Skip to content
wrapal, location scouting, location scout, film locations,, Brian L. Tan. Brian Tan

Please Note: Once you press play it will take a few seconds for the episode to start playing.

How to Location Scout on a Budget with Brian L. Tan

Anytime I location scout a property we are going to shoot at I always look out for the boobie traps that might hurt the shoot. Finding and dealing with locations can be a nightmare, especially when you have little or no budget.

Today on the show I have locations, guru Brian L. Tan. Brian is the founder of, a site built to help filmmakers and property owners find location love. We discuss a bunch of tips and tricks to get locations on the cheap, if not for free and we go over the pitfalls that many filmmakers fall into when shooting on location.

Below you’ll find a great guide on how to location scout on a budget, written by Brian, as well as some genius videos they created. Enjoy and happy hunting!

Right-click here to download the MP3
Download on iTunes Direct
Watch on IFH YouTube Channel

Guide to Location Scouting for Indie Films

A good location is essential to a good project, but finding one can be a complicated task that involves days of scouting, talking with property owners, and mountains of paperwork. So how do you go about this daunting task? I’m glad you asked!

Before You Start

Like most things in life, knowing what you want is the first step. Decide what you’re looking for in your location, learn your architectural terms, read your script, and speak with the director about their vision. Get a good idea of what you want to help narrow down your search.

Some locations may be perfect looks-wise but can be a nightmare logistically, so have an idea of how big the cast and crew might be, how much gear you will use and how many trucks might be on set.

Finally, budgeting. Location fees can quickly eat up the budget for the whole film, which is especially a nightmare for indie productions. Be sure to have a budget in mind when approaching properties so you can negotiate to your strengths more effectively.

How to Search

If you desire a larger amount of control over the environment of your set, you should consider looking for a stage, soundstage, or lot. They are decently prevalent in the SoCal area but they can be tough to find in non-film focused cities. If you’re scouting for rare locations like schools, hospitals, jails, or police stations, the search can be especially daunting.

Sometimes, the old-fashioned way of using a location scout still works. They are experienced with various locations and have, hopefully, good relationships with property owners. But using just one person limits the amount of potential locations you could be scouting. In addition, scouts can cost a pretty penny, so this won’t be an option for most.

Luckily, we live in the 21st century, so online resources are your friend. Sometimes filmmakers will use Craigslist or Airbnb to find a location, but neither of those websites were made for that purpose. Sites like are better options, as they provide an online marketplace to put you in direct contact with property owners, many of whom are already well aware of what a shoot can entail. They can even protect both parties in the event that something goes wrong.

During the Scout

Be Nice: Getting along with your property owner is a very important part of scouting and successfully booking a property. Establishing a good relationship can help with price negotiation, running overtime, and dealing with any potential damages.

Bring Contracts: Not only does it show you’re professional, but if the location really speaks to you, it can help to sign contracts then and there to lock the location down before someone else reserves it.  

Take Photos: The property owner should have photos of their property already, but you should nonetheless take thorough before and after photos in the event that a property owner claims you’ve damaged something. Have your phone or camera charged and ready!

Be Aware of:

Outlets & Breaker Box: How many are in each room? Where will you have to run cables and devices? Find the breaker box and make sure you can access it. You never know if you’ll blow a fuse.

Lighting: Practical lighting can be very useful but it can also be a big pain in terms of interfering with shots. Knowing where windows are located can be good knowledge for the DP or gaffer to have.

Large furniture: It will most likely need to be moved, so having an idea of how much work will be required to fix the space will help save you time when shooting.

Luckily, sites like allow properties to lay out all of these details and pictures in their listings so you’ll know up front.

wrapal, location scouting, location scout, film locations,, Brian L. Tan. Brian Tan

For example, on the listing above (Click Here) You can even see past reviews from other filmmakers who have filmed there, how long they usually take to respond, and whether or not they do student rates. Super convenient!

Be Clear About Expectations: Let the property owner know exactly what kind of logistics your shoot will entail, like which furniture will be moved, if you need to get on the roof, etc. A surefire way to get on the owner’s bad side is to be unclear about details such as how many cast and crew members there are. Likewise, you should also make sure the property owner has been upfront with you about their own needs, and that what was agreed to will be honored on the day of your shoot.

Neighbors: All the courtesy you extend to the property owner should also be extended to the neighbors. Meet them and give them your contact number in case they have questions or complaints. Doing so will usually make them more trusting of you and less likely to call the cops when you’re shooting that action scene.

So there you have it! Being knowledgeable about the scouting process can help turn what could be the biggest and most expensive pain of the pre-production process into a quick, and even enjoyable experience. Now get out there and get booking!



  1. Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
  2. Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
  3. Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
  4. Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
  5. – (IFH Discount SAVE $50)


  1. Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
  2. Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
  3. Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons 
  4. Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
  5. The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters


  1. Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
  2. Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
  3. Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
  4. (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)

Action Items:

If you liked How to Location Scout on a Budget with Brian Tan, then click below:

filmmaker, indie filmmaker, filmmakers, indie film hustle, alex ferrari, filmmaking podcast

Production Design, filmmaking, filmmakers, indie film, independent film

Enjoyed How to Location Scout on a Budget with Brian Tan? Please share it in your social networks (FacebookTwitter, email etc) by using social media buttons at the side or bottom of the blog. Or post to your blog and anywhere else you feel it would be a good fit. Thanks.

I welcome thoughts and remarks on ANY of the content above in the comments section below…

Get Social with Indie Film Hustle:
Facebook: Indie Film Hustle

Twitter: @indiefilmhustle
Instagram: @ifilmhustle

Podcasts You Should Be Listening To:
Podcast: Indie Film Hustle Podcast
Podcast: Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast
Podcast: The Filmtrepreneur® Podcast

Stuff You Need in Your Life:
IFHTV: Indie Film Hustle TV
Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
Book: Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)

Please note some of the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase or use a service. Understand that I have experience with all of these services, products, and companies, and I recommend them because they’re extremely helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I earn if you decide to buy something.





From The Purge to This is the Night with James DeMonaco The Purge franchise is one of the most iconic dystopian action horror series of all time and the man behind it, James DeMonaco is not stopping anytime soon. Jame is our guest today and even though we talk a great deal about the various…
Lighting the Biggest Films of All-Time with Dean Cundey A.S.C Today, my guest is a prolific cinematographer, accomplished photographer, and member of the American Society of Cinematographers, Dean Cundey A.S.C. Dean rose to fame for extraordinary cinematography in the 1980s and 1990s. His early start was working on the set of Halloween.  Dean is credited…


Taught by veteran award-winning film producer and author Suzanne Lyons. The filmmaker behind over a dozen profitable low-budget feature films.


Taught by veteran award-winning film producer and author Suzanne Lyons. The filmmaker behind over a dozen profitable low-budget feature films.