Creative industries

Location manager (creative industries)

Location manager (creative industries)

Location managers are replete with skills that can be transferred to other roles and industries. They have their feet on the ground, their heads across spreadsheets and their eyes on all the people involved in production.

Within the film and TV industry, they work with every department, anticipating the needs of make-up, costume, lighting, sound, camera, production design and producers. It’s possible, then, for location managers to develop portfolio careers in which they work as producers and production managers as well as location managers, depending on the work that’s available.

David Broder is an example of someone who started in location management and worked on Contagion, The BFG and The King's Speech (for which he won the LMGI Award for Best Locations in a Feature Film).  He went on to produce dramas, including County Lines, and has production management credits too.

It’s not just within film and TV drama that location managers can ply their trade. Location managers play the role of hosts within a production. Their core skills, therefore, can be transferred to the music industry, to festivals and live events, where they are more likely to be known as festival directors or event managers. Stage management within theatre is another area that uses many of the location manager’s core skills. The entertainment might be different – but the practicalities and logistics are the same.

Case study – Adam Wilkinson

Adam Wilkinson is a location manager who now offers a portfolio of services to the film and TV industry through his company, Irish Soup. He has diversified into sustainable waste management and eco-cleans for productions while maintaining his work in location management.

Adam’s motivation for offering these additional services was to reduce the amount of waste that productions send to landfill, and to minimise pollutants in the water source from the residue of cleaning. He spotted a way of improving the film and TV industry, which had the added bonus of ensuring he could carry on earning money between his location manager work.

“I saw there was a need for change and I wanted to be part of that change,” he says.

Through being a location manager, Adam already had the necessary core skills to diversify his business, such as communication, contracting, organisation and time management. The only additional skills he needed was an in-depth understanding of eco-cleaning, which he learnt through self-guided study and putting on his rubber gloves.

Core transferable skills of location managers

  • Critical analysis – be able to look a situation and predict the pitfalls
  • Being organised – be able to think through every detail of complex logistical arrangements
  • Working within a budget – anticipate costs, build in contingency, stay on top of the spend
  • Building a good team – have people around you that you can depend on
  • Communication – be able to work with all kinds of people; negotiating, explaining clearly and listening well
  • Time management – be able to work efficiently; productions always want things done yesterday
  • Handling expectations – be honest, explain what is and is not possible
  • Situational awareness – appreciate environments and be conscious of their delicate or sensitive nature
  • Instilling confidence – work diligently so that location owners and clients trust you to care as much about their project or property as they do

Tips for developing a portfolio career based on location management skills

"Just say ‘yes’, then work out the logistics later on."

Adam Wilkinson
  • Think like an entrepreneur: spot gaps in the market and work out how you could fill them
  • Get to know people who work in similar roles in other creative industries and learn from them
  • When working in a sector for the first time, be inquisitive about the different processes and learn how decisions get made
  • Be prepared to take a more junior role for a short time when you start out in another industry
  • Scan a situation and take the initiative, using the practical sense you have developed in locations.

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