How location scouting works
Finding a location for a film can be challenging. A location scout is responsible for understanding the script and finding locations that will work for each scene. Location scouting is not a craft generally taught in most film schools, but it is extremely important to a successful production.
The role of the location scout is often played by the DP, but there are many instances when this is a different job all together. In the case that the two jobs are separate, the location scout will have a very specific set of tasks:
Research of locations
The research phase is the first step in finding a great location. This will include reading the screenplay and making sure that they understand exactly what the Director and DP are looking for in a location. Many times, you will see location scouts using digital tools to scout for film locations remotely, but this step can also be done in person.
Scout for suitability
Once a scout has some good leads on possible locations, they will need to investigate further in person to really know if a place is suited for the production. Location scouts do a lot of driving around, but it is a profession that rewards persistence. LA has some of the most iconic filming locations in the world, and the only way you’re going to find more like them is by getting out there and searching.
A good location scout will look beyond the practical requirements of the script and try to find a place that matches what the Director is going for in tone and feeling. It might sound cheesy, but some locations have an energy that you can only understand if you visit them in person.
Collect information about locations
Once a location has been found, it needs to be documented in a way that is valuable to the production. The documentation process usually involves running a technical checklist to determine if the location will support the production. The location scout needs to take a good amount of pictures, determine how the sun influences the location, find parking for everyone, and locate all the power sources. They will also make sure that every aspect of the production can work in that location, and if it can’t, they need to make the case for why they should still consider the place.
Present the findings
Because the director and the DP will make the final call, the location scout will need to present all the locations along with enough information for them to make a good decision. Here the good and bad of each location must be taken into account so that everyone can get on the same page about all of the logistics needed to film at each one.
Secure the location
After all the locations for the film have been chosen, permission to film as well as permits need to be acquired. Each city will be different when it comes to film permits and many times the job of acquiring them will fall to the location scout. Making sure that the owners and surrounding neighbors are fully on board with the production is another important part of this job.
Manage the location
Once production gets underway, many times responsibilities will shift to a location manager who will ensure that everything involving the location during production goes smoothly. The location manager serves as the primary point of contact between the owners of the location and the film crew. In many high profile shoots, the relationship with the owners needs to be managed constantly to ensure that everyone is happy.
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