve as New Asgardthe fishing village home of Thor.

  • For this, they settled on the Scottish village of St Abbs.

  • Now, there are a few reasons why this was a smart choice.

  • One was that it's in a country with an upstart film industry promoted by its government so

  • government approval was likely easy, two was that this village was small enough that they

  • could essentially entirely take it over, and three was that it was relatively near Edinburgh.

  • The proximity to Edinburgh served two important roles.

  • One was that it meant there was a big city nearby with the facilities to host a large

  • production and two was that, for the previous Avengers movie, Infinity War, they spent months

  • filming a complex action sequence in Edinburgh.

  • The two films were shot back-to-back and, in some cases, simultaneously, so this way,

  • the production could easily move from Edinburgh to St Abbs for a few days after rather than

  • completely moving to a new country to film this relatively simple scene in New Asgard.

  • In practice, a location scout typically presents the movie's director a variety of options

  • for where to shootfor New Asgard, there almost certainly were quite a few locations

  • on a short-list before they settled on St Abbs.

  • Once a location is selected, though, the job is then handed over to a location manager.

  • Now, sometimes the location scout and location manager are the same person and sometimes

  • they are different people, but they are always distinct roles.

  • The location manager is in charge of navigating all the legal and logistical aspects of organizing

  • an on-location shoot once the location is selected.

  • One huge aspect of this is getting permits to film from the local government.

  • A lot of cities, states, regions, or countries that are in high demand for filming, such

  • as New York, have government agencies dedicated to both promoting and organizing filming activities

  • in their location.

  • In New York's case, for example, the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting fills

  • this role and handles the permitting process.

  • An agency like this wants to balance its role of promoting the industry, which can be a

  • fantastic boost economically to a city, and serving its city's population.

  • Filming, especially when part of a big production, is a burden on local residents so any government

  • that wants to stay popular with its constituents wants to manage this burden.

  • For this, New York's agency has a rotating list of locations where filming is prohibited

  • simply because these locations have had too much filming recently.

  • That way even the most popular spots won't have their residents disturbed too much.

  • Negotiating a filming permit in places less experienced in this matter can be more difficult,

  • though, as that will require a bespoke deal.

  • That's only the tip of the iceberg of the planning a location manager has to deal with.

  • One other huge complexity can be just simply getting equipment to the location, especially

  • if that location is in a different country than where the production company is based.

  • You see, when Avengers came to Scotland to film, they needed all the same cameras and

  • equipment as in the US so the film stayed consistent in quality.

  • With big budget-productions such as this, that means they need to bring hundreds of

  • thousands of dollars worth of equipment into a foreign country.

  • The difficulty then is that, typically, when goods originate from outside of a country

  • and are brought inside that country, one has to pay import tariffs on them.

  • As an individual entering a country through an airport one has certain duty free allowances

  • and typically there's a provision that personal articles can be brought in tax-free, but when

  • traveling as a business, like a Hollywood production company, if they were to bring

  • equipment into a country and keep it there, for example if they were setting up a studio

  • there, then an import tariff would be assessed.

  • Avengers likely travelled with hundreds of thousands of even millions of dollars worth

  • of equipment so you can imagine the kind of financial damage a 20% import tariff would

  • have.

  • Of course, though, there are a few ways to get around this.

  • The first would be to get an ATA carnet.

  • This is essentially a passport for goods.

  • For a fee and security deposit, these work as a customs mechanism for many countries

  • in which one can import goods temporarily without paying any taxes.

  • These are complicated, though, because once issued there's little flexibility as one

  • has to list exact travel dates and destinations and must also list all equipment including

  • its exact serial number.

  • Since the security deposit scales to the value of the goods, it can also tie up a lot of

  • money.

  • The other option is to just rent equipment within the location country.

  • While this is only an option when filming in countries with top quality rental companies,

  • even Hollywood productions will quite often rent their equipment.

  • Another thing the location manager has to think about is staffing.

  • While the top positions in a production will obviously need to travel to each filming location,

  • many of the rank and file members just do not.

  • If you can get a lighting technician in the destination country rather than flying one

  • out from the US, it would obviously make sense to hire the one in-country since that would

  • lower cost.

  • In the case of Avengers: Endgame, the film shot in four main locations.

  • The film's studio was outside Atlanta, Georgia so many scenes were filmed in there and many

  • that weren't took place in the greater Atlanta area.

  • That's where everyone here, the bulk of the names in the credit sequence, were based.

  • There was then a partially distinct production group for the film's scenes in New York.

  • You'll notice that there are a not a whole lot of names in this group and they mostly

  • correspond to location management roles and some other production management roles.

  • Many of the bigger roles, such as director of photography, director, producer, and more

  • would be filled by those working back in Atlanta traveling out.

  • The far larger and more distinct unit was the one dedicated to filming in England and

  • Scotland.

  • The movie had two major scenes filmed in the UK.

  • One was in that small, Scottish village of St Abbs, playing New Asgard, and the other

  • was in Durham Cathedral which played the role of a part of AsgardThor's home.

  • Now, these two locations were not insignificant in the filmthey involved some of the film's

  • lead characters and accounted for about 12.5 total minutes of screen-time which, in a movie

  • as big-budget as this, is a decent amount.

  • Therefore, the on-location productions were sizable.

  • The UK unit therefore had quite a number of specialized staffit had its own graphic

  • designers, set decorators, costume supervisor, sculptors, prop-master, sound effect technicians,

  • it even had its own administrative staff like a network and IT technician and payroll accountant.

  • Sometimes, though, those in charge of a movie don't need to be involved with filming at

  • all.

  • All of the logistics mess can be avoided if they just don't travel.

  • Further down in the credits, you get to the section titled, “plate units.”

  • These are distinct production units that are in charge of gathering footage that will end

  • up being used by the movie's visual effects department, often as background in green screen

  • sequences.

  • When Marvel needed footage from a Brazilian national park to act as the landscape of the

  • planet Vormir, they just hired a company called Brazil Production Services to go and film

  • that for them.

  • For the most part this company was just left to get this footage on their own.

  • When Marvel needed shots of the Philippines to serve as the landscape around Thanos'

  • hut in the final movie, they once again just hired a local production company, Indochina

  • Productions, to do the work for them since the character was added in post.

  • Even for the biggest productions like this, when actors aren't involved, they can usually

  • reduce complexity and cost by hiring outside production companies to do the work for them

  • rather than flying one of their production units all the way out to Brazil or the Philippines

  • or wherever to get that one shot.

  • In addition to those two, Marvel also hired production companies in Tokyo, Iceland, Chile,

  • and San Francisco to each capture footage that would end up as assets used by the visual

  • effects department.

  • When it actually comes time to film a scene on-location, all the planning is finally put

  • into practice.

  • One important aspect of the implementation is making sure that the community where one

  • films walks away from the experience feeling like it was fun and cool, rather than a burden.

  • This is also crucial for the government of a given area which will typically want the

  • economic boost from a film production coming while also wanting to keep public favor.

  • Again using the example of St Abbs, Scotland, such a big production coming meant the town

  • was basically completely shut down for two days.

  • They cordoned off essentially the whole town so only residents and workers could come in.

  • Marvel made a lot of smart decisions to win over the residents of St Abbs.

  • For one, many of the residents were used as extras which certainly turned it into an experience

  • for them.

  • In addition, for feeding the crew, rather than bring in some catering company they hired

  • a local cafe to serve food.

  • That way they're seen as supporting local businesses.

  • In addition, the stars were reportedly generous with their time, meeting many of the locals,

  • and Marvel made a financial donation to the St Abbs lifeboat crew.

  • In all, this made for a win for both the town and Marvel as Marvel got a location with a

  • supporting public and good press and the town got a cool experience and economic benefit.

  • That economic benefit has even kept coming after the shoot as St Abbs has apparently

  • experienced a tourism boom since the film's release.

  • No matter where a film shoots, a huge part of the location manager's job is to try

  • to keep the production as low impact as possible.

  • They have roles as minute as parking managers just to be sure that a given production can

  • get in and out of their location as cleanly and efficiently as possible.

  • With tightly packed schedules, films just don't have time for a dispute with the local

  • population and a local government will often be quick to side with their constituents if

  • they get too burdened by Hollywood coming to town.

  • When successfully pulled off, though, big-budget Hollywood productions can bring jobs to an

  • area, bring attention to an areathey can really transform a place so the focus that

  • many cities and countries put on attracting them is truly well placed.

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The Logistics of Filming Avengers

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/11
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