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Finding film locations in London

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Written by Becky T

Published Feb 02, 2023

Location is everything, and you need to find the best one for your project. But where do you start when it comes to finding locations for film projects in London? The process can feel overwhelming, especially if you don't already have a locations library to fall back on.

There are so many logistics to consider when seeking out locations for film projects in London. Where are you allowed to record in public? Do you need permission to film a movie on a street? Can you film other people without their permission? Can you secure the place on your own, or you do need to work with a professional location scout in London?

From music video locations to interview filming locations, Tutti has you covered. We’re here to help you discover the ultimate location for your next project, no matter what you’re filming.

Read on and discover everything you need to know about finding film locations in London, regardless of whether you work solo or hire a professional location scout.

Contents:

  1. What is location scouting?
  2. How to hire a location scout
    ○ Look for local scouts that know the area
    ○ Consider their rates and your budget
    ○ Ask for an estimate
    ○ Examine their portfolio
  3. Finding film locations yourself
    ○ Think about logistics
    ○ Listen closely to sound
    ○ Explore the neighbourhood
    ○ Consider gear staging and shooting space
    ○ Assess the infrastructure
    ○ Use a location-scouting platform
image showing people walking on the bankside of London, with tower bridge in the background
Photo by Naveen Annam

What is location scouting?

In production, location scouting is the process of finding great locations for film. This could be a house for filming cosy scenes in a movie, or an industrial jazz club for a music video - the sky’s the limit, especially when you’re in London.

Location scouts are like casting directors, only instead of finding the right actors for a role, they find the perfect places to film.

Of course, you can location scout yourself or you can opt to hire a professional. Either way, there are a number of factors to take into consideration when assessing different potential film locations in London. These are the basic things to keep in mind:

● Budget
● Permits
Film equipment rentals and placement
● Power supply
● Lighting (for example, do you want hard lighting or soft lighting?)
● Sound
● Weather
● Security
● Transportation/accessibility
● Facilities and amenities (like restrooms, craft services, and HVAC)

These are the basic elements you should consider when looking for locations for your film project. We’ll dig much deeper in the next section as we cover how to find a filming location by yourself. First, let's look at how to hire a professional scout to do the work for you:

How to hire a location scout

image showing a location scout in london watching as a photographer takes a photo of the London skyline from a bridge
Photo by David Marcu

Do you need to hire a professional to scout a location? It depends. If you’re filming requires more complex permits or requirements, then a location scout could help you cover all the details in a systematic way. If you're using a video production company, they will likely include location scouting as an available service.

You may also benefit from a professional location scouting service if you don’t know the city you’re filming in. Production deadlines can make a location scout a necessity, simply because there isn’t enough time for you to travel and scout yourself.

If you decide to go the professional route, here are the most important things to remember about hiring a location scout.

Look for scouts that know the area

image showing a london underground station sign lit up at night
Photo by Muhammad O'Saleem

You need an insider’s perspective to find the best places to film in London (why not have a look at some of the best places to photograph in London for some inspiration). This means choosing a scout who explored the city for years, and they know all its best spots and hidden gems. Their first-hand experience living and working in your shooting area can help you find locations that suit your wants and needs.

Having inside knowledge also means they’re able to tell you important details about an area someone with less experience might not know. For example, certain streets may be prone to closures, or there could be a lot of noise in a nearby pub that could interrupt shooting at night.

Ask a scout how long they’ve been living in the city, what their favourite places are, and how they help others find the best film locations.

Consider their rates and your budget

image showing a man tapping a credit card on a card reader
Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya

Does the location scout charge by the hour or by day? Do they charge per location, or is there a bundled package for each client? Services can vary dramatically, so make sure you are always aware of the costs you might incur before agreeing to any services. Make sure you factor in other production costs like costume rental or equipment hire when assessing your budget.

If a location scout in London offers to show you some locations, don’t say yes without knowing how much it would cost. Otherwise, you may mistake their offer as a courtesy, which leaves an awkward and costly situation on your hands.

In many cases, finding film locations yourself can be a much more affordable option. By taking out the middle person, you only have to worry about paying for the location itself.

However, you may need a scout if you want to shoot somewhere that requires permits or permissions, and you don’t know how to go about acquiring them. In these cases, their professional knowledge can be an invaluable resource.

Discover beautiful locations to film interviews with Tutti

Choose from 1000+ spaces and locations on Tutti and deal directly with space hosts for a quick, hassle-free booking process.

Ask for an estimate

A good location scout will have no problem offering a price estimate. They should be forthcoming about their rates and provide a personalised quote based on your project’s needs. We suggest always asking for an estimate before you tour any location or accept any offers.

Examine their portfolio

image showing a man operating a film camera
Photo by Kashilembo Wabu

Location scouts, like most professionals, tend to have specialities. Some may focus on large-scale, commercial projects, while others like to work with independent filmmakers. Ask your London location scout what types of projects they tend to work on the most, and what their favourite projects to work on are.

Ask to see samples of work shot on locations for film that they’ve scouted. This will give you the clearest idea of how good of a fit they might be for your project.

Although they’re helpful in many cases, professional location scouts are not always necessary, nor are they the most budget-friendly approach. Does this mean you’re at a loss when it comes to finding film locations in London? Not at all!

You can be your own location scout by following these steps.

Finding film locations yourself

image showing crowds on the millennium bridge in London
Photo by Dom J

You know that everyday shooting costs time and money. You need to know exactly what details to review in each location, so you don’t wind up losing days to problems like heavy foot traffic or lack of space.

Before you even get started tackling the city, we suggest you focus on two things: vision and storyline.

No matter what you’re shooting, every project has to be visualised prior to location scouting. After all, how can you bring something to life if you don’t even have a clear idea of it in your head?

Break down your film project scene by scene. Visualise each one in as much detail as you can. You have to pair each image in your mind with a practical element of filming. You can do this by asking yourself questions like:

● How long is each shot?
● How wide will I be filming?
● Do I need complete coverage or just one area?
● How many elements do I need to fit into each frame?
● What do I need to transform the space into what I visualize?
● Am I going to shoot on commercial or private property that requires permits/permissions?

The reason we emphasise vision first is that you’ll often realise that you have to adjust yours to fit reality. Factors like budget, equipment, and physical space don’t always align with our ideas. To make our projects as great as they can be, we need to balance our vision with the resources we have available.

Once you’ve figured out the general places you want to consider, it’s also important to think about the story you want to tell. Storylines can last a few seconds, or unfold over the course of hours. What matters most is that you are 100% certain of the story you want to tell, and you understand how the setting will play an enormous role in bringing that story to life on screen.

Think about logistics

Photo by Lê Minh

If you’re shooting at night, you’ll need plenty of light to make your shots look great. Conversely, you might need to black out windows if you need darker shots during the daytime. The trickiest part of finding film locations in London can be making sure you find a place that’s available when you need it and gives you all the space you need to achieve the perfect shot.

One of the biggest things to remember is that sunlight changes heavily throughout the day, even in London. Make sure that you are visiting any potential locations for film during the times you’ll be filming in them. This will give you the best idea of what modifications you might have to make to truly capture the look you’re going for.

Keep in mind that lighting and weather aren’t entire deal-breakers. Editing and VFX can help you transform scenes post-production.

Listen closely to sound

image showing a film camera with microphone attached
Photo by Stephan Müller

Ambient noise can make or break a filming location. Imagine finding the perfect spot to film, only to realize it’s unbearable 80% of the day due to nearby construction.

Even with great sound equipment, and the power of editing, you can only work with whatever raw audio you record. If it’s so muddled by heavy wind, traffic, or lesser-known interruptions, like furnaces and air conditioners, you probably won’t be happy with the final cut.

It’s important to make sure you can work with the sound in any location. Many mechanical sounds can be shut off via circuit breakers, but not always. In some situations, eliminating them entirely would require cutting all the power to a location. Obviously, that won’t work.

Whenever you scout a location, make sure to check:

● How much noise there is on average
● Options for reducing any unwanted sounds
● Sound sources and their effects on other systems
● Timing for different sounds, like traffic, or air conditioning cycles
● Air traffic, trains, boats, and vehicles at different times of day

Another major sound culprit? Reverberation. This is the echo-like effect that can cause sound to extend after it's been made. You want to eliminate this as much as possible, either by shooting in a really well-insulated space, applying padding, or changing your mic setup.

Explore the neighbourhood

Photo by Lina Kivaka

No matter where you plan to shoot, it’s always a good idea to check out the surrounding area. This gives you an idea of how loud it can be, what possible disruptions you may have, and how its overall ambience can influence the final result of your filming.

Potentially problematic locations could contribute to the sound, traffic, and even transportation problems for your crew. Keep an eye out for schools, factories, warehouses, gas stations, post offices, large supermarkets, and heavily populated roads.

In London, it's hard finding film locations that don't have something happening at any given time of the day. But you should consider how schedules may influence your shooting. For example, if you’re trying to film a scene at sunset, think about how people’s evening commutes could disrupt your shooting.

Don’t worry if you can’t physically wander around every neighbourhood. That’s what Google Maps is for. Pop in the address of a location, and take a virtual tour around its surrounding area. You can also scroll out and get a birds-eye perspective of neighbouring businesses and facilities.

Consider gear staging and shooting space

image showing a film crew inside a warehouse
Photo by Jakob Owens

Let’s say you’ve found a film studio in London, and everything checks out. It might be everything you’re looking for, but come shooting day, it winds up being entirely too cramped. Your frames have to become smaller to avoid filming crew and equipment. Worse, you realise that you can’t even arrange your film lighting and sound equipment the way you need without creating issues on camera.

All of this is avoidable if you scout a location with space in mind. Make sure that it’s bigger than what you need to give everyone ample room to move and shoot.

Finding film locations for your own music video may not require so much space, but shooting a TV show with an entire film crew is a different story. Consider how many people will be on set at a time, what their roles are, what equipment they’ll need, and how this will impact the video production workflow.

Assess the infrastructure

Photo by Kyle Loftus

The structure of a shooting location has a major impact on your budget and the end result of your filming. For example, imagine you find a great location for your commercial, but there isn’t a bathroom facility on site. In that case, you could run into trouble as people repeatedly need to leave the set to go find a restroom. The time they spend commuting takes away from shooting, which ultimately delays your project’s completion.

If there isn’t enough power, you may have to buy another generator. However, that may not fit into everyone’s budget.

Allow yourself ample time to explore a space, and make sure that it’s structurally capable of supporting your shoot. You should also make sure there aren’t any obvious hazards that could injure someone.

Depending on how flexible your budget is, all these factors will influence where you ultimately decide to shoot.

Use a location-scouting platform

Photo by Ron Lach

Did you know you can find film studios and filming locations online in one place? At Tutti, we make it easy for you to find the perfect locations in London. We provide a diverse collection of film locations that are perfect for music videos, movies, interviews, documentaries, commercials, YouTube videos, and much more.

With five disciplines in mind (music, dance, theatre, film/TV, and photography), we’ve handcrafted a curated collection of spaces that help creatives capture their vision.

Using a powerful filter system, you can search for venues on Tutti, and then send a request to the host. It’s sort of like Airbnb but for film locations. Once the host responds to your inquiry, you can negotiate all the details, like dates and costs, which you can then lay out to your client in your video production proposal.

Your final payments are processed through our secure system, so you don’t even have to worry about paying the host directly.

Start finding film locations today

image showing a man filming as a woman sings and plays the piano
Photo by Kyle Loftus

Finding suitable locations for filming is the foundation of any good film project. Start levelling up your portfolio so that you draw in more clients for your video projects.

Tutti is your go-to location scout in London. Our spaces are designed for creatives, companies, and everyone in between. Whether you’re finding film locations for your low-budget film production, searching for the perfect place for a family photoshoot, or looking for background ideas for your YouTube video, our collection has over 1,000 options waiting to be discovered.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, let us know! We’ll send you personalized suggestions in 72 hours for free.

Find film and video studios with Tutti

Choose from 1000+ spaces and locations on Tutti and deal directly with space hosts for a quick, hassle-free booking process.

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