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Location Scout

Location Scouting is the process in the pre-production stage of filmmaking. Once a need is realized for a scene that might not be suited (for any of a plethora of reasons) to be photographed in a studio setting that a search is begun for a suitable place or "location" outside the studio.

Suitability of a location to the task at hand takes into consideration many factors including, but not limited to:

  • overall aesthetic
  • financial cost to production
  • logistic feasibility including but not limited to distance from base of operations or other locations scheduled, availability of parking and availability of facilities to keep crew and talent safe and dry at all times.
  • availability of electrical power and/or feasibility bring in power generators for lights and other anticipated electrical needs.
  • available light (if indoors or outdoors) and weather conditions (if outdoors)
  • permission from and cooperation of location owner as well as neighbors and local government

Typically ideas for what a location should or could be are discussed between Production Dept. and Locations Dept. (it could be at this point that the Locations Department is actually created) and then research is begun to actually find and document that location using Location Scout(s).

The Locations Department's duties often extend beyond pre-production and into actual production; a Location Manager and/or other Locations Department members are often needed during actual shooting and at wrap to help assure smooth crew movement, coordinate crowd control and to assure a smooth departure from a given location after the shoot.

Locations Department Job Titles and Job Descriptions:
A film crew might have the following titled positions staffed in regard to the Locations Department. Many of the positions often "cross over" or a member of the department might "wear several hats":

Location Manager- Oversees the Locations Department and its staff, typically reporting directly to the Production Manager and/or Assistant Director (or even Director and/or Executive Producer). Location Manager is responsible for final clearing (or guaranteeing permission to use) a location for filming and must often assist Production/Finance Dept(s) in maintaining budget management regarding actual location/permit fees as well as labor costs to production for himself and the Locations Department at large.

Assistant Location Manager- Works with the Location Manager and the various departments in arranging technical scouts for the essential staff (grips, electric, camera, etc) to see options which the Location Manager has selected for filming. The Assistant Location Manager will be onset during the filming process to oversee the operation, whereas the Location Manager continues preproduction from elsewhere (generally an office) on the upcoming locations. (Note: On most location-based television shows, there will be two Assistant Location Managers that alternate episodes, allowing one to prep an upcoming episode while the other is onset with the current one.)

Location Scout- Does much of the actual research, footwork and photography to document location possibilities. Often the Location Manager will do some scouting himself, as well as the Assistant Location Manager!

Location Researcher/Coordinator- On a large film crew someone might be assigned exclusively to do research work for the Locations Department, freeing the Location Scout(s) to concentrate on photographing location possibilities or other tasks. This person's job might be to do internet or public library research and contact resources to assess said resource's interest in being involved in the film project and if such interest exists, the location researcher might be responsible for setting up an appointment for a location scout to go there.

Location Assistant- Hired by the Location Manager to be on-set before, during, and after the filming process. General responsibilities include arriving first at the location to allow the set dressers into the set for preparation; maintaining the cleanliness of the location areas during filming; fielding complaints from neighbors; and ultimately, at the end of the filming, making sure it seems as though the film crew was never there. There is generally one to three assistants on a shoot at any given time.

Location Production Assistant- This position exists generally on larger budget productions. The Locations PA is the assistant who is almost never onset, but instead is always "prepping" a location or "wrapping" a location. That is, when a location requires several days of set up and breakdown prior and following the day(s) of filming.

Parking Coordinator- Typically hired by Location Manager on an as-need basis to secure and coordinate crew parking including equipment trucks and personal vehicles.
Parking Staff- These noble folks hang up the brightly colored signs that declare No Parking and then sit in their cars (with an orange cone on the top) to ensure that no one dare park in the coned off areas.

Waste Removal- Location Department's disposition is to be the last to depart a location upon wrap and to leave the location in exactly if not better condition as it existed upon arrival. A waste removal company might be hired on an as-need basis.

A location scout typically takes descriptive, panoramic photographs or video of location possibilities. A good location scout will not only take a pretty picture of a location possibility but will also include utilitarian photography in his/her presentation, documenting much more than just what will potentially actually appear onscreen!
Descriptive information might include (as might be relevant):

compass directions
lighting conditions at various times of day (or night)
photos of holding/staging areas and available parking and/or parking restriction signage

reverse/alternate angle (photographing TOWARD where camera might be), panoramic photography- to show space available for camera, lighting, video assist, hair and makeup (and clients on commercial shoot)

location scouts, film location scouts, movie location scouts