Where/how can I find good locations for a zero budget web series?

BluetheFoxBluetheFox Website User Posts: 25

Alright, so, here's my situation. I am making a web series (well, more like a TV show, but on YouTube)

and I've run into a somewhat significant problem; which is that I need some locations for the series. Its set in the year 2025, but the show is about hidden mysteries and conspiracies that the 2 main characters discover through a series of very old radio signals.

The first location I need is very simple; a concrete room. but I dont want to have to spend money to get a filming permit. heck, I dont want to hassle with getting one even if its free. and Im worried that i'll get my camera stuff confiscated, or worse get arrested if I just go places that look good for my video but its illegal to go in without a permit.

tl;dr: I need locations in the denver area that dont require any special permission to bring a tripod and camera into. any ideas how I can find them?


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,308 Ambassador

    Welcome to the world of guerrilla filmmaking! 

    If you find a location you like and don't want to get a permit, usually (to be blunt) you just go to the location, shoot as fast as you can, and try and finish before they kick you out. 

    Assuming you watch Film Riot, there have been many examples on that show where the FR team just went and shot very quickly... Believe or not many "real" TV shows and movies also occasionally do a guerrilla shoot without a permit. 

    Heck, a buddy of mine was working on a $5 low-budget for Blumhouse. They had an entire sequence in a casino, but were going over budget. Most of the casino scene--the game in the poker room--shot in a dressed room at the producer's house, but they did take a BMCC with a wide lens down to a casino and stole a couple of shots. Just a couple of actors walking in the lobby and past some slots. 

    Ultimately your choices are to talk to the filming location and ask to shoot for free (if you're a kid or student they may let you), talk to the filming location and buy a permit, shoot guerilla without a permit, or find a different location. 

    Chances of having your camera siezed or being arrested are very tiny, indeed. Unless you're sneaking into something very high security or dangerous. I did a shoot two weeks ago for engagement photos. I had no permits. We got kicked out of three locations. However, I planned the shoot carefully ahead of time and discussed this with the couple. It happened to time out where in two locations we got kicked out while setting up the very last photo of that area and one location right when we wrapped. In all cases we had about 45 minutes before we were asked to leave. 

  • Andy001zAndy001z Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 2,883 Ambassador

    2025 isn't that far off and if you think scfi had is in flying cars and stuff by now u might get away with adding in post dressing the shot. Depends what ur future is like, post war, hi density.

  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 897 Enthusiast

    And now you know why so many indie films are nigh unwatchable.

    If you're a student, getting permits is usually pretty easy as well as cheap or free. It gives you enough time to actually shoot, providing that you have a plan and a competent team.

    If you find a place that belongs to a private business, you can often convince them to let you use their location in exchange for being featured in the credits; you'd be surprised at how many people are enamored with film enough to want to part of it, even if it's just lending you a spot to shoot.

    It really is worth it... because otherwise you're going to be both rushing and looking over your shoulder rather than making something worth watching.



  • BobDiMarzioBobDiMarzio Website User Posts: 632 Just Starting Out

    Another idea is to learn blender (Free) and create virtual sets.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,308 Ambassador

    @BobDiMarzo true. I'll agree with @WhiteCranePhoto though, getting permission/permits is usually best. 

    I went guerrilla for the engagement pics only because the budget didn't allow permits. Would have been nice to take more time. 

  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 897 Enthusiast

    Here in Seattle, if you're working on a student project, permits are free. If not, they're $25. And that $25 covers multiple production days, provided that you apply for all of them at the same time. There's a film office where you can call and ask for help getting a permit, and they guide you through the process.

    I don't understand why indie filmmakers are always in such a rush. Most of the time, what they produce is at best unwatchable.

    Virtual sets aren't as easy to create as one might think, though you can get away with a lot in sci fi... and let's be honest; if your story is compelling and your acting is authentic, you can get away with some insanely crappy VFX and still end up with a very enjoyable film. Take a look at Primer. It's not particularly well shot, the sound design isn't great, and you can tell that their set protocols were uneven, plus their props are cheesy, yet it's a very enjoyable film.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,308 Ambassador

    @WhiteCranePhoto wow, permits in Seattle are cheap! If I'd permitted the locations for that recent engagement shoot, it would have been over $1000!

    Welcome to So-Cal...

    I still think a high water mark for indy films in Hitfilm is the INVASION series from @WedgeOz . Very ambitious in scope with individual effects shots ranging in quality from "That would hold up on a 'real' TV show," to "Wow, that's terrible!" but it's so obvious he and the rest of his actors are having fun, the shot designs are ambitious and varied, and it's so over the top all the way through that's it's just fun to sit and watch. I've got the whole trilogy downloaded to my phone and I'm looking forward to part IV. LIke you said, a compelling story can overcome production values.

  • BluetheFoxBluetheFox Website User Posts: 25

    after reading everyone's advice here, i have a couple things i need to clarify- the first of which is how glad i am so many people replied at all, and gave some useful advice. heh. but also:

    while i have some basic knowledge on modeling, virtual sets arent an option for me because i dont have any greenscreen. (well- i do have a small greenscreen, but its really only big enough for vlogging-style shots.)

    Here is a quick synopsis of the setting and plot so we can narrow our search alittle bit:


    "Blue, a creative who is also fascinated with things that are mysterious, discovers a strange signal coming through a handheld radio one day, and he and his Gamer friend, West, work together to decode it. they soon find out that the signal is one of many that have been put in place by a mysterious person to uncover several hidden secrets throughout the city."


    "everyone has more free time to play videogames and be creative on computers due to a more highly automated (but not completely automated) workforce. We have holographic signage and insanely good computers and game systems, but we don't have flying cars or teleportation yet. some laws have passed that are slightly controversial, but not quite dystopian, such as a completely overhauled k-12 education system. (breifly hinted at by large stenciled lettering on the side of a school building blue runs past in the intro). and guess what? hl3 still hasnt come out."

  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 897 Enthusiast

    @BluetheFox You don't necessarily need a GREEN screen for chroma key compositing. Green has the advantage of not having any red in it, which makes pulling a clean chroma key from green relatively easy... provided that you light the talent properly.

    You can actually accomplish a clean chroma key using other colors, so if you have a black bedsheet or something, you can use that. Or green construction paper.

    Be sure that none of the talent are wearing a color you want to remove, keep them as far as you can from the colored wall as you can to minimize spill (not a big deal if you're using black, of course -- though that wouldn't work with someone who has black hair), and be sure to give the talent a rim light.

  • WhiteCranePhotoWhiteCranePhoto Website User Posts: 897 Enthusiast

    @Triem23 $1000 for location permits? Ouch! That is expensive... but Seattle doesn't really have a film industry, because the government isn't smart enough to support one.  :-/

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