Welcome to Nebraska

Welcome to Nebraska USA. We’re happy to collaborate with you. This site is about on-location film production and commercial photography.*

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 6.29.05 AMWe invite you to be surprised by the diversity of Locations, availability of Crew, access to Equipment, and ample Amenities to support your project.th_Magnolia shoot 2009 TRD CRPD IMG_0377 copy 2 Version 2 WMNEL

Omaha is the your best choice to fly in to and base from…

… but if your project is elsewhere in the State we can happily help there too.Filming BTS Nebraska Plainview Jamie Vesay LBLD WM IMG_3205

Wander around the website. Try Search. Ask about anything. If your project is greenlit – reach out ASAP for honest answers. VesaysRep@gmail.com

WELCOME and thank you for visiting.

This site is curated by Jamie Vesay, experienced Locations Scout/Manager and Creative Producer. He is an industry veteran. He gets it.

* Information here is about budgeted on-location production (professional filmmaking and commercial photography) and processes inherent to legitimate projects. These processes encourage industry standards such as permission to shoot on property, location fees, insurance, safety protocol, codes of ethics, and legal and proper logistics. 

Content COPYRIGHT © Jamie Vesay

Niobrara River near Valentine

The Niobrara River near Valentine Nebraska is a National Scenic River. This alone should give you reason to be curious and make you want to visit…

Niobrara River 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9646 copy

…but many Nebraskans will tell you they go for the canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and camping. Add the giant overhead canvas of the open sky (which is just as amazing at night – seeing the stars) the surrounding topographical blend of Sandhills and riverside bluffs, pine and cedar trees, wildlife, and the hospitality of the town of Valentine – it is a wonderful destination for visitors.

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If you will be commercially FILMING or PHOTOGRAPHING near, on, or in the Niobrara river – there are a few things you should know…

The Niobrara river near Valentine is in north-central Nebraska. Plan a minimum of three days stay in the area to travel, overnight, and see most of it. Standard amenities such as food, lodging, and basic supplies are in the town of Valentine (unless you opt for a cabin or camping out-of-town).

Niobrara River cabin on river at Sunny Brook camp 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9110 copy

Firstly, know that the river WATER is technically managed by the National Parks Service. If your production is of any scale and scope; this should be a starting point to discuss your project. Be professional and have an open discussion with them. They are receptive to filmmaking but they are managers and protectors of the wild river. There is a National Parks Service office in Valentine.

Niobrara River Norden Chute IMG_9038 - Version 2 TRD copy 2 WM2x Twitter copy

SAFETY should be at the forefront of every decision related to working near the river. Even on your location scouting you should be recognizing the most practical areas for production that are SAFE! For more considerations to safe shooting on water (including rivers and others) consider a review of this blog post about Filming on Water.

Niobrara River kayakers LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9436 copy

Most of the LAND surrounding the river is private property. IF you have an inside track on a land owner or if you’re working for an entity with access to the river, you’re more than halfway there. If not, my advice is to partner with an Outfitter that knows and works the river. More than likely they own a piece of property that gives you river access and a base-camp to park, put-in, or get out.

Berry Bridge Campground at Niobrara river 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9410 - Version 2

I recommend Brewer’s Canoers and Berry Bridge Campground. Mary and Randy are natives to the area and are wonderful collaborators. They provide canoes or kayaks and tubes, life-preservers, and many other elements to help your project happen. Check with their schedule though because they are in the river-fun business first and the tourist season can be very busy.

Niobrara River tubes LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9477 copy

Another idea for collaborating with a property as a shooting location is Smith Falls State Park. There is ample parking, modern restrooms, picnic tables and a shelter, and if you’re “roughing it” you can tent-camp at the riverside. The waterfalls of Smith Falls fame are not on the river proper. To see them, it is a hike down a trail, over a bridge, more trail, and up a wood walkway. The photo below is from the south side of the river in the state park.

Niobrara River at Smith Falls SP 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9395 copy

The largest section of land is within the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. 19K + acres are managed and permitted by U.S. Fish & Wildlife. Any filming within the Refuge boundaries will need to be approved and permitted. Note: there are NO TUBES permitted in the river within the Refuge property. Kayaks and canoes only.  Tubes may enter the river just east of the Refuge property.

Niobrara River from Buffalo Bridge in Frt Niobrara Wildlife Refuge 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM TRD IMG_9731 - Version 2

The length of the river between Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and Norden Chute BEGS TO BE SHOT WITH A DRONE. I’d love to see creative, cinematic shots: Low over the water of course, high past the bluffs, under the bridges, or through the bridges steel girders. I’ll give you this one: start it on the tube or kayak and lift off – or better yet; vice versa.

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For now, here are more MISCELLANEOUS Production tips:

  • Ideal times of year to work on the river are MAY (within the two weeks prior to Memorial Day ) or FALL (when foliage is changing). Reason for May is less people. The river tourist season gets going in June and summers can be crowded – unless that is what you need to shoot.
  • TRAVEL TIME (with production vehicles) from the town of Valentine to the river is 30+ minutes, depending on where you’re going. Allow more time to get to places further east.
  • Many ROADS in from the main asphalt highways of SR 20 and SR 12 – are DIRT and GRAVEL. The road to Smith Falls State Park is about four miles on gravel.
  • CELL SERVICE near the river is bad to non-existent (as of 2014). Texts worked in most places.
  • Children under the age of 12 in a Tube – MUST wear a LIFE JACKET.
  • Be aware of FIRE DANGER. In dry, hot summer months the risk is HIGH.
  • Note the SUN path and times of sunrise and sunset against the areas of the river you will be working. The bluffs and slight canyons could be in shadow.
  • The river DEPTH is as low as ankle-deep to 3 to 5 feet with deeper pockets sprinkled about.
  • The CURRENT can be slow to swift depending on time of year and recent rain.
  • Water CLARITY can be brown from sediment. Conflicting reports of it becoming more clear, slower, and lower as time moves closer to summer – if no large rain.
  • PUT IN points (and exits) have plastic mesh embedded in the ground. Practical for traction but not appealing if you are photographing there.

Go earlier in season.    Partner with an outfitter.    Be safe.     Have fun.

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All PHOTOS and CONTENT  Copyright Jamie Vesay

Locations with best production value

Why pick one location over another?

NOTE: This location is NOT in Nebraska

After I read a script or get specifics about a location request (not always provided so you have to ask for this intel – beyond a general, often vague description) I use the following search criteria:

  • Does the location fit the creative vision?
  • Is the location interested in the project – and available on the proposed shoot day(s)?
  • Will the owner engage with the process and be willing to help you – from answers to support?
  • Does the location have decent art direction bones and options to build on production design?
  • Is there enough space for the footprint of the crew – inside and out?
  • Ample parking for trucks, genny, catering, crew self-drives, talent, extras, clients?
  • Can it double for a second or third location – if needed.

Yes, there are other elements that are important not mentioned here but most can be worked out IF the answers above are positive and the production really likes the location.

The photo above is a lumber yard and saw mill.

Not only did it meet my criteria across the board, it provided bonus environmental elements that made the photography even more rich.  Dirt, mud, piles of sawdust, rocks, and huge piles of logs made for dramatic layers.  Notice the steam coming from the building.  It is from treating piles of wood.  It ran all day and it wasn’t temperature dependent.  On a large movie, this is an FX crew with a steam or smoke machine.  But if you have neither that crew or the budget, this could be added value to the production design.  Use it.

We got at least three different looks on this location property – including a construction site.  The business was expanding and constructing a new building.  Scissor lifts, scaffolding, and workers allowed me to fill another location request for the same project.

Here are a few tips to find Locations with best production value:

  • Open your mind and think creatively.  Where one location might be an obvious choice – think further.  The description for the location above started with one word –  Industrial.
  • Be sure to see the entire property.  Ask if there is more.  I want to know about equipment, people, other unseen buildings, views from high positions, open spaces for other shooting or just as important – crew / talent holding areas and parking.
  • Can I double or triple locations?  Perhaps different looks in geography are needed or specific time periods.
  • Establish a working relationship with the property owner / manager.  Better they are an ally than an obstacle. You will need them for many questions.  Besides, it’s more fun that way.
  • NEVER offer a location that is UNAPPROVED.  Say you drive by a place all the time and are convinced it is the perfect location.  TALK TO THE OWNER first.  Get a better look at it up close.  This might be shocking to hear but there are property owners that couldn’t give a flying about production and the process of making creative images.

Explore many great options.  Pick the best one that will serve the vision and give back to the production process.  And have fun.

Photos and words COPYRIGHT Jamie Vesay   ANY USE requires permission.