Finding the right locations to shoot a production is hugely important and has a big impact of the feel of the end result. The work can range from finding identical buildings and locations to those identified in the script, or coming up with imaginative alternatives. Location managers must, from reading the script, judge a place to film that suits the needs of the production while still being accessible, safe and cost viable. They work with assistant location managers, unit managers, location marshalls and runners to make sure filming can take place when and where it needs to.
Skills needed to work in locations
- accurate sense of direction and ability to read maps
- stills photography skills, including digital photography and airbrushing
- precise attention to detail and methodical approach to work
- up-to-date knowledge of the relevant legislation, regulations, and associated procedures, and how to comply with regulatory requirements including public liability, trespass, public highway, contract law, anti-bribery and copyright
- extensive knowledge of health and safety legislation and procedures
- excellent organisational skills
- resourcefulness and the ability to troubleshoot
- highly developed negotiation skills
- excellent communication skills
- diplomacy and sensitivity when dealing with location owners, members of the public and production colleagues
- excellent negotiation abilities in order to get the best prices for location hire
- financial and budgeting abilities
- willingness to work long and irregular hours
- excellent IT skills
Ways into working in locations
There is no specialised training or qualification required to work in locations, though a degree in media or a related subject may be useful. Many location or assistant location managers have a background in managing live events (music gigs or festivals, etc) or gained on-the-job training and relationships by working as floor runners or location runners and then worked their way up.
Jobs in locations
Based on scripts and discussions with the director, designers and other department heads location managers must identify the number, type and sequence of locations for filming. They research these locations and arrange reccies to assess them, take clear and descriptive photographs and detailed notes as well as identifying specific costs of each location. They present their findings to the director and, once approved, negotiate and confirm location contracts with owners. They must prepare movement orders (directions to locations which are distributed daily with call sheets) and identify daily production requirements for traffic control and liaise with local councils and police. The make arrangements that locations and property are undamaged and carry our risk assessments throughout the shoot.
Assistant location manager
Assistant location managers must prepare movement orders and assist with scouting or additional locations by researching, photographing, and making appointments to meet with owners and residents. If a location is approved, the assistant location manager organises technical reccies for heads of other departments. During production they are responsible for writing and distributing letters to local residents informing them about the filming and liaising between crew and location owners. At the end of each day they help the unit manager to clear and tidy the location and set.
Unit managers are a location mangers representative on set. The manage the arrival and departure of the filming unit, set up the unit bases including technical and crew parking requirements, fresh water supplies, heating or cooling, trackway, and vehicle power supplies. They must make sure the location shoot runs smoothly and deal with rubbish collection and clean-up.
The marshall assists with managing the public and residents of a location and liaising between then and the film unit.
Runners assist the location manager, assistant location manager and unit manager on set and help facilitate the needs of the other departments will on location. This may involve interaction with the general public and communication with location owners and residents.
Find out more about working in locations
Organisations and websites:
- The National Film and Television School (NFTS)
- BECTU (The media and entertainment union)
- The Guild of Location Managers
- Location Scouting and Management Handbook: Television, Film and Still Photography, by R. Maier
Some other job roles in management and logistics
First, second, third assistant directors and floor runners all work to help run the set - and for some this is a training ground to directing themselves
For films to be made they have to stay on budget and the accounts department, from finance controller to trainee, must make sure this happens
Health and safety
Film and TV sets and locations can be dangerous places and health and safety advisors, nurses and paramedics need to be ready when things go wrong
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