Updated: Sep 27
In part 2, Brian reflects on his experience of scouting locations in the DMV on a recent photo and video shoot for New Balance’s North America marketing team.
Brian is a Partner and Executive Producer at ATOMIC D, a Marketing and Advertising agency in San Francisco. Born and raised in small town Iowa, he is passionate about video, the Chicago Bears and his wife and twin boys. Brian honed his craft in the edit room and has used that experience to become a producer and director.
Part 2 - Location Scouting
Selecting locations is arguably the most important and difficult piece to any shoot. Location images are often misleading, working with location owners can be tricky, and the logistics of a shoot -- how to work, where to park and set up the shoot for 30+ people in an urban area -- are generally a puzzle. The following recounts our experience scouting locations in the DMV.
When working in unfamiliar territory, especially across the country where travel expenses can quickly add up, it’s key to source local expertise to select location options and work with location owners before moving to in-person scouting. I hired local location manager, and mutual Linkedin connection, Chan Clagett. With his aid, I was confident we would find the right list of spots before we traveled east to scout them ourselves.
With a list of locations in place, our Art Director, Kathleen, and I traveled to the DMV. We had done our research and thought we had our favorite spots locked in for both DC and Baltimore. Location scouting can be a bumpy ride with ups and downs all along the way, but this one turned out to be a rollercoaster.
We started the rollercoaster on a high. We arrived late Tuesday night at our first stop, Ben’s Chili Bowl, a local staple of DC, right across the street from a metro stop. Outside of Ben’s is also a beautiful street mural, which is a common characteristic of DC. Three types of spots we wanted for DC in one. This location couldn’t have been any better.
The second site we planned to be at a club or bar location, but we couldn't, however, seem to find anything within budget. Quickly pivoting, Chan took us to a spot he had heard about and might be worth taking a peek. We walked into a massive lobby with beautiful brick walls, and the contemporary feel we were after. The venue had a private club area with a bar, posh seating, pool tables, beautiful lighting, and better yet, the load in would be a breeze. Thanks to Chan, and a willingness to wing it, we were 2 for 2. It was time to explore Baltimore, which we believed we had locked down.
Our goal in Baltimore was to get more of a gritty vibe utilizing three locations with urban street backdrops, stoops (classic front steps on many Baltimore homes), and city skyline that would allow the consumer to know we were in their city.
The first Baltimore spot was an abandoned warehouse area with an abandoned industrial setting. The inside could serve as a backup if it rained - something we always account for when shooting outdoors, but especially in thunderstorm prone areas like Baltimore in June. It was a good but not ideal option, so we pinned it as a backup and moved on.
The second outdoor location had a gritty street vibe with the Baltimore skyline in the background, but when we arrived on site, it wasn’t nearly all that we thought it would be. Covered with overgrown weeds and graffiti (which legally we couldn’t show) it wasn’t going to work. We had been convinced this location would be perfect based on the images, but we were now 0 for 2.
Thinking we had a good spot picked out for stoops, we moved on only to find it too wasn’t what we had expected. 0 for 3. Our hearts sank a little lower again. Not allowing for defeat, Chan drove us all over the city, viewing dozens of locations, until we finally found the ideal stoops.
One more planned location scout to go, and it was a hit. It took us all of 15 minutes to scout Federal Hill overlooking Baltimore’s downtown, but in the backs of Kathleen’s and my head, we were still missing a gritty, downtown spot. Getting late and growing tired, we followed another “wing it” recommendation from Chan. He took us to Howard Street an area of gritty buildings with the Baltimore backdrop. The location was perfect! We now had our spots for Baltimore which included stoops, a gritty urban area and the Baltimore skyline, and we were ready to roll camera.
Read part 1 and 3 here and here.