Location scouting can be a lot of fun when you're spending time imagining the potential production value of a place you're visiting for the first time. It's very rewarding to report it all back to the production department heads, introducing the exciting visions of "what if?" for ground zero of principal photography. However, unless you're an experienced, local scout with a laundry list of locations and contacts, you're also going to spend a lot of time searching, driving, cold-calling, and negotiating to find that perfect fit for the project. If only there were a platform to make this entire process easier, especially for indie filmmakers. But there's not, so I better end the article here -- kidding! Say hello to Set Scouter, which Anila Gill of Tribeca says "hopes to be the AirBnb of location scouting."
From Set Scouter's About Us page:
Set Scouter Inc. is a Toronto-based film location scouting marketplace that connects filmmakers looking for the perfect set with property owners looking to rent out their space for production. Set Scouter has developed an expanding catalogue of locations available for filmmakers, producers, and media professionals. Set Scouter aims to make the location scouting process faster, easier, and more affordable.
How affordable, you ask? Signing up is technically free, but it's a service, so there are fees. From the location owner perspective, Set Scouter charges 15% of the booking price (that you set yourself). For scouters, they charge 5% for booked locations. Filmmakers are required to have liability insurance and are required to submit a $500 security deposit to Set Scouter in case something were to happen. And if a production goes over, it is billed 10% of the booking price for every additional 30 minutes, with a minimum of $50 per 30 minutes. Their cancellation policies seem reasonable and are sliding depending on how far out from a booked shoot date you are. And, as this is a Canadian company, the transactions are processed in Canadian funds.
When you book a scout of a location using their Schedule a Scout feature within Set Scouter, you are charged $40 per location. So let's say you're looking for a cabin location in the remote Rocky Mountains. You're shooting along a pristine mountain ridge, and knowing that you want just the right sunrise angles, you want at least four options to look at. You book a day of four tours on Set Scouter's Schedule a Shoot, and you are charged $160. If for some reason the location owner simply not show up to the scout, the money is refunded once you contact Set Scouter.
Now you can book a location through Set Scouter right away online, but personally, I can't imagine booking a location without at least an initial scout first. That is inadvisable at best, and catastrophic at worst. Even having that as an option really almost feels like a trap for green producers who aren't taking factors like electric and audio into account/only going for a location based upon pretty pictures and descriptions. So for my own use of Set Scouter, I'd just factor in the extra $40/location scout on top of the 5% as a given and not a "feature." For indie budgets, it still seems like a good deal for the convenience and time saved.
One can imagine that privacy and anonymity are important in dealing with a service like this, right? After all, you're potentially inviting strangers into your home/business/property. Well Set Scouter seems to be doing a good job of taking security and privacy seriously. On their Safety and Security page, they make sure to note that as a location owner, your full name and address are private until booking (and yes, this of course protects Set Scouter's interests too). Locations are noted in a general 2 km area, and again aren't released until you book or use their Schedule a Scout tool to schedule a tour for the production team.
The caveats I could foresee in the future are not unlike the caveats for AirBnb -- namely, the legality of it all state to state. Yes, you should be able to rent out your space if you have the proper ownership or authority, but I can only imagine certain areas could have special permit requirements Especially for outdoor locations that feature prominent landmarks or the like. This article from The Guardian speaks to some of the legal trials AirBnb is facing, for example. I wonder, will Set Scouter face similar problems?
I also have questions about enforcement -- for example, let's say the crew goes over time while wrapping up lights. The production claims it wrapped on time, but the location owner claims it went over at least 30 minutes. Does Set Scouter arbitrate/enforce the claim?
Set Scouter is currently in beta testing but is already building its catalogue in Toronto. What do you think? When Set Scouter goes global, would you consider it for your location scouting needs? Or are there other scouting services like this you would recommend right now?
Link: Set Scouter