Wednesday, July 20, 2011


JOHNNY CHAZZ: There are numerous advantageous to shooting a film either wholly or partially “on location”. For those new to cinema, this refers to all production and filming being done at the site rather than use of constructed sets. Typically this adds to the realism, the weathered look and the overall shades and image illusionary looks. The advantages to the funding studio are fairly obvious, but must be discussed. Costs are reduced since sets and certain props do not need to be used; the essence of being in “reality” is also enhanced. There is a flip-side however and often times that comes with the natural territory including the likes of public passers-by; temperature and weather constraints halting or slowing down production and the cost of transporting the entire cast and crew to the location for filming which can have a heavy impact on the film’s budget.

Still, so many memorable moments in film have come from those that have utilized specific locations as another “character” in the film. The location can mock the characters, identify with them or simply add a philosophical or psychological element to the overall pace and look of the film.

Let’s dive in and take a look at some of the films over the past 60 + years that I feel have used filming “on location” to add that extra character and mood to the film that could never be accomplished through the construction of sets.

FARGO (1995) immediately comes to mind. The majority of the film is shot in Minnesota, including Brainerd and Minneapolis, as well as on the road heading into and out of Fargo. The dark comedy provides “color” through, not only the cast language, but the sets are priceless and the cold, remote aura made the film a virtual masterpiece.

VERTIGO (1958) must also be addressed. Kim Novak (Madeleine) jumping under the San Francisco bridge into the icy waters of the bay is epic in terms of location. Ernie’s restaurant was another with shots of the interior and exterior. Transfixed by the portrait of Carlotta, we take a trip to the wonderful Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Next, we visit the Empire Hotel with the “ghost,” per se, of Madeleine from the second floor peering out. Especially appealing to the eye are the long shots of Scottie’s apartment on Lombard Stree,t finishing and the concluding haunting views of the Old San Juan Batista mission with the bell tower (constructed however) and the accompanying stables.

Foreign Films are obsessed with “on location” considering the deep and rich European and Asian cultures as well as architecture. Here we must mention the likes of TSOTSI (2005) filmed in the beautiful but rough burrows of Johannesburg and Gauteng, South Africa... making South Africa look so appealing to visit on screen. MEDITERRANEO (1991) is another that is especially close to my heart, showcasing the Greek and Italian seas during the Second World War. The peaceful blue ocean views accompanied by the mountain settings were ideal conditions for such a wonderful foreign film. Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963) along with LA DOLCE VITA (1960) are two more that cannot be passed up. Both being filmed in the black and white scheme, it is the architecture, bizarre locations, cafés and the constant change in locales in and around Rome and Italy (Bassano and Lazio especially) that give it a romantic and exotic flavor that will stand the test of time. IKIRU (1952) and TOKYO STORY (1953) are two others from Japanese cinema that are also in the black and white motif offering us constant changes in locale around Tokyo (IKIRU especially) in the nightlife scenes of the cafes, sushi restaurants, nightclubs, pachinko parlors, street scenes and brothels. What use of “on location” sets... allowing the audience to really see Japan’s culture for what it was and still is today. Finally, I have to honor the locations chosen by Antonioni in L’AVENTURRA (1960) as well as THE PASSENGER (1975) with use of wide and long shots, while characters move out of frame. Focusing on the architecture of the city of Messina and Sicily as well as the Aeolian Islands, reflecting whilst mocking the nature of our characters and the final scene near the bell-tower (reminds one of the climactic scene in Vertigo) are simply amazing. The final scene in THE PASSENGER is also terrific with the camera moving through the window and out towards the bullring and then panning back 360 degrees to the hotel. Other locations used in THE PASSENGER are equally effective including the desert sequences and the orchard with the painted oranges.

American classics such as THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951) filmed in the forests of the Congo, THE HUSTLER (Ames pool hall and the bus station), NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) with the Mount Rushmore scene, Grand Central Station and Midway airport, ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953) including scenes in Rome, the Church of Santa Maria and the Piazza, CHINATOWN (1974) with the surrounding Los Angeles areas, the aqueduct and nearby orchards, EASY RIDER (1969) showcasing the cliff reservation of Mulholland Drive, the New Mexico campfire areas, the exterior and interior of the Louisiana coffee shops and the climactic and hallucinogenic scene St. Louis Cemetery #1, SOME LIKE IT HOT (the train interior as well as the Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego, CA), and SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) showcasing the Alto-Nido apartments in Hollywood as well as the Getty Mansion; inside and out, followed by the Paramount Studios' front gate, must also be mentioned as being filmed at outstanding locations.

There are countless other films that deserve honorable mention without going into too much detail. If you have seen these films, you are probably aware of the locations that I am referring to and the overall mood that filming “on location” added to the film. If you have not seen any of the following, do yourself a favor and jump onto Netflix in a hurry and begin your quest. Here is my list of remaining films that I would recommend with outstanding location shots:

* THE CONVERSATION (Opening scene in particular)
* PARIS, TEXAS (Opening and closing scenes)
* HALLOWEEN (The house and the street)
* SCARFACE (The Miami area)
* MULHOLLAND DRIVE (Everything really)
* BEFORE SUNSET (The side streets and walkways of Paris)
* THE STRAIGHT STORY (Beautiful cinematography and locales)
* THE MAJESTIC (Been there and this theater in Ferndale, CA is wonderful!)
* ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (The tours pay homage to the film’s locale)
* DELIVERANCE (Wouldn’t ever want to go there, but that is the effect)
* SIDEWAYS (One of the most beautiful drives in the world)
* WINTER’S BONE (Recent film that went un-noticed for its’ barren and gritty atmosphere)

JER: This is a great topic of discussion while at the same time, an opportunity for recognition on an unsung role in the construction of a motion picture.

Many wonderful memories come to mind on the topic of “location, location, location!” Epic films will always use the best landscapes for photographic reasons.

I will begin with the principal photography for Milos Foreman’s 1984 film, AMADEUS. Shot entirely in various locations within the Czech Republic, the opportunity was given to include many real palaces and castles for its authentic presentations. The Estates Theatre, located in Prague, is an original standing theatre built in 1783 and was an opera house to which the real Mozart premiered “Don Giovanni” in October 29, 1787.

Director Michael Mann is a master of authenticity and kept his 1992 film, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, very true to that concept. Shot around the Blue Ridge Mountains and other nearby locations in North Carolina, preserved National Forests and picturesque locations would all play a pivotal role in the storytelling of this grand epic.

Exotic locations have always been a key element to keeping the Bond films filled with excitement, glamour and visual spectacles. Some memorable locales could be recognized, for example: the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida would be the hotel James Bond visits in GOLDFINGER. Various memorable scenes within Egypt and India would help the exotic flair of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. Who can forget the adventurous fight sequence within France’s Eiffel Tower in A VIEW TO A KILL? Finally, what Bond film would be complete without a little gambling involved? How about the beautiful Casino de Monte-Carlo in DIE ANOTHER DAY?

Moving from the foreign sites to the more ‘familiar’ grounds I enjoy stomping through, I would like to draw your attention to my favorite street in the world…Hollywood Boulevard!

Coming around the corner of Las Palmas and Hollywood Blvd, you can almost see Julia Roberts walking up the star- studded sidewalks for 1990’s PRETTY WOMAN. Her apartment, by the way, is also on the same street aptly called the Las Palmas Hotel. On the other side of that very same corner, there is Danny Glover catching his breath as Mel Gibson makes a mad dash after the bad guys in the original 1987 LETHAL WEAPON and Will Smith stops into that same corner drugstore in his 2008 action/ comedy HANCOCK. A very epic fight occurs all throughout the Boulevard as Smith and co-star Charlize Theron ‘take it to the streets’ between the El Capitan Theater and the famous Chinese Theatre. Laura Dern would walk a little further in the opposite direction in a lost glaze in David Lynch’s 2006 film INLAND EMPIRE… and she would come very close to the Frolic Room lounge next door to the Pantages Theater, where Russell Crowe would stop in for a drink in 1997’s L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Incidentally, that is the same bar, now doubling for a lesbian club,  that Aaron Eckhart walks into for a drink and carries on with his investigations in Brian DePalma’s THE BLACK DAHLIA!

A hop, skip and a jump on the map brings us to Boston… home to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Both men would partake in the double duties of screenwriting and acting in the heavily Boston-based 1997 film GOOD WILL HUNTING. Affleck would wow critics and audiences in the very realistic middle- class surroundings of his beloved “Beantown” for his directorial debut in 2007’s GONE BABY GONE. A few years later, Affleck would come back strong in his sophomore submission, 2010’s THE TOWN. We cannot forget director Martin Scorsese’s use of the good and the bad running amuck in his Academy Award winning film THE DEPARTED or the tight bonds created in rural neighborhoods and the collective gathering when something happens to the ones you are closest to in director Clint Eastwood’s MYSTIC RIVER.

Keeping the streets real, let’s go to the other end of the world. Next stop? Japan! Inspiring and overwhelming, the big city would play backdrop to two very different films capturing very unique sides of this grand and mysterious city. The first would play as a large playground for detectives Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia for Ridley Scott’s 1989 action thriller BLACK RAIN. It would then serve as a choking and unknown world for both Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in Sophia Coppola’s 2003 breakthrough film LOST IN TRANSLATION. What the hell… Japan is a land of many wonders and mystique, which served as both location and cultural unassurities in 2004’s THE GRUDGE! Herein, it is the isolation of a haunted home and the beliefs of an unknown culture that make this film a very memorable and intriguing film to watch.

Finally, the homeland of New Zealand would produce a magnitude of location treasures for director Peter Jackson for his LORD OF THE RINGS saga. Providing a lush and fertile backdrop for the Shire, to the rugged mountains during the most climatic sequences, that Jackson would use the scenery to display the beginnings of both comfort and home to the weary travels...ending it into the unknown away from anything resembling safety and known. Jackson would return back to the more jungle-like landscapes of New Zealand for the representation of Skull Island in his 2005 remake of KING KONG.

It is understood that JC and myself missed many mentionable locations within this article, but we hope we have stirred your senses a little to explore and admire the many wonderful locales brought forth.

We hope you enjoyed our location journey around the world and that you will be joining us once again for another flight into the cinematic world next week when the pilot's chair gets turned over to yours truly, JER. For now, I will turn off the seatbelts' sign and allow you to move about freely until we SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Check out this great video highlighting some of the most memorable film locations shot in and around the Los Angeles area!
Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!


  1. Hello Counterpoint - I blogged a couple of times before, so here I go again, lol. Once again I really like what you guys have written this week and you both came up with some really cool locations where some good movies have been shot. For me personally, movies like "Die Hard", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Empire of the Sun" and all of the Indian Jones movies had great locations. thanks! Chris, Corvallis, Oregon.

  2. Welcome back, Chris! Always great hearing from you! Yes, I totally agree with your selections as well! In particualr, the Indiana Jones films have always had some wonderful and exotic locations to show off! Thanks again!

  3. this is really cool keep up the good work guys

  4. I agree that often times when movies are shot on location that they add so much more than any set can. A lot of the movies you both talked about here are definitely among my favorites. Kendall, SAN DIEGO - CA