If you’re a writer, and you’re writing a short film or a feature and you’re thinking you want to be able to shoot it “on the cheap” then my advice to you is this: don’t set it in an empty lot, unless you own an empty lot, or know someone who owns an empty lot.
I thought an empty lot would be easy to find. I was wrong. It’s hard. Why? Because you can’t easily walk into the empty lot and ask to speak with the owner.
We found the perfect lot early in our pre-production phase. It was tucked away in a corner near a freeway. Kinda accessible but slightly hidden. Perfect for our titular character. But the problem was figuring out how to shoot there! I had no idea who to ask!
One day, I parked near the locked gate and waited. Must’ve been meant to be, because I didn’t have to wait long! After about two minutes, a small red truck pulled up to the gate and a gentleman got out. He was nice enough to chat with me and kindly informed me that he wasn’t the owner, but he was the leasee. He leases the lot from Souther California Edison! The power company! He said if SCE said it was okay to shoot on this lot, he was okay with it. I got his contact info and drove away excited!
Southern California Edison. I went on their website and discovered that they actually have a special devision specifically for people wanting to shoot on their properties! It’s Southern California. It’s to be expected. The interesting thing is that they own all these amazing buildings but they’re empty!!
Lots of popular shows shoot on SCE lots: 24, CSI, Chuck, Bones, Heroes! One day, when I was visiting the guy in charge of liaising with production companies, he brought me up to the set of NCIS that was shooting in an incredibly beautiful building nearby.
All in all, SCE was very generous to allow our little film about homelessness to shoot on one of their empty lots on day 3 and day 4 of our principal photography. Thank you SCE!
(Crossposted at Sonnyfilm.com)