Location, Location, Location

By Dana Conklin, Senior Producer/Assistant Director, Concepts TV Productions

NJ based DRTV Production Company, Concepts TV Productions, does not limit its shoots to the Garden State.  When a script calls for sunny weather in mid January, this production company knows exactly where to go! Destination Shoots, like destination weddings, involve enormous planning– and the devil is always in the details!

The first step in any destination shoot is to secure the right crew. Everyone claims he can film – but DRTV Producers always get a list of referrals & an infomercial demo reel of recent work. Make sure you have a written agreement, specifying your understanding of lighting, equipment & crew members. Always have them sign a written agreement in advance regarding the negotiated price for the day of the shoot.  Forgotten details, such as overtime rates and mileage reimbursement, may turn out to be big issues. Determine in advance when the shoot tapes will be turned over to the visiting producer. We recommend having a check for the full payment – including a little extra petty cash… and here’s why: Concepts TV Productions flew to Texas to film a bull riding segment for a fitness infomercial. We had checks for each vendor to be presented upon completion of the shoot. When the shoot was over, we gave the crew their payment in full, but they still tried to hold our tapes hostage! The crew claimed there was a “possibility” of overtime due to travel time. This detail could have been a disaster… but thanks to our preparation with petty cash, the problem was easily solved!

Always find a hard-working local Production Assistant who is familiar with the area, so you don’t waste time or money scouting. They can send you pictures or Skype!  Get a contact name for each location & secure a permit in advance.  The last thing you want is to be shut down the day of the shoot!

Choosing talent from across the country can leave you feeling uneasy, because you can’t meet them before the shoot. When choosing a headshot, always ask for a recent photo or cell phone snap shot – just to be sure it’s not an old photo. If the talent will be speaking on camera, have a phone audition to be sure you are happy with the accent or tone of voice – and to be sure they are able to read lines back correctly. Even if you’re booking through a talent agency, be sure to get the talent’s direct contact information in case of any emergency. The most important tip we can give is to always have back up talent on call! If a talent doesn’t show it can ruin your whole day and waste an expensive trip – so always have a plan B!

Filming a DRTV Commercial internationally presents its own set of challenges. While shooting an infomercial for a nutritional supplement in Seoul, South Korea, we discovered that the local makeup artist only had foundation to match Asian skin… but we were filming a Caucasian host! We have also learned the hard way that in some countries there are delicate gender issues. For example, the male D.P. has “issues” with a female director. The solution?  A male interpreter who called, “Action!”

DRTV Infomercial leader Concepts TV Productions won an Aurora Award for the Best International Infomercial in 2008 for their production of Hooked on English. This was produced by Concepts TV Productions in New Jersey and filmed in Mexico City, Mexico. While filming in Mexico, the Director of Production requested additional toilet paper. Apparently we asked the wrong person where the toilet paper was – and learned the hard way that hierarchy and job delineation are very important. How do you determine who handles the toilet paper? We suggest making a detailed call sheet of each person who will be on set, and what their duties entail. Not all cultures are as egalitarian and casual as the New Jersey home turf.