Saturday was cold and overcast, with wind that left bare hands numb. Waves rippled across the Wildlife Fish Ponds along the dirt road leading to the Cambridge Lion’s Club, north of Cambridge, off State Hwy. 134.
Through the trees smoldered the remains of someone’s fire from the previous night.
Like a scene out of a horror movie, it was just what Katie Hettenbach, Franki Sakschek, and Maeghan Niebuht were looking for as they practiced location scouting for Film Wisconsin’s Film Boot Camp.
“There are a lot of dead trees around, gives the place a nice spooky feel,” said Niebuh.
On Saturday, six groups of students from the boot camp travelled to locations around Cambridge to perform a mock-location scout. The groups, comprised for two to four people each, were tasked with taking pictures of their location, interviewing the property owners, and thinking like a filmmaker.
Locations the groups scouted were the 1906 School /Gymnasium and Historical Society; Wood fired Pottery; Hinchley’s Dairy Farm; the Cambridge Winery; the Wildlife Fish Ponds and Lion’s Club; and The Sports Page Bar and Grill.
Things the students had to be aware of while scouting: lighting and where the power suppliers were; what the noise level was like, if the location was in a fly-zone for example; space, such as where vehicles, crew members, equipment and craft services could be set-up; the history of the locations and interviewing the owners to find out if they would be okay with a film crew taking over their home or business for a day; as well as thinking up what kind of movie would their location best be suited for, with horror seeming to be Cambridge’s specialty for the day.
The groups left the Keystone Bar & Grill at just before 11 a.m. and scouted their locations until 12:15 p.m. when they then returned to have their work critiqued by Wisconsin Film Industry professionals. The seminar itself went from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We asked about power,” said Sean Virtue during his group’s presentation about scouting Hinchley’s Farm. “100 amps, is that a good amount?”
“Hard to say,” said Perry Perkins, the owner/ operator of Light Force of Wisconsin, a Pewaukee-based provider of grip trucks and gaffer services. “If you’re using a couple of big fixtures, you’re gone already. Typically, when we get to a farm, depending on how big the scene is, if it’s a commercial or something like that, you’d want to bring a generator in. So, for a location like that, unless it is an up-close interview or something, plan to bring a generator.”
Other Wisconsin filmmakers on hand were independent film maker Nick Langholff; Nella Citino, producer and writer of Frozen Stage Films; director of Film Wisconsin, Lisa Ledford-Kerr; producer Bill Dovi; director and actor Francisco Torres; and assistant director and location manager Andrew Lonsdale.
“We did a Leinenkugel’s commercial in a location like this,” Langhoff said during Hettenbach, Sakschek, Niebuht’s presentation about their scout at Wildlife Fish Ponds. “The thing we had to be worried about was gators. So, we actually had to have a gator patrol person in the water, basically with a long stick, running gator patrol. That’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t think about but happens when on location.”
Concluding the day, Cambridge Chamber of Commerce Director Sheila Palinkas spoke on how to get businesses to say ‘yes’ to location scouts.
Her tips: don’t email but call. Make sure that your message stands out. And have a resource that people can refer to, like a Facebook page, so they can see what your studio is all about.