One location short-film: SUPERMARKET! Looking for recommendations

Hi all! I and my DOP suddenly have a supermarket available as a location, totally free to use at night.
But now, we need a story :)

I am open to almost any genre, as long as the story is grounded in reality and logic. No impossible or non-sense stuff.
Limitations: it has to be a short film (no longer than 20 min); it's low budget.

I have been thinking about something along the lines of: someone gets stuck inside a store for the night and accidentally becomes a witness of a crime. Can also be that robbers break in on that night, but not sure how believable is a store robbery happening at night.

I am eager to read all your suggestions. Also open to a writing collaboration, if someone fancies that.
Feel free to reach out via email, if you have ideas to share: productions.electricsheep@gmail.com
 

Alcove Audio

Business Member
indieBIZ
Night in an empty food store needs to be "explained." A manager or other employee can be working after hours.

Possibilities:

Paranormal events (Horror)
Robbery (Heist)
Finding crime evidence (Investigative)
Everything "goes wrong" (Comedic)
Unexpected visitor (Psycho-drama)
Music video (your character acting out) (This could be fun with a great song from a local/regional band/artist. Maybe someone could write a food store song for you.)

You can mash any or all of them together.


My best advice is "K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple, Stupid!" You've got only one night to get all of your footage, so make it count.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
The supermarket is a tough place to shoot because you can't show closeups of brand names without permission.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
The registers, the produce section, the deli counter, the meat/fish counter, the manager's office... these are all great areas, you would want to avoid the main shopping aisles if possible. Perhaps this even helps you come up with a story.
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
Ahhh the registers - I have childhood memories of coming up short when it was time to pay, and figuring out what went back on the shelves. I know many people have had similar experiences, so that might be a starting point for a 2 or 3 person drama - what items are most important? Valuable? Essential?
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
There's an amazing sitcom called 10 Items or Less. It was briefly on TBS many years ago so it was not well known, but if you like dry humor, this may be your bag. Try it out and make sure you give it a chance with a few episodes to get to know the characters and quirks. Quite honestly it's up there with "The Office" and similar, even better imo. I believe all the episodes are free on Crackle. If anyone checks it out post back here I am curious to know your thoughts. And this is not a highjack, this is actually good research. ;)
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
I'm not sure but the series is spectacular.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
I used to think all supermarkets were called commissaries.
Comes with the territory of being a military brat.

There were also rules about who was allowed to shop and buy stuff.
I remember in CA as a I kid i typed out a note from the computer

"Please allow the kids to buy some candy" with a typed computer signature at the bottom
I handed that to the cashier, he read the note and laughed at me and knew what was up.

It wasn't really a note from any parent lol but he let me buy some candy.
As far as your OP question i think you should not focus on story here.

Instead you should create a weird or wacky character!!
Make this character focused and use the supermarket as a backdrop.

Think Clerks.
 
The supermarket is a tough place to shoot because you can't show closeups of brand names without permission.
That's true. At the same time, I think practically it's a good location for at least 2 reasons: parking lot, toilets and food available; those neon lights which are very cinematic, especially at night (or at least, in European supermarkets that's usually the case).
 
Night in an empty food store needs to be "explained." A manager or other employee can be working after hours.

Possibilities:

Paranormal events (Horror)
Robbery (Heist)
Finding crime evidence (Investigative)
Everything "goes wrong" (Comedic)
Unexpected visitor (Psycho-drama)
Music video (your character acting out) (This could be fun with a great song from a local/regional band/artist. Maybe someone could write a food store song for you.)

You can mash any or all of them together.


My best advice is "K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple, Stupid!" You've got only one night to get all of your footage, so make it count.
You are right about the need for a reasonable explanation. I have read stories about people using the store's toilet around closing hours and ending up stuck, with no network on their mobiles. However 1)These people have afterward been accused of actually planning to stay overnight to consume food/beverage without being charged 2)Such stories are happening usually in the US; here in Europe, there is no toilet available for the public in grocery stores.

About the manager/other employees: I have noticed more than once cleaning personnel staying overnight. Perhaps he/she can be the protagonist?

About your possibilities: heist would be amazing but how making it inexpensive? Paranormal and unexpected visitor not my cup of cake. Investigative+comedy would be fun, I'm thinking something like Knives out or Edgar Wright.
Music video, would need the tune first 😊
 
Ahhh the registers - I have childhood memories of coming up short when it was time to pay, and figuring out what went back on the shelves. I know many people have had similar experiences, so that might be a starting point for a 2 or 3 person drama - what items are most important? Valuable? Essential?
Those are all great ideas and thanks for that! But I am afraid we would have to shoot outside working hours, at night. Not much room for clerk/client interactions. The "what items are most important" question is very interesting to explore, perhaps on a night robbery angle.
 
I haven't seen the series but I'm quite sure it was (loosely) based on the 2007 movie of the same name starring Morgan Freeman & Paz Vega. That's quite good also and is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Thanks both for recommending the series and the movie. I have seen a couple of episodes of the series, and it's quite funny! Although not sure that's the direction I want to go. I'll try to watch the movie too.

The kind of humor I am really fun of is more like Edgar Wright's style. In Hot Fuzz I think there is even a hilarious scene at a supermarket. If only it wasn't too expensive to do something like that... 😅
 
I used to think all supermarkets were called commissaries.
Comes with the territory of being a military brat.

There were also rules about who was allowed to shop and buy stuff.
I remember in CA as a I kid i typed out a note from the computer

"Please allow the kids to buy some candy" with a typed computer signature at the bottom
I handed that to the cashier, he read the note and laughed at me and knew what was up.

It wasn't really a note from any parent lol but he let me buy some candy.
As far as your OP question i think you should not focus on story here.

Instead you should create a weird or wacky character!!
Make this character focused and use the supermarket as a backdrop.

Think Clerks.

Thanks! Will try to focus on a character like that.
Clerks is one of my absolute favs.
 
you can't show closeups of brand names without permission
Should be easy enough to work around this - the fruit-and-veg section would be a (mostly) brand-free zone; camera angles at the tills could exclude sight of branded products; if a scene requires one of the characters to be actively handling a product, but not actually using it as a key element of the plot, a polite letter to a local producer should be sufficient to get the necessary clearance; if all else fails, a shallow depth of field would make most brands on the shelves invisible.

those neon lights which are very cinematic, especially at night
Do you mean the "after hours" lights? Most of the supermarkets I visit at night are as bright as day (other than on their "autism" days)! 😎

From a production point of view, does it have to be a night-time scenario? I've watched many movies featuring a daytime supermarket scene that was filmed in the middle of the night. Admittedly, though, having the story take place outside of normal shopping hours would give it an interesting angle. If you were to set it in the early hours of the morning in a 24-hour store, you'd have a tight, well-balanced group of characters - a few lonely shoppers (why are they buying beans or bananas at 3am?), the guy/girl on the till, someone re-stocking the shelves, a cleaner ...

An elderly friend of mine, giving me dating advice, suggested I hang out around the tills in the local supermarket. 😯 (Yeah, right ... ) Her logic was that you can tell a lot about a person by what they're buying. If you chose the route of character development instead of action, there's potential for a good metaphor there - two people meet at the entrance, repeatedly cross paths at certain symbolic products, their relationship develops as they progress through the aisles, until the finally check out and ...
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
You could do a story about a depressed woman who is consumed by social media. She uses the toilet and is so consumed (on her phone) she doesn't realize the store is closing. The battery dies and she gets pissed. When she opens the bathroom door, it is dark and the gates are down/doors locked whatever. And her phone is dead. She thinks about pulling the fire alarm (or calling 911 from a land line) but she hesitates. She puts the phone down and walks to the aisles. She meets a man (or someone) in one of the aisles. She wonders why he is also in the store when it is closed. They talk about life and he seems to know about her childhood. They snack on some of her favorite childhood snacks which brings back good memories. She leaves the empty wrappers at the checkout with a 20 dollar bill and asks him if he thinks it is enough. She turns around and he is gone. He was imaginary. But she feels better about herself. She is able to slip out the back as bread is being delivered. She returns to her apartment where she may or may not have a cat that needs attention since she was gone. A belonging of the imaginary man is in her apt. She smiles. (Was he real?) She goes to charge her phone and decides not to. The end. I just brainstormed it quick but you know, something like that anyway.
 
She uses the toilet and is so consumed (on her phone) she doesn't realize the store is closing.

A small detail, but one that would annoy me no end: that just wouldn't happen in a European supermarket! If there are public toilets (which there usually aren't in the smaller stores), they're always outside the retail space; and our supermarket managers make damn sure you know that they're closing, with a twenty-minute countdown over the PA system accompanied by a gradual turning off of the lights! And then most stores would have staff present for at least half a hour after closing time ...

Given that @glr90 says
as long as the story is grounded in reality and logic
it'll need more than a stuck-in-the-toilet situation to pass that test! 😉

Now maybe that impossibility could be worked into the story? Perhaps a dare or internet challenge that goes wrong. Personally, though, I think a supermarket is such a rich environment, with so much potential visual and characterial texture, it'd be a shame to waste it on an "escape room" solo performance.
 
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