No matter where we are in the world — even if we’re shooting in our own backyard in Chicago — we’re constantly on the hunt for the very best studio for the job. What makes for a good one? It all depends on the project! To start, we look at three key areas:
It’s not just about the physical space, like, “We need a large room,” or, “We need two HMU bays.” Depending on the number of people on a shoot — if we have a 10-person crew vs a 30-person crew — we’ll need very different types of space to accommodate everything on our list. Plus, it’s going to need to be divvied up appropriately for the job. On our list of considerations (though it changes from shoot to shoot): Is there a private changing room? How many restrooms are there? Is there a kitchen for catering and craft services? Honestly, it’s really important that the space be beautiful, too, because we’re going to be bringing our client there. There are a lot of spaces that are functional, but not beautiful, and we want the best of both worlds. Bright natural light! Pops of color! Live plants! Those are the perks.
Here’s where we get into the specifics of the shoot, knowing that each has its own unique needs. They might be super technical, such as a cyc wall (sometimes called an infinity wall), which is a must if we’re shooting cars, pets, or green screen. Or if we’re going to be doing sound, then of course we’re going to be considering the audio quality within the room. For a space that’s totally soundproof — no street noise, no bleeding from other rooms in the building — you have to go with a full sound stage. Another major technical consideration? Cars! If we’re shooting with a car or multiple cars, we’re going to need to be able to physically drive into the space via a bay or garage door, and meet height requirements. On a recent shoot in L.A., for instance, we needed to drive in ambulance — which meant a taller garage requirement. Because any given shoot has its own technical details, even within Chicago itself, we have a long list of studios that we use.
Beyond technicalities, this might look more like a punch list of everything from load-in to location. For instance, some studios are fantastic, but they’re on the third floor with a tiny elevator, and that is not so great for the team (though we always try to make it work!). We’re always looking at where a location is in relationship to the greater city in which we’re shooting. Is it close to our hotel? Is it close to other key locations? If we’re in our home city of Chicago, is it close to prop and equipment rentals so that if we need an additional piece of equipment, we can run down the street and get it? We’re always looking for geographical convenience since a lot of production is managing time. Finally — and this is a big one! — budget. Do we have access to get the crème de la crème, or do we need to go more affordable? Sometimes we’ll look on Airbnb or Splacer to find the best spots. Other times, we’ll wind up renting conference rooms in hotels if it means saving money while still being convenient for everyone.
No two studios are alike, which means that seeking out different studios for different jobs is key. This even goes for our very own studio, which is great for castings, fittings, and production meetings, but seldom works well for big shoots. Fortunately, we’ve got connections all over the world to spaces that are perfect for every project.