film locations

3 Filmmaking Lessons from Animals with GoPros

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Animals with GoPros may not have gone to film school or won any Oscar awards, but they may have something to teach us about filmmaking.

Filmmakers strive to create visual experiences that are both relatable and impacting. Usually, the this is accomplished by weaving a story told through the eyes of different people. But what about seeing the world through the eyes of an animal?

With the help of technology, scientists are now able to attach cameras onto wild animals in order to learn more about them. For the first time, we can see how animals behave and survive while completely free of human influence.

The following are a few lessons aspiring filmmakers might be able to learn from watching footage recorded by animals with GoPro cameras:

1. The Perfect Location Is Out There

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It’s one thing to envision the perfect location in your mind, and quite another to actually find it. The fact is, one of the biggest (and most enjoyable) challenges in filmmaking is finding a location that not only serves the needs of your story but can also accommodate your production. Many filmmaker are forced to alter their scripts when the perfect location eludes them.

But sometimes, the answer may be to not give up too soon. When the National Geographic Society attached their Crittercams to a wild animal, they obtained more than just information on the animal itself; they collected environmental data and were continually astounded by the gorgeous locales these animals find. If you fail to find the perfect spot for a particular scene, don’t let it be because you cut your search short.

2. Perspective Is Important

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Imagine walking through a field where there’s only waist-high wheat as far as the eye can see. The golden colors contrast with the bright blue sky and white clouds, creating a gorgeous view. Now imagine that same field as a small animal, or even a child. The tall, seemingly-endless fields of wheat may evoke a sense of claustrophobia or fear of never finding your way out — or worse, the fear of running into a predator.

The lesson is simple: there’s power in perspective. Every future filmmaker should work to understand why each of the common camera shot types are important and how to best utilize them to tell their story. The best filmmakers know which shots work best to instill a specific emotion into their audience. Read our camera shots piece to learn more about popular camera shots and why they are useful.

3. Understand Social Interaction

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If there’s one thing you’ll discover by watching GoPro animal footage, it’s how social most species of animals are. From whales and penguins to wolves and gorillas, animals all over the planet interact with one another to the point where they even form their own societies! Vampire bats, for example, have colonizes ranging in the thousands that still manage to maintain a basic social structure and hierarchy.

The lesson to learn from animals? How people interact matters. Social context matters. The story beyond an individual character matters. This is why most movies receive a negative reception usually also have a cast of actors who are terrible at displaying genuine emotion. In other words, they fail to convince because you can tell they’re pretending. It’s when actors interact with one another and their world in a moving and believable way that you have viewers completely entranced by the characters. To achieve that as a filmmaker, it’s important to root your story in an environment and social context that audiences can understand.

Have a favorite animal movie or life lesson? Let us know in the comments below!

Best Film Locations In Los Angeles

As Los Angeles is the country’s leading hub for movie and television production, the city’s many neighborhoods and attractions have appeared in countless films and shows. It’s hardly an understatement that for many first-time visitors, exploring Los Angeles can feel very much like traveling through a real-life movie. With so many unique areas to film, we’ve put together a list highlighting some of LA’s more notable film locations. Before you get started on your next filmmaking project in the city, be sure to check out Los Angeles County’s policy regarding film permits to ensure your production goes off without a hitch.

Chinatown

The East Gate opening up to Chinatown in Los Angeles

The first modern American Chinatown, Los Angeles’ Chinatown Central Plaza was opened on June 25, 1938, becoming one of the country’s original open malls, with the iconic East Gate being completed in 1939. The area is composed of buildings that combine American and Chinese styles to create a unique location that has served as the backdrop for such films as Chinatown, Rush Hour, and Lethal Weapon 4. While many of the area’s Chinese population has relocated to other areas of Los Angeles, this one-of-a-kind commercial center is still a leading bastion for Chinese culture, food, and music.

Santa Monica Pier

The ferris wheel and attractions at the Santa Monica Pier

Originally opened in 1909 following a year of construction, the Santa Monica Pier has been attracting locals and tourists alike for over a century. Boasting Pacific Park, which is a family amusement park and has a sizable Ferris Wheel, a carousel from the 1920s, the Santa Monica Pier Aquariums, stores, street entertainers, restaurants, and a number of other popular local businesses, the pier offers countless scenic locales that have appeared in such notable movies as The Sting, Beverly Hills Cop III, Funny Girl, Forrest Gump, and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Also, if you’re looking to get some fishing done in between takes, the end of the pier is a popular spot for fishers. With an annual visitor rate of over four million people visiting the pier every year, there is countless opportunities for filmmakers to find extras and interesting characters for their projects.

Beverly Hills Hotel

The iconic exterior of the Beverly Hills Hotel

On May 12, 1912, Margaret J. Anderson and her son, Stanley S. Anderson, opened The Beverly Hills Hotel. After unsuccessful attempts had been made to drill for oil, water was found. With that discovery, Burton Green formed the Rodeo Land and Water Company. He announced plans to build a city with large lots of curved, tree-lined streets. But Green needed a special attraction to set his city above all the other housing developments sprouting up around Southern California at the turn of the century.

A grand hotel was envisioned, and Green persuaded the Andersons of Hollywood Hotel fame to come and build their dream. Against all advice, they left their secure surroundings in Hollywood and came to the undeveloped area that was later to become the city of Beverly Hills, literally built around the new hotel. Over the course of the century, the hotel became a popular destination for celebrities and royalty, with such famous guests including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Howard Hughes, John Wayne, and many others. It was also featured on the cover of the Eagles’ famous Hotel CaliforniaLP and in such movies as The Way We Were, Shampoo, California Suite, and American Gigolo.

City Hall

The exterior of Los Angeles City Hall

The tallest base isolated structure in the world, Los Angeles City Hall serves as the center of government for Los Angeles and is where the mayor’s office is located alongside the meeting chamber for the Los Angeles City Council. Designed by John Parkinson, John C. Austin, and Albert C. Martin, Sr. and completed in 1928, the building’s singular art deco-inspired style would help to inspire the design of other notable buildings in downtown Los Angeles, such as the Los Angeles Public Library.

The building’s iconic status as both an architectural and cultural landmark has only grown over time as it has served as the backdrop for countless classic movies and TV series, appearing as the Daily Planet building in the Adventures of Superman, Dragnet, Adam-12, the 1953 version of War of the Worlds, Perry Mason, and countless other productions. If you’re looking to give your production a classic LA feel, the City Hall is a perfect location for filming.

Griffith Observatory

 Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California

Made famous to cinephiles the world over due to its appearance in the classic James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause, the Griffith Observatory opened in 1935 after Colonel Griffith J. Griffith gifted the city with the 3,015 acres upon which the observatory would be built. The observatory was unique from its inception as Griffith had made it a stated goal of making observatories open to the public at a time when they were primarily used solely by scientists. As such, the observatory remains free to the general public.

Located on Mount Hollywood, the facility and its surrounding park offer visitors and filmmakers an extraordinary view of the Los Angeles Basin, which includes downtown, Hollywood, and the Pacific Ocean. Some of the famous films that have used the location include Flash Gordon, The Terminator, The Rocketeer, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Yes Man, and Terminator Salvation.

Millenium Biltmore Hotel

The entryway of the Millenium Biltmore Hotel

The Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles, California opened in 1923 and at the time was the largest hotel west of Chicago and designed by architects Schultze & Weaver. Originally named the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel, it was made a Historic-Cultural Monument in 1969. Its interior is extremely ornate with frescos and murals, marble fountains and columns, and bronze stairwells and doorways.

The hotel’s lobby was featured in the movie Ghostbusters, as the fictional Sedgewick Hotel. It also served as an early location for the Academy Award Ceremony when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was founded at a luncheon banquet at the hotel’s famous Crystal Ballroom in May 1927. It was the nerve center of the 1960 Democratic National Convention; headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and housed TV networks and candidates including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Adlai E. Stevenson. Movies that have been shot at the hotel include Vertigo, Chinatown, and Beverly Hills Cop.

San Fernando Mission

The exterior of the San Fernando Mission in Los Angeles

Based in the Mission Hills district of Los Angeles, the Mission San Fernando Rey de España was established by Father Fermín Lasuén on September 8, 1797. The fourth such mission he had built in as many months, Lasuén had chosen the location due to its accessibility and the mission served to both spread the Christian message and establish a Spanish colony in the United States.

Over the course of the next two centuries, the San Fernando Mission became a fixture of the Los Angeles landscape, being sold and re-sold multiple times and operating as a train station, a warehouse, and even a hog farm at one point. In 1971, the San Fernando earthquake caused enough damage to the mission that the city had to re-build it completely.

With the birth of the film and television industries, the San Fernando mission appeared increasingly on movie and TV screens in such productions as Dragnet, Knight Rider, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, and Incredible Hulk, making it a perfect location to capture a slice of historic Los Angeles.

Queen Mary

The Queen Mary in the Long Beach port

Originally constructed as an ocean liner that traversed the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 by the Scottish business John Brown & Company, the Queen Mary was designed to compete with the superliners that were being built by German and French companies is the 1920s and 30s. During World War II, the Queen Mary was transformed into a troopship that carried Allied soldiers before returning to commercial service following the war.

By 1967, although the Queen Mary was one of the most popular ocean liners, as it was losing money it was ultimately retired that year, where it was sailed to the port at Long Beach, California and has remained since then. Over the past four decades, the ship has become a nexus of commercial activity as restaurants, a museum, and a hotel, which helped to earn the ship its place on the National Register of Historic Places. Since its retirement, it has served as a location in such films as The Poseidon Adventure, Death Cruise, Chaplin, and Pearl Harbor.

Greystone Mansion

The exterior of Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills

The largest home ever built in Beverly Hills, Greystone mansion was built by famed oil-tycoon Edward Doheny in 1928, as a gift to his son Ned. With over 46,000 square feet of living space, it cost more than $4 million to build in 1928. Many people hail this massive home as one of the grandest mansions on the West coast.

Shortly after the house was built, there occurred a legendary controversy wherein Ned and his secretary died of a murder-suicide. Ned’s family remained in the house until 1955 and its new owner nearly demolished the home until the neighborhood of Beverly Hills stepped in and purchased the mansion, leasing it to the American Film Institute from 1965 to 1982, wherein countless films and television shows were and continue to be shot. Now a public park, every summer Catskills West holds a play in the pool area entitled The Manor. Some of the many films and shows to be shot in and around the mansion include The Big Lebowski, The Bodyguard, Alias, The Muppets, Spider-Man, and There Will Be Blood.

Union Station

The interior of Union Station Los Angeles

Built and opened in 1939, Union Station is known by many as the “Last of the Great Railway Stations” to be constructed in the US, serving trains from the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Santa Fe Railways. Partially designed by John and Donald B. Parkinson—the father and son duo who were also responsible for Los Angeles City Hall—the station itself was an amalgamation of different styles that included Dutch Colonial Revival and Mission Revival. As such, it has served as an iconic film location for movies that include Catch Me If You Can, Blade Runner, Speed, and Star Trek: First Contact.

 

Best Film Locations In NYC

For many film fans and aspiring filmmakers, their first exposure to the varied and historic streets and sights of New York City is on screen in the many movies and TV shows that have filmed throughout the city. Comprised of five boroughs, NYC offers endless possibilities for filmmakers to find both unique and iconic settings where to film. Before filming, it recommended that you learn about NYC’s permit requirements. Below we culled together a list of some of the most legendary locations in the city.

SoHo

 Soho

With boundaries set off by Houston Street, West Broadway, Canal Street and Crosby Street, SoHo—which stands for South of Houston—is identifiable by the intricate cast-iron architecture of many of its buildings, which were largely erected in the late 19th century. It is also noted for its cobblestone streets paved with Belgian blocks.

SoHo gained prominence in the 1960s and 70s when the cheap locations that had been previously occupied by factories were refashioned by artists, creating affordable lofts and studios. Through the 1980s, SoHo remained a haven for artists as the cost of living was extremely low, but like many other areas in the city, during the decade, as more and more prosperous tenants were drawn to the area’s bohemian aura, there began a gradual exodus by the area’s artists that reached its climax during the 1990s.

Over the past two decades, SoHo has lost much of its gritty aura as it has been transformed into one of the city’s primary shopping areas, making it a popular attraction for tourists. Nonetheless, once visitors get off Broadway, the area still offers quieter and less commercialized side streets that filmmakers can use to capture a particular old-school New York feel, one perfectly caught in the film Basquiat which was filmed in SoHo.

Union Square

An aerial view of Union Square in NYC

A hub for public transportation, shopping and dining, and people watching, Union Square serves as a gateway both to downtown NYC and the rest of city, as residents can access the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, and R trains. Not only does the area boast a gorgeous public park ideal for filming, but the area serves as a gateway to a number of neighboring areas that are equally stunning, including the Flatiron District, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and Gramercy.

Union Square is the site of many NYFA student projects alongside numerous television shows that film there due to the heavy and diverse flow of people. It has been seen in such classic films as Citizen Kane and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

Tribeca

People walk on the street in Tribeca NYC

Tribeca is a fashionable, trendy residential neighborhood with a highly affluent population. Many of the streets are lined with boutique shops and high-end restaurants such as Nobu, Chanterelle and Bouley. Tribeca is also home to the Tribeca Film Festival. The neighborhood is a frequent filming location for movies, including the 1984 hit movie Ghostbusters, which took place in a Tribeca firehouse.

Times Square

Tourists explore Times Square in NYC

The setting for countless independent and Hollywood movies, Time Square has served as something of a cultural and economic barometer regarding the changes Manhattan has undergone. Located at the meeting point of Broadway and Seventh avenue and extending from West 42nd to West 47th streets, Times Square is often the first image one calls to mind when thinking of New York City, which makes it no surprise that is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world.

Once considered to be the worst area of the city due to crime and prostitution—as exemplified in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy—Times Square underwent a commercial renaissance during the Giuliani administration with the closing of the majority of pornographic theatres and bringing in such international brands as Disney to open up flagship stores. Now primarily a tourist attraction and commercial district, Times Square still offers countless opportunities for filmmakers looking to capture the bright lights and bustle of New York City.

Chinatown

A side street in Chinatown NYC

Boasting the largest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere, Chinatown can be found in Manhattan with the Lower East Side and Little Italy serving as its boarders. Cantonese businessman Ah Ken was the first Chinese individual to immigrate to Chinatown in the 1840s, but the area soon exploded as a wave of Chine immigrants were drawn to the area following increased racial discrimination on the West Coast.

Today, the area is home to between 90,000 and 100,000 Chinese residents and is a mecca for both tourists and aficionados of Chinese culture who can explore the area’s seemingly countless grocers, restaurants, and street vendors. With an atmosphere and energy that can cause one to momentarily forget that he or she is even in New York, Chinatown is an ideal filming location whether one is looking to create a facsimile of China itself or capture a wholly singular pace and culture.

East Village

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Surrounded by Greenwich Village, Gramercy Park, and Stuyvesant Town, the East Village first came to prominence in the late 1960s when artists, musicians, students, and hippies gravitated to the area for its cheap rent and Beatnik culture. While recent years has seen increasing rent and gentrification diluting the diverse and vibrant culture, it remains a lively area where New York University students call home and such legendary steets as St. Marks Place retain their counter-cultural vibe—though the transformation of legendary punk rock club CBGB’s into a retail store did mark a substantial change in the area’s vibe.

While many of the area’s former artistic residents have made the migration to cheaper neighborhoods in Brookyln, the East Village retains an ineffable bohemian character, even in light of the many changes the neighborhood has experienced. A boon for filmmakers, many of the area’s original buildings have been retained, creating a character that filmmakers looking for a “real” New York City neighborhood are eager to film in. Just ask Spike Lee who shot his 1970s period piece Son of Sam in the neighborhood in 1998; viewers of the movie would think that nothing has changed since the 1970s due to its classic architecture and independent spirit.

Coney Island

People loung on the beach at Coney Island

A peninsula located in southern Brooklyn, Coney Island is located adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and sports a storied history that makes it a truly one-of-a-kind locale, even by New York standard. As Coney Island became easy to reach, the area transformed into a resort destination following the American Civil War, with the first of the peninsula’s iconic carousels constructed in 1876. In 1927, the Cyclone roller coaster was built and still remains one of the country’s oldest wooden roller coasters.

Over the next century, Coney Island became a flashpoint for disagreements over whether to keep the area as a park or build up the growing residential and commercial properties, arguably culminating in Mayor Guiliani’s ordering that the legendary Thunderbolt roller coast be torn down in 1994. In the past decade, the peninsula has undergone a fresh round of funding and development, with the area’s substantial history of amusement parks being revived as Luna Park.

With so much going on in Coney Island, especially during the summer, it is an ideal location for shooting films with such legendary events as The Mermaid Parade making for the perfect backdrop for a scene. It’s little surprise that such legendary New York movies like Paper Moon, Annie Hall, and The Warriors have used Coney Island as their backdrop.

Harlem

A steet view of Harlem New York City

Located in the northern part of Manhattan—“Across 110th St.” anyone?—Harlem has traditionally been viewed as a culturally rich African-American nexus. However, Spanish Harlem located on the east side of the neighborhood is also home to a prodigious Latin American population and culture.

Beginning in the 1920s, the area was home to what is known as the “Harlem Renaissance” in which its African-American residents were responsible for remarkable achievements in music, literature, theatre, and more. Such landmarks include the Apollo Theater, the Cotton Club, Sylvia’s Soul Food, Frederick Douglass Circle, and much more. In the 1980s, the area underwent another renaissance due to the invaluable contributions its residents made to the development of hip-hop.

With such a diverse cultural and architectural background, it’s no surprise that numerous filmmakers have set such class films as Cotton Comes to Harlem, Malcolm X, and Sugar Hill there. Harlem offers countless sights and pockets where filmmakers will undoubtedly find inspiration.

The Hamptons

An aerial view of the Hamptons

Composed of a number of villages and hamlets throughout the towns of Southampton and East Hampton, the Hamptons are located on the far east of Long Island. Known in popular culture as weekend seaside vacation spot for wealthy New Yorkers, the Hamptons is also noted for its stunning real estate, rolling countryside, and breathtaking bridges.

For filmmakers looking to make the trek out to scout locations, they should take the Montauk Branch of the Long Island Rail Road from New York City. Films that have been filmed in the Hamptons include the classic documentary Grey Gardens, Woody Allen’s Interiors, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Nanny Diaries.

Meatpacking District

An old packing building in the meatpacking district

Known to many TV fans due to its recurring role in Sex and the City, this area of Manhattan runs from West 14th Street down to Gansevoort Street and from the Hudson River east over to Hudson Street. Originally the location of Fort Gansevoort, the Meatpacking District earned its name over the course of the late 19th century as numerous slaughterhouses and packing plants sprouted up, which congealed into an area that remained prosperous until the 1960s.

As many of the slaughterhouses and packing plants closed down or went out of business, the area saw a revival in the 1990s as a number of high-end boutiques popped up around the area. The nightclubs were not far behind and to this day, the Meatpacking District remains a focal point for the city’s nightclub scene. With its industrial chic buildings and vibrant nightlife, the Meatpacking District is an ideal location to capture different slices of New York life during both the day and night.

Brooklyn

Residential buildings in Park Slope

A borough that is as diverse and vibrant as it is sprawling, Brooklyn has received increased attention in the past two decades as its reputation as being a hub for artists and creative professionals has grown considerably. However, as a quick walk through any of the borough’s neighborhoods will reveal, history and diversity are alive at every step.

The most populous of NYC’s five boroughs, Brooklyn was originally its own incorporated city until it was combined with Manhattan’s other surrounding boroughs to form the modern City of New York. Brooklyn is home to dozens of different neighborhoods, many of which are ethnic enclaves, though the racial and cultural make-up of different neighborhoods is constantly in flux. Bedford-Stuyvesant (or Bed-Stuy for short) contains one of the city’s most famous African-American communities while in north Brooklyn, Greenpoint has long been home to a vibrant Polish community that has started to migrate to Ridgewood, Queens.

One of Brooklyn’s strongest selling points as a film location is the sheer diversity of locations contained within a single borough. Filmmakers looking for an industrial backdrop might want to look at the industrial zone in Bushwick or the Brooklyn Navy Yards, while those looking to film amongst picturesque brownstones have numerous options, with neighborhoods like Park Slope and Cobble Hill being prime examples.