What does a location manager do ?
It’s a question that is often asked and sadly the answer isn’t as exciting as people might think however it is varied and requires detailed preparation to ensure a shoot is done successfully. Get it right the shoot goes smoothly, get it wrong and the whole production can be in a hole. Broadly speaking Location Management breaks down into 3 sections: The Scouting, The Preparation and The Management of the Shoot and Reinstatement.
Below, I describe just one scene from a production and what is involved in making it happen from our departments point of view…
A Bus is driving along a road, the vehicle is gaining speed. We cut inside to see the driver desperately stamping on the breaks but they have been sabotaged! The passengers are now screaming and holding onto each other. The driver looses control on a corner and the bus shoots across the road in front of oncoming traffic, smashes though the sidings, skids across wasteland and eventually comes to rest. We pull back on a ariel wide shot to see the bus is on the edge of a cliff. The bus rocks as we hear the screams of the people inside, then it drops off the cliff edge and explodes on impact.
The above scenario might involve the following:
Ideally we need all the location elements close to each other. A controllable road which, with enough lead time and an approved Traffic Management plan, the Highways Agency would allow for a Road Closure. A key feature of the hero road is a tight bend where the bus comes careering off (crossing lanes) onto land owned by a willing 3rd party who would in return for a fee permit a bus to drive at speed across his land. Then the land for the run off of the vehicle as we film it slowing down as it approaches the cliff. And the all important cliff where a bus could come to a temporary stop and where the final drop will take place. This is a thrilling scene and a great brief for us and it’s one I had. Consultations and instilling confidence is the key. We would meet with the Highways Agency’s, the Film Liaison Officers for the councils and Land Owners. Given the weight of the bus we would need a cliff that is strong enough to withstand the weight of a bus and the giant seesaw on it’s edge. It’s on a brief like this you learn about structural surveys and oddly enough the nesting habits of newt. One cliff option we found was ruled out because the proposed shoot date fell within the nesting period of some rare newts. The arial filming could be done by helicopter or drone but you must seek permission from the land owner and inform the CAA.
Then comes the search for parking areas for all the equipment and vehicles that will be required for the filming but can’t be seem in shot! This is often street parking for up to 20 large vehicles, which parked end to end could be as much as 150 metres of parking. In addition there is a requirement for a Unit Base for our caterers, make up and wardrobe vehicles, as well as artists vehicles and parking for 60 plus technicians, stunt co-ordinators, supporting artists.
Road Closures require detailed planning and come with a minimum lead time set out in legislation. The plan needs to go in for consultation fast and would include organising the diversions and ensuring the correct signage is in place. The helicopter will need permission not only to fly low level but also to land and re-fuel.
We also need to notify all the residents in the area, informing them of the filming and apologising for any inconvenience that may be caused by our actions. The point of contact for complaint is the Location Manager (a really fun element to the job) who will have to deal with the many possible problems that the filming may cause (parking problems and noise being the most likely). All of the above will encore costs in the for of wages or locations fees or donations. There are always unknown elements going into production but we will always try and bring a job in under budget.
On the day of filming, I am responsible for the smooth running of the location, allowing the film unit to complete its work. On large shoot I will have with me the Locations team, an Assistant Location Manager and a Unit Manager, a Location runner and our security guards. On smaller simpler shoots I can operate on my own. The scripts dictates what I look for but the joy is that no two scripts are the same so the list of possible locations is endless!