Where in the World Shall We Go?: The Importance of Choosing Sexy Settings

Shooting a movie in a populated area can be a logistical nightmare. When I took some theater classes in college, we had to do a short film. It was a small crew, about five people including the actors, but we tried to go about it as professionally as we could. We cordoned off the area with caution tape, and hung signs that literally read “Filming in Progress, Please DO NOT Cross.”

However, we had to stop shooting a dozen times. I saw three separate students stop, read the sign and then cross over the tape regardless. When I confronted them, their responses ranged from aggravated and hostile to confused and apologetic. They didn’t believe that the signs were real, despite the costumed actors, cameraman and the guy with the mike boom. And, that was just a college campus. Imagining the time and resources it would take to secure several city blocks for a major motion picture makes me cringe.

So then, why does everything in blockbuster movies seem to happen either in huge cities or wildly remote countryside locations? Surely, the expense and headaches are exponentially worse than my own collegiate experiences. Simply put, these locations are sexier. If you compare a list of popular travel destinations and frequently used movie locations, you’ll find a great deal of overlap. The real question is which came first.

Readers seek experiences, not just stories. They want to explore far off lands and know what it is like to live the life of the protagonist. Therefore, authors should take the time to understand what sort of settings are desirable to their target audience. In Science Fiction for example, novelty, forward thinking, and a sense of wonder must be balanced against realistic science and the established tropes of the genre. By contrast, readers of regency era stories desire a milieu that is based off a bedrock of historical accuracy, but also is highly romanticized in the details. However different, neither milieu could be described as mundane. The author is delivering a setting that is “sexy” to the reader.

As we plan our stories, we must create a setting that will deliver our reader to a world that they find fascinating, a place they would want to explore and experience, and a milieu so well developed and thought out that it feels real. Though individual tastes vary greatly, authors have an unlimited budget for special effects and set design. Our milieus are only limited by our imaginations and the expectations of our readers. If we can’t find something suitable on Earth, or even in our known universe, we have the liberty to create another reality entirely. When given free rein to explore any combination of place and time, where would you choose to go?


2 Responses

  1. With CGI and green screen, no one ever needs to leave the studio again. Unless you want actors to interact with the background. Even that is a maybe.

    • Nathan Barra says:

      True! The things that can be done with CGI are incredible! Even still, look at all those shots. They feel huge. Definitely what I’d call “sexy.”

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