Jaws, Martha’s Vineyard, located in Massachusetts. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Matamata, rural New Zealand village. The Shining, Timberline Lodge, in Mount Hood, Northern Oregon. What do these places all have in common? Location, location, and location. Many of these landscapes used in cinema’s more legendary movies were discovered and suggested to be used in the director’s vision, thanks to a location manager.
Films and TV shows have to shoot somewhere. So the role of a location manager is one of the most integral parts of getting a story from script to screen as a connection between the producer or director and the property owner. Also included are responsibilities involving all aspects of a filming location – from securing permits to managing on-site operations. First, let’s find out in better detail exactly what a location manager is, what goes into their work in pre-production and during, and how one becomes a location manager.
What is a Location Manager?
Within the film industry, the primary job of a location manager is to examine and guarantee the perfect locations to film a movie. A significant portion of this is working closely with the director, production designer, and producers. They, in turn, will help develop a vision for the film’s setting and seek out possible locations that would allow the director to realize their artistic concept. For example, the areas of the planet of Tatooine in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope share locations in Tunisia, a country in North Africa. However, more goes into what is a location manager.
In many cases, location managers are utilized by studios, production companies, and independent filmmakers. They oversee and hire the entire location department. In the United States, location managers must be accredited by the International Location Managers Guild (ILMG). Accordingly, this is so they can work officially on film productions. In addition, national guilds usually certify location managers in other countries’ films or TV productions. Once a location manager is on board, they can begin their duties during the pre-production phase.
Hard At Work In Pre-Production
One of the sole duties of a location manager during pre-production is collaborating with the director and production designer. They read the script and work with the director to get an idea and a better understanding of the film’s vision. Many collaboration efforts involve examining the types and number of locations needed and the director’s need for those locations. In addition, a location department carries several positions, such as assistant location manager, location scout, and location assistant — if the production is large enough or within the budget.
Visiting the location is lengthy and sometimes will include three or four revisits before deciding. In many cases, the location manager will take photos and report to the director and production designer to narrow their choices. When choosing the right location, there are several questions to consider: Is there enough power to shoot? Access to water and toilets? Trailers and cast and crew parking location? These are just some of the matters a location manager must be concerned about during the process. Once a selection is decided upon, the “clearing a location” begins.
Clearing a location for filming involves a series of steps to secure the choice for filming. Thus, the location manager handles filming logistics such as film permits from local authorities and police, negotiating contracts and rates with the location owners, and getting an insurance policy for the location. Furthermore, the site must follow all health, safety, and security requirements and distribute “resident letters” or “filming notifications.”
Lastly, once these requirements are completed, the location is officially “locked down,” meaning all paperwork is in order. This step allows the crew to bring in the necessary equipment, such as power sources, generators, and portable air conditioning units. Also, the production hires a cleaning company and private security to watch the set overnight.
During Production Duties
During a film’s production, the location manager’s duties align more with the day’s responsibilities. These include handling daily logistics and troubleshooting problems that happen during filming. The day-to-day logistics will also involve working with the assistant director to map out the crew’s arrival times. Sometimes this includes distributing maps and ensuring that all crew members know where they are supposed to be.
Consequently, the location manager is also planning and working on the logistics for the next day’s shooting site. They prep the following place so filming can continue without interruptions. In addition, the location manager’s job as community liaison comes into play during this filming process. They often deal with pedestrians who walk into film sets, angry neighbors, and authorities who might come asking to see if the correct permits are in order.
A location manager’s last responsibility is wrapping the location after filming. They oversee all cleanup and ensure the site is in the same condition as they found it, called “the wrap.” The wrap involves cleaning up the filming location and ensuring that the area looks exactly like it was before filming started. It’s as if production wasn’t there, to begin with.
All this talk and we have yet to find out how one becomes a location manager.
Becoming a Location Manager
Location managing is a people game; no formal film school or other education is needed to become a location manager. Location managers tend to come from people with much experience on set, which has risen the ranks of the location department. A great deal of expertise is needed when working with locations such as scouting, management, and permits. Like most crew careers, working as a production assistant is the first step. A common next step is to become a location scout in a mid-level position that allows you to learn the ins and outs of the profession.
Additionally, working on student or indie films is a great way to boost your résumé while allowing you to meet people and connect. Becoming a location manager does require skills in leadership and diplomacy. They have many things to do at once and need to allocate tasks and information to crew members effectively. Surprisingly enough, stamina comes into play with being a location manager. They are often the first ones on set and the last to leave at the end of the day. They must withstand long days with much physical movement and are often outside with the elements.
On the creative side, location managers must have a good eye for design and strong attention to detail when it comes to locations. In addition, the best workers in this profession have strong knowledge of the locals and unique places for any situation. Lastly, location manager jobs and career advancement rely heavily on a robust professional network to keep busy and find the next gig to work.
When you’re watching a movie or TV show and when you see a shot of a busy street or a small-town area, a location manager worked tirelessly to find that location. Without their aid, cinema would lose a level of passion and heart that would be unmeasurable. Therefore, a location manager is vital to filmmaking’s cinema magic. Their knowledge and hard work help paint a vivid picture of film and television.