Locations for Filming and Photography in Nebraska

Capturing NEBRASKA in a frame is indeed the many farm fields and the agricultural clichés… but know there are many surprises, including other types of fields.

College World Series 2011 TD Ameritrade Park

College World Series TD Ameritrade Park

Motion pictures or media production happening here might sound curious to you – especially if you reside near one of the coasts. That’s okay. We’re used to it.Nebraska county road BW labeled WM Jamie Vesay 100_1114 - Version 2 copy 2

LOCATIONS are mostly film-friendly. Credit the fine people of Nebraska for being nice. PERMITS are easy, when needed.  LOCATION FEES for any location of scope and scale are comparable to a medium-sized city in the U.S.  Considerations are how long you’ll be shooting and disruption, subject matter, size of crew, etc. If you are at least INSURED – deals can be had easier.  

Lincoln walkway connecter 2010 Jamie Vesay WM LBLD 100_1966

Please, wander around this site. Be sure to scroll down. And do check out the CATEGORIES list.      Feel free to ask Jamie questions about anything.

 W E L C O M E

Western Nebraska at the Colorado border

Western Nebraska at the Colorado border

NOTE:  Location availability is on a PER-PROJECT basis.  CONFIRM ANY location’s INTEREST – prior to getting excited about shooting there. 

Small Towns

Crete 82011 LBL Jamie Vesay WM DSCF1148

Yes. There are many of them in Nebraska. Since every vision of any project is subjective, and everybody’s definition of a small town is different, we’ll talk about this according to population, the main street as the primary location, and tips from my experience of scouting and shooting in small town Nebraska.

McCook 2008 labed by Jamie Vesay WM 100_0089 copy 2

Firstly, what locations (in the town) are required to meet your criteria? Movie theater? Bank?Church? Cafe? Or is it the entire main street?  Maybe it’s the entire town. Two big things to think about:  Is your project a period piece and what is the size of the town? For the latter (of scale) the population defines what a small town will look like. It could be called a (small) city or a smaller town or even a village. Here is a LIST of towns with a population of 1,000 to 6,000 people.

Murdock 2011 LBL Jamie Vesay WM 100_3683

In some smaller towns or villages, the current version of main street could be an eclectic  mix of storefronts, aluminum sheds, or garages. There are vacant spaces and empty lots that could either work for or against you.  Here is a list of smaller towns and villages less than 1,000 people. Murdock (above photo) is under 300.

Union June 2011 100_5079

If you will be shooting most of your scenes on “Main Street”, consider a small town where the main drag is NOT the HIGHWAY. Your set will be safer, you’ll have less headaches, and there is little chance of angering residents and passers-by waiting because you stopped or diverted traffic. Of course, it isn’t impossible to shoot on a busy road like the one above (or busier) but for reasons of creative comfort and the ability to work more freely, I would recommend another choice. Most main streets off the busy highway tend to look better anyway.

Seward Nebraska 2011 LBL Jamie Vesay WM DSCF2003

Some small towns have more than one main street look. It could be where the county courthouse sits in the middle of a square (like in Seward above) or the “old” main street is a few blocks off the “new” main street. A key word used in location scouting is options. Seward has many. Beyond the square, old and new looks, and a busy highway through town – they also have brick streets.

Seward Nebraska 2011 LBL Jamie Vesay WM DSCF2019 copy

Brick streets are cool but they aren’t always practical – either as a preferred design or simply wheeling wardrobe racks or camera carts over them (if they’re in bad shape). If you like brick, make sure the entire street is brick. See the photo below and the blend of brick and concrete.

Ashland 2011 LBL Jamie Vesay WM 100_3091

If you’re looking at surfaces of streets, watch for art or design elements. It could be a giant painted Shamrock (like in O’Neill) or a large compass in the middle of an intersection (Ashland).

Ashland 2011 LBL Jamie Vesay WM 100_2829

Your small town should have basic amenities for the crew, especially if you’ll be there for an extended period of time. Food, coffee, hardware, and a pharmacy are all location assets. Newer brands of ample clean lodging might be in town. If you’re making a movie and staying a while, consider renting space in a private home. There is indeed such thing as small town hospitality.

Wilber Czech parade 2011 LBL Jamie Vesay WM IMG_0971

An annual festival (that often includes a parade) is the ultimate small town USA experience. Maybe your project has an event scripted in the story – or this is what your project is about. Certainly if it isn’t, and you want the run of the place, choose another time. Check small town website calendars and make sure you don’t conflict with events like these. It will be crowded and streets will be blocked or – the town may not want you to film at that time (if it isn’t related). But if you want a vast supply of people, props, vehicles, animals, colors, textures, flags, food, etc. – an event like this could be a great collaboration.

Plattsmouth 2011 under construction LBL Jamie Vesay WM  DSCF0256 copy

Speaking of location conflicts, make sure your beloved small town isn’t under construction. In 2011, the above shot was one of those issues and I didn’t know about until I scouted – in person. This is another reason why I tell the new filmmaker, “Do not scout (and lock) locations via the internet!” If you do scout a town and LIKE it – but don’t see any construction, ask about any plans. Construction or a public works project might be scheduled. And an important note about art direction and production design impacted by upgrades and remodels to small towns: From leveling a historic building to installing new curbs and sidewalks or railings and light posts, it all might suddenly look too nice and /or they might have eliminated your period piece look.

Nebraska City 2011 LBL Jamie Vesay WM 100_5194

Most DPs and Gaffers will prefer a location that exposes north or a place that does not expose hard and directly to the sun. Or maybe y’all prefer that sort of thing these days. My inner DP would simply like to remind you about the direction of a street (north to south vs. east to west) in relation to the time of day and year you will be shooting.

Plainview sunset 2012 Jamie Vesay WM LBL TRD photo (1)

Finally, I encourage you to reach out to the town leaders and ask them to collaborate with you. We shot in the small town of Plainview for the movie Nebraska. Words can not express the incredible amount of cooperation, engagement, flexibility, and welcoming warmth expressed and received by this small town and the citizens. They became our collaborators and contributors.

Scout the many small towns of Nebraska. Hire an experienced professional like me. Drive around the State and see all of them. Talk to the residents, because they will certainly say hello. Share your vision, collaborate with the town, be safe, and have fun.

Words and photos Copyright Jamie Vesay.

Wind Farm, Wind Turbines

There is something mesmerizing about them. If you’re lucky enough to get to work around them or even for them, the view gets better as you get closer.

Windmills and old one near Petersburg Jamie Vesay WM LBLD treated IMG_5281In my opinion, the best array in Nebraska is near Petersburg*.  Firstly, there are many of them there – over fifty (50) spread out over one area. Additionally, there is another array near here with about twenty-five (25) in that group. The amount of turbines here on land that is topographically diverse, make this location worth the trip. From Omaha, they are about 130 miles northwest (about 2.5 hr drive). If you plan on shooting for a full day or hope to shoot at sunrise or sunset – consider staying closer to them. Moderate lodging and food exist in Petersburg, Neligh, or Albion. Larger scale amenities can be found in Norfolk or Columbus (each about an hour away).

cropped-wind-turbines-hay-rolls-petersburg-jamie-vesay-wm-img_1693-copy1.jpg

If you are shooting for the energy company or maybe a related client, your access will be easier and more fluid. You can shoot from the county road (and the array mentioned above does have roads close) but please know that most of the turbines are planted on PRIVATE PROPERTY, so you need PERMISSION (if you want to work close to them). SIDEBAR to those already saying, “I don’t ask permission,” location scouting and shooting is as much of a professional process as operating the camera. If nothing else, you are being respectful of people’s property and feeding production karma.

th_Wind farm Petersburg house IMG_8224  Back to the turbines.

th_Wind Farm at sunset Winter 111614 Jamie Vesay WM IMG_5995 - Version 3

Time of year is equal to and comparable with the time of day you’ll be shooting. In late fall and winter, the sun is on a lower southern track. Keep this in mind if you want the sun backlighting them. If you’re getting on top of one (ONLY with company permission and climbing gear) there is such thing as being too high – as the sun may actually be under them.

CAUTION – WARNING about shooting in WINTER: Ice can build up on the blades and fall off. In extreme temps we’re talking heavy ice falling from a high point. Vehicle destruction or death can occur.  Dress warm, stay focused, and be safe!

th_Wind farm Petersburg old outbuilding early summer IMG_1712 copy

Mid June

Another hint about TIME OF YEAR: If you want green, early summer is most lush and best. If you want crops, later summer to early fall is best. Understand if you are not shooting at these times, the land is brown, the crops are cut or non-existent or buried in snow, and there are no leaves on trees.

th_Wind farm Petersburg trees cut corn IMG_8254

April

Regarding WIND, Nebraska is indeed notoriously a wind prone State and most of the time, there is at least a slight breeze. Good thing if you’re shooting wind farms and most turbines do move with even a slow wind. But every now and then, there is nothing. Hence, a non-spinning turbine is just not interesting. There is at least one APP and a website to help track the wind.

Here is a filming TIP: If it is windy, show it. The lovely tall grass below is a natural foreground element, connecting what you’re shooting.       You’re welcome.

th_Wind farm Petersburg cows IMG_1640 copy

The following is important intel so please read slowly: WIND changes direction and turbines spin INTO it. If you pick a shot that looks great on one day – the turbines could be facing the opposite direction (even profile to your view) and will look vastly different on another day. The best view of course is when they face you.

th_Wind farm Petersburg sun cloud sprinkler IMG_1777 copy

Finally, as with any shoot, SAFETY should be paramount. While the wind farms are indeed mesmerizing, you should treat your shoot like any industrial environment. Weather, time of year, how close you’ll be working are all considerations. Also, have proper permissions. From the farmers to the owners of the turbines, please ask before you shoot. If you’re project has any value, I am confident they will be open and even interested in collaborating with you.

Be safe and (always) have fun.

* There are other arrays in the State. Google “Nebraska wind farms map” to find a list and the best one closest to you. Honestly, you will waste your time shooting at just one single or two (like near Lincoln) especially once you’ve seen a large array. If you are in Omaha, and are unable to travel to Petersburg or others, there is a large array in Iowa near Walnut – which is only about 30 minutes from downtown.

 

 

 

 

 

Golf Courses

cropped-quarry-oaks-pano-labeled-jamie-vesay100_1824.jpgGolf courses in Nebraska are abundant. Most of the clusters are near the larger metropolitan areas of Omaha and Lincoln, but other beauties can be found on the outskirts and between these cities. Looks vary greatly. Most first-time visitors to Nebraska are taken by the topography of the land. In a surprising word: hilly. Sure, you can get plenty of flat too. Depending on your creative, you can get northeast U.S. look, park setting, European links in the Sandhills, or Nebraska prairie.

cropped-bayside-golf-trd-wm-lbld-img_0668-version-3-copy.jpgThere are a few gems in the north central part of the State and to the west.

Benson, Omaha

Benson, Omaha city course

Municipal courses (munis), public, and private clubs provide many options.  You’ll find true “country” clubs in small towns, often flat and wide open courses.

Click on this link for big MAP OF GOLF COURSES in NEBRASKA.  If you have never shot on a golf course, please visit my blog entry on JamieVesay.com about SHOOTING GOLF.

And if you or your client likes to play, allow an extra day to enjoy a round or two.

 Photos and words COPYRIGHT Jamie Vesay 2014  ANY USE requires permission.