I grew up in a small Kansas town, and when I returned home from film school it seemed the most logical place to begin making films. Of course, people on the coasts thought I was nuts, but where else can you close down an entire street without having to worry about the police or any passers-by bothering you?
My first three features were filmed in Kansas. It was only when I traveled to Macon, Georgia, for a film festival there, that I felt so comfortable in the town, I could see how easily it would be to make a film there. So I did. It felt like I’d graduated to the next level somehow.
After shooting in Macon, I decided to venture even further from the roost and shoot something in Palm Springs. It was an exhilarating shoot. Partly because it’s allegedly against the law to film anything inside Palm Springs city limits without having permission from the Powers That Be, permits, insurance, and all that. So we just didn’t tell anyone, and made our movie anyway.
The next year, when we were headed to the Raindance Film Festival in London, I thought, well, if we’re all going to be there we might as well make a movie at the same time. It was an absolute thrill. Much like with the California shoot, London is beyond strict when it comes to permits, insurance, and permission from the Powers That Be, and so forth. And, like our prior escapade, I decided to do it stealth and not say a word to anyone. We got away with it.
I don’t do drugs. And the rush that came with filming guerrilla style, essentially illegally, became so addictive I couldn’t stop! After stealing London and Paris (for a quick scene at the Eiffel Tower), I set my sights on Hong Kong. We filmed a week in LA and then flew to Hong Kong where we filmed an additional three weeks. Hong Kong was more relaxed, and filmmaker-friendly than all the other cities, but it was still under-the-radar and more than once we filmed someplace we weren’t supposed to be.
How does one accomplish these things? Well, it’s pretty easy, actually. Google Earth and Google Maps makes it possible to “walk around” the streets and find locations, restaurants to eat in for lunch, alleyways to hold a staging area, and directions for subway travel times and so forth. We didn’t need to hire any location scout or send someone to take pictures. Google had already done all that for us!
It was pretty easy to post casting calls in both the UK and in Hong Kong, and all auditions were held via Skype, or on password protected YouTube or Vimeo pages.
In both places I had great help “on the ground” from the actors who would appear in the film. We took advantage of shooting in areas they knew about, or perhaps places they lived. In Hong Kong, our local producer even arranged for us to film the climactic fight sequence in a penthouse with terraces and more!
It might seem daunting at first to go to a far flung destination and shoot a movie without ever having been there before, but I’m here to say it can be done. And, it is highly recommended. The pure joy you’ll have coming home, knowing you made a movie in a foreign land… It’s something you can treasure forever.