Filmmaker and Founder of Wrapal Brian Tan on Location Scouting

Best known for his visual effects work on X-Men: First Class and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, producer Brian Tan talks to Mandy News about location scouting, and how that inspired him to become the founder of Wrapal; a startup founded by filmmakers for filmmakers to revolutionise location scouting. 

7th February 2019
/ By Steph Long

Brian L. Tan on set at Dilated FPSPRODUCTIONS

So tell me a little bit about your past to founding Wrapal. I'm sure that you saw a gap in the market place and where you were and how ... a little bit of that back story of how this came to be?

So Wrapal's a startup founded by filmmakers for filmmakers. So, really it wasn't as clinical as seeing a market opportunity or looking at a gap in the amount of products offered out there by startups or it wasn't one of those things where we started a business because we saw a way to make money. We actually started it because it was a problem. 

All of us were filmmakers and I myself, as a filmmaker, hated location scouting and hated the whole process. It's just so archaic and, frankly speaking, it was one of the worst parts of the filmmaking journey. It was very lethargic. 

You had to go around and knock on doors, go pound the pavement and try to find that perfect location and from there you had to still negotiate and do this whole thing, and I was finding that as a filmmaker it was taking so much of my time and I was like "Man, there has to be an easier way".

So being a traveler I always used Airbnb and I guess everyone was kind of inspired by Airbnb and Uber and Lyft and all these companies. Back in 2011 and 2012 they were still fairly revolutionary, and so I got inspired by Airbnb and thought "Hey, why not start the Airbnb of location scouting to make filmmaking and the location scouting process that much more effective and efficient for everybody's time". I think it's a win-win.

And so as a filmmaker and talking to other filmmakers who may or may not have done extensive location scouting, do you think "Oh, I'll go rent a house and that's where I'll shoot"?  And how do you guys make it easier for them?

Absolutely. I think a lot of filmmakers have this idea that every location is a possible film location and that's, to some extent, very true, but a lot of times there's many different variables that they don't really think about.

For one, whether or not the location's even open to filmmaking. A lot of times just because a home is really nice or just because this business seems to be very event-friendly, doesn't mean that they want film shoots or know what kind of film shoots they're open to. 

So I think we take a lot of hassle out with Wrapal by knowing that, well, everything on our site is film-friendly. That's one of the biggest concerns that filmmakers have, because it kind of knocks out the whole having to go door to door kind of thing.

Also the other thing they don't keep in mind is parking. For example, here in Los Angeles and big cities, you have to factor that in mind. Just because a location is kind of cool, it could potentially mean that you can't park your grip truck or you can't park your crew anywhere close by and they have to walk.

Other things include power. A lot of filmmakers just presume that just because they can plug something into an electrical socket it's going to work. Some locations have a lot of bigger breaker boxes and some have smaller ones.

So the list can go kind of on and on. It includes things like, is it enough light path? Is it really noisy? Then there is the neighbours, are they film-friendly? Are there going to be live dogs in the backyard?

I can almost think of it like the analogous thing would be like real estate. When you do a real estate work through you're always looking for all these variables and it's kind of very similar with location scouting and so with Wrapal, the idea was that we wanted to create a startup and a marketplace that would essentially show you the pros and cons ahead of time, because no location is perfect. 

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What are some of your more interesting and out-there locations, what are the most popular and what do people commonly come to you for? 

We have 2,100 or 2,200 locations in Los Angeles and New York. The locations vary a lot. We have everything from apartments, to houses, to mansions, to office buildings, to restaurants and everything in between. 

Some of the more interesting locations have to be some of the more unique homes that are on there. There's so much diversity in residences. There's some Mediterranean-inspired mansions right out of Scarface. There's some really interesting warehouses and industrial spaces like that.

My more favourite ones are the grungy ones, because as a filmmaker I do a lot of action films. So I love locations with more nuance and more texture. So we have a lot of spaces for example in downtown LA there are like these really high-ceiling lofts and creative spaces with exposed brick walls, and you know have a lot of character and grunge to them and I think that adds to the mise-en-scène and the tapestry of a film. Those are my favourite locations.

In terms of exotic locations, we have a few very interesting ones. For example, we have the American Legion in Hollywood which is a, for lack of a better word, like a multi-purpose venue that had a bar that was featured in like Star Trek and The Shining.

I once had a Snoop Dogg shoot in my house, and that was pretty intense, as you can imagine, it's Snoop Dogg. The ones I give more deals to are kind of like the indie and student filmmakers who just have between say like, fifteen to twenty people, you know they shoot at regular hours.

How can a filmmaker get a good deal on a location via Wrapal?

There's quite a few variables. But I think we offer some of the most affordable prices, especially for independent filmmakers and film students and the people that don't really have those big Hollywood budgets. So inherently, right off the bat, I think our customer base for locations understands that. So the prices are reflected accordingly. You're not going to see too many studio-level pricing.

If a filmmaker, like yourself, is also looking and maybe they think " I can make some cash and shoot my film by actually listing my property on Wrapal" what could they expect as somebody who's renting out their property and what makes their property stand out on your platform?

It doesn't have to look fancy. It doesn't have to be glamorous. Every film has that scene where someone starts off in a studio apartment or potentially have a really messy basement or something. 

Every location is potentially a film location, and so if a filmmaker has access to that, I think it's a great way to have passive income come in and also have a great way to more importantly, I think it's a great way for them to connect with other filmmakers as well.

I personally, having rented out my own home on Wrapal, I've actually met quite a lot of filmmakers as well. And through that process of networking, you end up meeting more people, end up potentially collaborating on more projects. As you know, this is a very people-centric industry and it's an industry more about who you know sometimes than what you know.

So the more chances you get to interact with other filmmakers, potentially through your own home, it's a great way to not only make money but network as well. And this can be anything from renting out your own home to renting out your production studio to renting out your place of work.

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Brian L. Tan WRAPAL
Brian L. Tan