Location scouting for my pilot

I spent the last two days in a van driven by a Teamster with eight other people, scouting locations for my pilot. It was raining. The van kind of smelled. It was a total blast.

Times Square

The view from a location we scouted.

We’re shooting in New York City. This is no accident. I threw one after another iconic landmark and character into my script because I hoped this would force the issue. It’s a New York story! You can’t fake Times Square on some Hollywood lot!

Shooting in New York means a New York production staff. Who knew so many accomplished TV and film professionals live and work here? (Oh, you did? I didn’t.) Some have theater backgrounds; all just like it better here than in L.A. They don’t want for work, either. Their lists of credits are looong.

We trooped after our location manager into office buildings and churches and private residences and a courthouse. One law firm we visited would let us shoot while they work; one townhouse owner scooted away her daughter’s toys as we tramped from room to room. It’s not for free; each location demands a fee, and a hefty one at that. I suppose it’s one way to make your mortgage, but can you imagine letting strangers invade your beautiful home?

The best part was the van gossip. They’ve all worked with each other over the years on various projects, and when your colleagues are celebrities, there’s a lot of intel to trade. Even the van driver had stories. These guys know where all the bodies are buried.

Some things I learned during location scouting:

• If you’re shooting in March for a scene set in late summer, you’ll need special effects to color Central Park’s trees green.

• Likewise, if your script would force your poor actors sit outside in March on a fire escape in underwear, you’ll probably have to build that set indoors.

• Even if the scene is set in a small space, like, say, a starter apartment, you still need a ton of room for cameras and crew.

• New Yorkers get really pissed when you shoot near their homes. I know this from when we lived on the Upper West Side and we’d curse “Law & Order” for hogging all the parking on our street.

• The City has rotating “hot zones” where you’re not allowed to shoot. This is supposed to give residents in popular areas a break, but often a zone might magically sprout up in a VIP’s neighborhood.

See? Fun.

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  1. Lisa, so great reading about your experience in the van. How fun! And to be making a pilot that honors your dad for a major network. Truly remarkable. Thanks for sharing your continuing adventures in this form. It’s heartfelt, honest and inspiring.

  2. Clyde Kusatsu says:

    Aloha! My name is Clyde Kusatsu, and February this year marks my 40th yr. in front of the camera. I saw your name as creator of “The Ordained”, and being curious I googled (verb) you cause with a middle name of Takeuchi I figured you were “hapa” as we say in Hawaii. It also led me to your website and a quick background on you and your career.
    I just wanted extend congratulations and a well done for what you’ve been able to accomplish so far on your creative journey in this business. You sound well positioned and prepared to deal with the “slings & arrows” & “smiles and frowns and tears” that this business can grace your feet and head with. Grounded is good but Joy is good as well.
    Good Luck on the shoot, may the focus groups approve, may you test well, and may you get an order of 13. Then the rest is up to the fickle finger of fate and the entertainment gods!
    Cheers, Clyde Kusatsu