Friday, April 23, 2010

Location, location, location

As of late, I haven't been able to post as often as I'd like because I'm gearing up to shoot another short film project that I'm doing with a Bravo!FACT grant: Notes From the Kuerti Keyboard.  It has been quite busy for me in preparation for the shoot itself. Several things have made the pre-production part of it rather tricky, but the hardest and least enjoyable is usually trying to find the right locations.

My filmmaking partner Katarina Soukup (Catbird Productions) is based in Montreal and our talent for the music short film is distinguished pianist Anton Kuerti. We first received news of our grant in early March. However, Anton was just about to leave for a European tour, so we weren't able to meet with him to get a firm sense of his availability until earlier this month. After that, the other key team member we needed to nail down was our director of photography (DP, i.e. cinematographer) who was going to be quite busy as well.

Katarina and I are both attending the Hot Docs Festival from April 29-May 9. Since she was planning to travel later in May as part of a documentary project she's working on, we were looking at the week or so following Hot Docs for our shoot. Anton is scheduled to play in Montreal on May 11 and would be traveling back on the 12th, so he was fine anytime after that. However, our DP told us that he starts something else on May 15 and wouldn't be available after that. That left us only two days, May 13-14. We were only planning a two-day shoot, so that wasn't too terrible. But it meant that we had no flexibility in our next hurdle: locations.

Finding the right locations is never easy. You need to choose places that look right, are available and are affordable. For our project, we needed two separate looks: a concert hall and an early twentieth-century room that looked like someone's study or work space. We found the study first, to our surprise. A room that I had considered but was worried might be too small turned out to be larger than I remembered. It also was available, but only on the 13th. So we booked it and set out to look for a concert hall space with a full-sized concert grand piano.

We checked everything and everywhere. We contacted and visited halls, churches, hotels, schools, you name it. Some options weren't available, including one good possibility that was just booked by someone else the day we went in to meet them. Others didn't quite look right. Some halls were available, but because they are union spaces and would have required us to hire a few their technicians, they would have been prohibitively expensive. One option wasn't too bad, but we would have only had seven hours in which to work before we had to vacate the space for another group. Some were slow to get back to me by phone or email.

After plugging away at it for over a week, it came down to three options. Earlier this week, I finally got email confirmation from the best of the three choices that they were indeed available. That was one huge worry taken off our shoulders. From here on in, it should be relatively smooth sailing.

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