Location ManagementThe location chosen for filming is an important consideration for the Production Manager.  The location serves as the backdrop for the entire film.  Typically, shooting on location is less expensive than building a set.  Another benefit of shooting on location is that the cast will be able to interact with an authentic landscape. Many factors should be considered when choosing a location.  From hiring your Location Manager to preparing for the shoot, this article will discuss common location management issues for Production Managers.

The Location Manager

Choosing the right Location Manager is essential, since s/he will be serving as the liaison between the film company and location owners.  You may initially work with a Location Scout who is less experienced and less expensive.  The Location Scout can do the initial research about potential locations.  Once the Location Manager is hired, s/he will begin making calls to the public to inquire about locations.  Typically the Location Manager has several years of industry experience.  Be sure to discuss your creative vision with the Location Manger so that s/he can make selections that meet your criteria.

The Location Manager or Scout can use online location libraries for the initial research.  This is a good place to start because these locations have either had a film shoot there before or would like to have one.  Sometimes your local Chamber of Commerce or a local real estate company can help find a suitable location.  If you’ve worked on location before, check out previous shooting locations.  The Location Manager may also ask his or her peers for recommendations.  When more than one location is needed, it’s best to find locations that are close to each other.  Less distance between locations means less time spent moving the crew and equipment.

After conducting research, the Location Manager will meet with the Production Manager to present location choices.  The Production Manager can view the photos and discuss each location in detail.  If there are questions from crew members, those questions should be collected so that the Location Manager doesn’t have to contact and the owners multiple times unnecessarily.

Considerations When Choosing a Location

Several important factors should be considered when choosing a filming location.  First and foremost, the owners must be willing to let the production shoot there.  Meet with them to discuss the process.  Let them know what you intend to shoot and approximately how long it will take.  Answer all of their questions and concerns, especially if their property has never been used for filming before.

Once you have initial permission from the owners, the Location Manager may scout the location.  S/he will take plenty of pictures.  Pictures taken with a wide-angle lens may be sufficient.  Alternatively, panoramic photographs can be used to accurately capture the look of the location.  The Location Manager should note the time of day so the direction of light can be considered.  The location address, the owner’s name, and any special restrictions should be noted and kept on file with the photos.

The cost of the location will depend on a number of factors.  You will need to determine how much of the property you will need to access and how long you will be filming at the location.  Determine if the owners will have to be temporarily relocated to a hotel during filming. If required, include the cost of redecorating the location.  Make sure that any cosmetic changes are acceptable to the owner.  Let them know that the changes will be reversed when you are done filming.

The location will need to be large enough to accommodate all your vehicles, equipment, cast, and crew.  Consider how easy or difficult it will be to access the location.  Preferably, you would choose a location that can be accessed using major roads. It is also beneficial to have services in the area, like hospitals, restaurants, and fuel stations.

Environmental considerations should also be taken into account.  Make sure that the weather will be suitable during the time of your shoot.  Additionally, take surrounding noise issues into consideration.  The location could be in an airplane flight path or there could be railroad tracks nearby which could interfere with filming.

Surveying the Location

Once a location has been chosen, it will need to be surveyed.  Initially, several small surveys will be done as the logistics of the shoot are ironed out.  It is advisable for the Production Manager to be present during all surveys.

Surveys usually include discussions about story ideas and costs, which may affect the budget.  If the owners are on the location at the time of the survey, the Location Manager will communicate with them directly.  It is best if all questions for the owners go through the Location Manager.  It’s not a good idea to have multiple people asking the owners questions.  The Location Manager is experienced with these types of situations and can handle the discussions delicately and professionally.

Approximately one week before you begin filming, a larger survey will be conducted.  All of the department heads will attend.  The purpose of this survey is to solidify plans and decisions.  It is a good idea to make sure that everyone is on the same page.  Ideally, you will not have to make big changes at this point.  If significant changes are suggested, be sure to discuss them with the Producer.

Preparing for Filming

The Location Manager will obtain all the permits, permissions, road closures, contracts, and insurance required for shooting.  If possible, consult a lawyer to help finalize the location agreement.  It is important to notify all residents in the community that filming will be taking place.   Additionally, the location team will create a map that will show the location of the nearest hospital.

Managing the Location During Filming

The Location Department is in charge of location management during filming.  They will make sure that the cast and crew have access to the location on the day of the shoot.  The prep team will also put out signs to direct the cast and crew to the parking area.  The Location Manager will communicate with the owners and address any of their concerns during filming.  The location crew will also make sure that the location is cleaned each day at wrap.  Ideally you would like the location to look better than it did when your crew arrived.

It is important for the entire cast and crew to be professional and respectful while on location.  Doing anything less could mean that the owners will never again allow you or another film production to use their location for filming.  Though you are paying to be there, consider yourself to be a guest representing the entire film industry.  This article covered the basics of location management for Production Managers.  Choose your Location Manager wisely and you will be more likely to have a pleasant experience on location.