Florida has some nice urban offerings if you venture to the right places. Unfortunately, if you reside in the northern region of Florida and happen to be a filmmaker — your offering is slim.

Being a student interested in film at the University of Florida can be tough. Urban location scouting in the rural rich city of Gainesville is difficult.

Downtown Gainesville still has a lot to offer. When done right you can depict a large metropolitan city, a small Boston neighborhood or even what Gainesville is — a small college town.

I spoke with Raina Barnett, a UF journalism student, about downtown Gainesville. Barnett gave me her first thoughts.

“Unique. Historic buildings. History. Culture. Graffiti,” Barnett said.

I think this initial depiction can be rather accurate for Gainesville’s small downtown. These words can also resonate with a lot of small cities.

I also spoke with Houston Wells, UF lecturer in video story telling, who has filmed in Alachua county for many years.

“One nice thing  about Gainesville is that it’s not New York or Chicago,” Wells said. “It’s not a pain in the butt for legal reasons.”

Gainesville doesn’t have a “No Tripod” rule or any local laws prohibiting filming a production in the public. If your shoot involves closing down a street then the proper paper work will have to be filed.

“Gainesville doesn’t have every look, but it has a certain look,” Wells said. “Old houses in good condition and bad conditions can create dynamic looks for scenes.”

You must be wise when you decide to film in a location like this.

Choose a Friday during a college semester and filmmakers can have bustling sidewalks and busy traffic. Choose a Monday on break and they can have empty sidewalks and minimal traffic.

The key is to always scout the location in question before you begin your shoot. Let me say this again … the key is to always scout the location in question before you begin your shoot.

Now that I have said that perhaps we can talk about why this is important…

When a director begins shooting there is typically a look in mind. Personally, when I begin to shoot for a short film I storyboard the entire film.

Storyboarding is a process where you layout each scene by sketching and writing out what the scene will look like and the general actions performed by the characters. Storyboarding allows for the director, writers, and all others involved in the film process to be able to have a glimpse at what the intended product should be like.

Scouting a location prior to shooting allows for the planners to know what is possible and what is not. They can get an idea of how the lighting will be and also how the sound will be (cars, moving water, etc.)

If you don’t plan, you may have to find a better suited location on the spot. This hinders the shoot and creates problematic delays and rethinking of the shots.

I planned on shooting a video a few months back in downtown Gainesville on a Saturday around 1 p.m. I assumed that there wouldn’t be any issues. Well, I was wrong.

The traffic made all dialogue inaudible. I ended up having to move my location 3 blocks away to a quieter part of downtown. Not only did this make my scenes different, but I had to edit my dialogue to fit with this new environment.

If you plan on filming in a particular location, go and check the location out yourself prior to filming. This will save you a lot of hassle.

Now go out and scout some locations. But remember, scout prior to the actual day of the shoot.