Film and TV drama

Locations trainee

Also known as: Locations runner, Locations assistant

Entry level

Locations trainee

What does a locations trainee do?

Locations trainees are litter pickers, traffic marshals and messengers. They help the location manager and unit manager with the day-to-day running of the site. They help with cordoning off areas with location marshals or security guards.

Locations trainees help guide the crew to where to park on location. They handle the locations department petty cash budget and keep the receipts. They help with paperwork. They help set up green rooms, tents and areas for holding supporting artists.

They make sure the locations vans are stocked with stationery, snacks, torches, batteries, traffic cones, signs and all the other things that are needed on a shoot.

When filming has ended they help pack up and leave the site as it was found. They are often the first on set and last to leave each day.

Watch and read

What’s a locations trainee good at?

  • Interest in locations: have an eye for architecture, knowledge of geography, the ability to research and visualise how a location could be turned into a set
  • Photography: take good pictures when researching a location
  • Watching film and TV drama: have a passion for the genre and a love of the industry
  • Reliability: get to set on time and do what is asked, take responsibility
  • Being outside: have stamina to work long hours in all weather, enjoy being outdoors
  • Communication: able to take direction from the location manager and let other members of the team know what’s happening, talk to extras and everyone from the owners of a stately home to the general public wanting to know what’s filming
  • Not getting lost: good sense of direction and ability to read maps

Tools of the trade

You will build up your kit gradually over time. Here are a few things to bring on your first day.

  • Note book and pen
  • Waterproof trousers and jacket
  • Walking boots or waterproof footwear
  • Thermals and extra layers
  • Suntan lotion and shades (if it’s that kind of location)
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Torch (a head torch is useful)
  • Multi-tool

Who does a locations trainee work with?

Locations trainees report to the locations manager and work with everyone in the team.

How do I become a locations trainee?

Working in locations suits people who have worked in the army, in logistics or running events like festivals. Some people move into film and TV drama from these backgrounds. Whatever your route, try to get a place on ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme. Follow these steps to stand your best chance of being successful.

At school or college:
If you want to go to university, you might find A-levels or Highers in art and design (photography), geography or business studies most relevant with a view to this role. Or you could take one of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:

  • OCR Technical Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
  • BTEC Level 3 National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business

If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications might be of interest:

  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Production
  • BTEC National Diploma in Photography
  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Photography)
  • OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)

Get an apprenticeship:
An apprenticeship is a job with training, so it’s a great opportunity to earn as you learn. However, it can be challenging to find jobs as an apprentice within production companies. It might be worth looking for a job as an apprentice in an industry that uses similar skills such as events. You can then transfer into film and TV drama at a later point and develop your contacts. Check out What’s an apprenticeship?  to learn more about apprenticeships and find an apprenticeship to learn how to find one in your region, or approach companies directly. Go to ScreenSkills information on apprenticeships for the main apprenticeship schemes in film and television.

Help at music gigs, live events and festivals. The skills needed to set up a successful experience for hundreds of people, troubleshooting, keeping it safe, dealing with the unexpected, are very similar to those needed to work in locations.

Get a degree:
You don’t need a degree for this role, but geography or event management are relevant subjects towards this role. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select ones in film and TV. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the film and TV industries.

Take a health and safety course:
This can be a valuable skill on set, especially when working with equipment and vehicles. Taking a course in health and safety can set you apart from other candidates.

Learn to drive:
If possible, get access to a car. This makes you more versatile and means you can help more.

Go to ScreenSkills’ events like Open Doors to meet people working in development departments. Give people in the production or locations department your contact details and ask if you can do work experience. Go to how to network well for some tips.

Network online:
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making films or TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. There are a lot of crewing agencies that will charge you to be on their books. Sign up to the free ones initially. Wales Screen, Northern Ireland Screen and other areas offer free crew databases. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialise in the areas in which you’re interested.

Apply to be a trainee:
Get onto ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme.

You might also be interested in...

Working in festivals and live music-gigs.

Further resources