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  • Writer's pictureNerys Muller

Sometimes You Just Need to Look In Your Backyard

The story of how I found the perfect location to shoot my Senior Thesis Film

STORYTIME! As a producer-in-the-making, location scouting always seemed to become the bane of my existence during my years in undergrad. I often found it tedious and worrisome, never being something I looked forward to at the time.

In my senior year of college, I found myself back in my producing shoes, needing to find the perfect spot to film my thesis, “Where the Horizon Lies”. The only difference here was that I was now location scouting for scenery I'd imagined up myself ... this time also as the writer and director of the project.

I'm a perfectionist. You kind of have to be when you're in this line of work.

My film called for an overgrown, forested area and a rattled, unkempt cabin, setting the scene for the remains of a post-apocalyptic world. I guess with COVID-19 knocking at our door, the situation seemed very fitting.

My two co-producers and I had been scouting for weeks to find the perfect location, but found ourselves running into many dead ends. We were a production based out of Long Island, New York at the time and we were trying to find cabins from notable film commissions.

The biggest problem with that? The pricing.

"Where the Horizon Lies" was a micro-budget film with about $6800 to spend on production, equipment, actors, craft services, PPE, etc. Such is the way with senior thesis films if any of you have ever been in my shoes. Yes, some county or state film commissions can give you a student rate, but the prices will normally still be a little high.

We'd found a couple of locations through AirBnB that allowed filming in and around the area, but things just didn't seem right. When scouting these locations, I really didn't get a chance to feel my story move through the space. Some areas were too modern, not run-down enough ... a real Goldilocks effect.

I needed something that OOZED the apocalypse ... overgrown bushes, dirt roads, wood log cabins with fireplaces ...

And after scratching my head for what felt like a few weeks, an idea dawned on me.

FUN FACT for those of you who don't know, I'm a former fully decorated Girl Scout who's had a lot of camping experience.

Why not try to revisit my 11-year-old self's camping days by traveling back to one of my old recreational camping sites!

I'd reached out to a couple of my contacts at the Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey, and I got in contact with the ranger of the beautiful lake campsite, Camp Inawendiwin.

Since it was close enough to my childhood home, I was able to tour the venue in person. The ranger had unlocked the cabin and the camp for me to roam as I pleased and I basically had the whole camp to myself to explore.

The second I walked through the big "Welcome" gate and down the forested path, I knew knew this was the place.

This sounds quite dramatic, but I actually felt my heart fluttering as I looked around the space. What was once my childhood stomping grounds was being transformed in my head to the very film I'd been creating this imaginative world for the past year and a half.

I could picture my actors in these high intensity moments just mere steps outside the cabins. The rustic scenery looked exactly as I'd imagined and described it in my screenplay. This really was the perfect place to shoot "Where the Horizon Lies".

Down the line when shooting began, Camp Inawendiwin was so accommodating, providing us with everything we needed to ensure our crew was getting around the location safely and painlessly. Whenever we needed something, the ranger was immediately on call.

We'd hit some snowfall a few days prior to shooting and even on our final scheduled day, but the snow just exacerbated the beauty of the landscape.

So, instead of dealing with all the higher caliber contacts for location scouting, this just goes to show ... sometimes you just need to look in your backyard ...

And you'll find exactly what you're looking for.

To see how the location fit perfectly into my film's scenario, check out the "Where the Horizon Lies" trailer down below and subscribe for more B2Blog content!

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