If you’re lucky enough to get a recce before your shoot, make it count with these tips – many learnt through bitter experience!
1. Don’t Recce to find your story
A recce is a chance to see how your story/film/programme will shape up in the location. It is NOT where you find or decide what your story is. If you don’t have a story stood-up before you go on a recce, you’re recce’ing too early. That said, your recce might throw up some new information – whether editorial or practical – that may change your story and you will have to react to that.
You may not get time to recce every last location and meet every contributor. If so, work out what you really need to see. When I’m on a recce, I always aim to meet the key contributor and visit the main location followed by anything I had a bad feeling about. Beyond that, recce anything that is a potential health and safety issue ahead of supplementary contributors and locations.
Put your imaginary headphones on and be your sound-recordist for a moment. We all know how annoying it is to be interrupted because of background noise. It’s more annoying if you could have pre-empted the issues. Transport is the single biggest issue, followed by building sites. But there are countless other examples… Next to a school? You’ll want to film without clashing with noisy break times.
4. Look around – and up!
Sometimes you end up so focussed on what you can see on the ground and talking to contributors, you miss great filming opportunities. The main one is the chance of using buildings at your location for a high angle shot. Even if you realise later, it may be too late to get access or complete any health and safety requirements. You might also need to take into account the position of the sun through the day – it might dictate when you will film in a particular direction.
5. Take pictures
Whether stills or video, it’s worth taking a few shots as an aide memoire. Some pix might be useful for your risk assessment or sending to your cameraman. Also, if you use your GPS-enabled smartphone, you’ll have the co-ordinates where you took the picture which can be useful back in the office.
6. Check your diary
Talk to your contacts and contributors on the ground about timings… not just availability but I’ve lost count of the number of events that have thrown me on the day – and not just big annual events but even things as simple as the day the bins are collected. Where relevant, you’ll also need to think about tide-times and sunrise/sunset times.
7. On the way home
Think about some of the practicalities you can piece together from your day(s) out. With everything you’ve learned above and your experience of the journey times around the area, ask yourself some questions – What’s the best filming order? Where will we stay before and after the shoot? Where will we have lunch? etc
8. The Next Day
Work on securing any location access you need and let everyone know you intend to film/not film with them. Start putting together your schedule – it doesn’t have to be full and final yet, but at least have a starting point.