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Old January 3rd, 2006, 01:25 PM   #1
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Tips for shooting in a mall

Hey everyone, looked around and found numerous posts on location permission horror stories but none that directly help me out.

Here's what I have - I'm in the middle of production on an indie film and we have several scenes that take place in a mall hallway and a few others that take place either at a cell phone kiosk or in a cell phone store.

There's a local mall, the Lakesaide Center in Denver, that was the third largest mall in the US in 1956. Now the mall has few tenants, but is undergoing a transformation into a Hispanic shopping center. As such, the mall sits mostly empty (though probably not for long if the transformation is a success). It still keeps regular shopping hours and is a great location with a great look.

I called and was told the owner doesn't allow filming in the mall. I tried to get the owner's contact info but they wouldn't give it to me. Then I asked about taking a short term lease on a store, transformng it into a phone store behind a curtain (many stores have curtains up anyways) and was told they aren't taking short term leases due to the transformation. I also told them we would shoot early mornings before the mall is open and would supply release forms stating we wouldn't show any store names or logos. No luck.

Now I'm working on calling every mall in the Denver area, but I know for a fact many malls have a "no filming" policy. If anything Lakeside was my best bet.

Does anyone here have experience securing a mall for a location? What would you suggest?

The story itself centers around mall employees, so the mall is pretty vital as a location.

Thanks for any help!
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 02:32 PM   #2
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A lot of office buildings have 'mini-malls' or at least minor retail floors on their ground levels. They might be more ammenable to filming. What they would lack is the scale of an actual mall.
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 03:29 PM   #3
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That's a good idea. We don't need the grandeur of a giant mall, just some benches and plants, typical mall break area stuff.

We do need a cell phone kiosk but that's more of a prop issue than a location issue. My hopes were we could find a mall that would let us rent a kiosk for a couple of days and shoot in the off hours.

I did call one local mall - Park Meadows - and they said they charge a location fee for filming. I emailed them the details and the hours we would need so I'm waiting to hear back on that.

Maybe I'm naive, but Denver isn't exactly a hotspot for film shoots. It's odd to me that they would already have a fee schedule in place for filming...

Still looking for free though...
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 03:41 PM   #4
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Since you are going to need to permission of a cell phone kiosk eventually anyway, why not go directly them? If they give you permission, maybe you can have them take it up with the mall?
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 03:55 PM   #5
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That's a good idea. We've contacted a few but with no luck. Our solution at this point is to dress up a phone kiosk with cell phone accessories. That way we can be 100% sure not to shoot any trademarks or logos without permission.

The downside to our current approach is that it does require renting or borrowing a kiosk and a fair amount of set dressing...

We had an audio store that we had permission to set dress into a phone store, but the company recently changed their policy regarding employees in the store after hours. So even though we had permission from the store manager, and would have made it completely unrecognizable as a speaker store, we lost our location due to an untimely company policy.

So now we're scrambling for a phone store AND a mall hallway...
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 04:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Swinnea
That's a good idea. We don't need the grandeur of a giant mall, just some benches and plants, typical mall break area stuff.
...
Maybe I'm naive, but Denver isn't exactly a hotspot for film shoots. It's odd to me that they would already have a fee schedule in place for filming...
Note: many malls are owned by national or regional chains so their policies could come down from above.

Another idea: university or campus locations. These, again, may have retail or mall-like shopping centers associated with them.
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 04:12 PM   #7
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You're best bet is an outdoor minimall. There's little security at those places for some reason. Forget about even trying to shoot in a bonafide mall. You will never get permission to do it in any of them. For some reason mall operators are among the most paranoid people on the planet. Don't even try to get away with it on the sly either. You will get stomped and possibly jailed.
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 04:15 PM   #8
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So in other words, I should forget about that re-make I was planning of the Blues Brothers car chase scene? ;-)
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 04:28 PM   #9
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I've thought about moving the whole concept to an outdoor mini-mall and I haven't thought on it enough to know if it's feasible with the story.

The college campus idea is great though! My college campus Union (At UNT in Denton, TX) had a break area that was very mall like. There was even a waterfall - river thingy on one floor. Another floor had plenty of benches and was very mall food courtish.

I graduated last year and still know a lot of the film department folks...

Problem now is I'm in Denver. No one on this film is a college student, but I do know a few who could be recruited to work on the project to make it a "student film".

I'm traveling back to Texas to do some minor shooting with actors that live there, but most of the "mall scene" actors are in Denver.

Any experience cold calling Universities for location permission?


A side note - I do know that small video crews are rarely questioned on college campuses. We certainly never were at UNT. We've already been staking out one of the local universities to "steal" our mall parking lot establishing shots. Lots of cars and generic looking big buildings. Problem with the indoor mall scenes is just that - they are indoors, with lights, boompoles, etc. So getting the school'd permission for those scenes is probably crucial.


Thanks again for all the great replies.
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 07:49 PM   #10
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I've never had to shoot a fiction film in a mall (just some news stuff...and that's a different set of rules). But based on other locations I've worked, I think you'd be lucky to be charged $1000/day to shoot at a mall...and they'd want to be sure to be added to your insurance policy...so that could be another $800 a day...These figures are wild guess depending on your needs, but they're also low guesses. The malls are businesses and need to be sure they're not exposed to potential (or just remotely theoretical) law suits.

Depending on your budget, you might want to dress a quiet industrial area as a mall (but perhaps not an industrial park that has its own security service). Or follow some of the other tips here. But securing official permission almost anywhere can be expensive.

Best of luck.

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Old January 3rd, 2006, 10:57 PM   #11
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Thanks for the ideas on location rates.

I really had no idea it could be that much. I haven't heard back from them yet but I'll post their rates here when I do, for everone's education. We assumed (incorrectly) that a full sized mall with almost no tenants would be the perfect shooting opportunity. Now we're in location-fee-land and it's a different story.

I did tell her our budget is under $10,000 total, so she may even just reply that the mall is out of our budget.

We have an actor flying here on the 14th for these scenes so we'll keep working on it until we have a solution. The advice here has been incredible. Thanks again everyone.
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Old January 4th, 2006, 08:00 AM   #12
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I would be astonished if you could even get them interested at $1,000 a day. The real estate reporter at the newspaper I work for once mentioned that our local mall pays $1,500 for every parking place property in taxes. That kind of money is nothing to these people.
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Old January 4th, 2006, 02:10 PM   #13
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Let me start by saying I have no clue, just a couple of ideas...

1. Go back to the mall being renovated, and find out who the director of marketing is. Hopefully it is not the person who said "no". Get them to see how a properly timed press release will generate some significant interest in their mall, if you can time either the shooting or film release to work close to their schedule. This is also true if you can use a crowd scene, and get people into the mall as "extras" or as gawkers... Don't ask for permission, offer them an opportunity, depending on the timing.

2. Call a national phone chain, such as Verizon. Again, talk to the marketing people. See if they will pay you to be in your film, but explain that you will accept mostly an in-kind payment of a furnished kiosk (even an existing one) and help in getting location clearance to film. Charge them $1 additional as a product placement fee (WTF?). You could even do this thru one of the product-placement agencies that manage this for companies. In fact, they may be MOST receptive...
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Old January 4th, 2006, 09:54 PM   #14
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Again, great ideas.

I have yet to hear back from Park Meadows with a price quote. I am now waiting on a call from a different mall, one that is about to be torn down but still has a few tenants left.

The torn down mall might not be interested in the publicity, but our original choice, Lakeside Center may be. I'll look into the press release idea for our hallway shots. We can dress a kiosk for relatively little. The phone store has a ficticious name in the film and doesn't paint the employees as the brightest guys around...

Still, we have already contacted several phone stores and even got to the corporate level with a few of them but our budget and "indie film" leaves them unimpressed.

I scouted one of the local schools (CU in Boulder). They have a student community building (bookstore, cafe, bank) that would work for several of our close up interior mall conversation scenes.

One of our actresses is actually a student there, so that may allow us enough student cred to shoot at least the hallway shots (forgetting about the phone store scenes for the moment).

Another question, maybe one that should be in a different thread - Considering the price a mall is typically going to want to shoot there, what about using stock footage for an interior establishing shot. That way we get the grandeur (and production value) of the mall interior and then match it to our close ups. We're shooting with the FX1 in a documentary style (think The Office or Christopher Guest). If we can find some HD stock footage it would match up fairly well.

Does anyone have experience incorporating royalty free stock footage into a feature film? Any issues in using stock footage come festival time?

Thanks again for the great ideas.
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Old January 10th, 2006, 03:59 PM   #15
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WE GOT OUR MALL LOCATION!!!

I took the advice here and called the local universities.

CU Denver was the most helpful, offering to let us use the student union (which actually WAS a mall back in the 80s).

The gentleman I spoke with wanted to know exatly where we would be shooting and what the scenes are about. Since I had already planned out all the shots I was able to tell him the exact spots including surrounding offices and shops. I don't know if he thinks I am a student but my knowledge of the union layout may have persuaded him to not even ask.

He gave us the number for the building manager in case we have any problems, and gave me tips on the cheapest parking. Best of all, the location is 100% free and works perfectly for the movie.

So now we're legit and won't have to risk stealing any shots or moving scenes to less desireable locations.

Thanks again for the tips.
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