Location, location, location

A cityscape picture of Vancouver. An amazing scene to set a story to

One aspect of filmmaking that is important and yet fairly under represented is the concept of location. Often films set their stories in places different from where they’re filmed. Location is important in a few ways. For a start, it tells us where the story is set. Easy enough for many films, especially on lower budgets. A film set in London is often filmed in London. However, it can create a major disadvantage to filmmakers in the countryside. After all, how many films have there been where the countryside was the main location?

Then of course, we have fictional worlds, built using a mixture of CG and matte paintings (either digital or not), which determine the landscape for a film. Total Recall was set on Mars, something that simply cannot be replicated without use of CG or mattes. Often, sci-fi films will have altered landscapes to illustrate how far man has advanced into the new technologies within the film. It is breathtaking to see something like Blade Runner or The Fifth Element in the worlds they are set. And those worlds do reflect on the characters themselves, because in the end, they are part of that world, they’re a product of it.

The citadel on Mass Effect. A world of wonder...

While not a film, the game Mass Effect has astonishingly amazing worlds, ranging from clean space metropolis’s to barren dirt worlds. The depth of detail in those worlds are also really quite astonishing. No two inhabited worlds in Mass Effect look quite the same – and that’s the way it should be in films. You should be able to walk past the TV and say “Oh, it’s…” just by looking at the landscape and scenery. Even if it’s set on Earth, and you’re using the exact same locations as other films or TV, there’s always something you can do to make it stand out. Think of the likes of Doctor Who versus Torchwood, or Buffy and Angel. While set even in the same universes, their moods, tones and characters are all different, recognisable.

One of the drawbacks to being situated in Cornwall, is that cities aren’t easy to do in film. The nearest we have to a city is Truro. We have plenty of winding roads, fields, farms, rivers and beaches though. The only way to convincingly doing a sci-fi film in Cornwall would be to either do the CG/matte, use a studio or have the sci-fi world similar to how Cornwall is now. It can be done, and if I am to create a sci-fi film (which I am planning to do quite a few of), then I see no other option than to do CG/mattes. Now, I just need to find a really good imaginative landscape artist…

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