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Life As A Film Location Scout: Why It's The Best And Toughest Job

14th April 2014
Location Filming Scout - Filming Locations

Location scouting has a reputation as one of the filming industry’s most desirable jobs and it’s easy to see why. The travel, the creativity, excitement and draw of determining the visual character of a film are all common attractions. Yet, for all the amazing experience it offers, this extremely popular and oversubscribed role can be incredibly challenging and is certainly no easy ride. If you aspire to become a location scout, this article highlights the benefits of location scouting as a career whilst highlighting the challenges you are likely to face in the job. 

 

What is location scouting?

 

Location scouting or film location scouting takes place in the early pre-production phase of a film, long before the cameras have started rolling. The job essentially involves physically seeking out the perfect locations to shoot the film based on an interpretation of the script and story. Once these locations have been lined up, photography will then be passed up to director level for agreement.   

 

What does a location scout do?

 

Location scouts will work with the pre-production team to examine the script, visualise the story line and seek out the locations for filming. Depending on the production budget, this could literally take you to all corners of the globe. Part of a location scout’s job is to make sure the locations can be filmed in terms of logistics, local permissions and accommodating a crew and cast for extended durations. Location scouts need to have an awareness of the world and its wider geography. Being able to get a hand on potential locations quickly is very important. This is why scouts will always keep files, notes and libraries of different types of locations and their technical suitability. 

 

The benefits of being a film location production scout

  • You are in charge of visual character and setting the scene. As a location scout, it’s your job to absorb the story or script like no one else does, visualising the backdrop to a moment that’s just a black and white scrawl on paper. It’s your interpretation of the story/script that sets the scene, and understanding the tone of the script and story better than anyone else is imperative.
  • You get to meet some incredible people. There are a lot of people involved in filming; film crew, producers, actors, and your job will expose you to them all. Working in this elite pool keeps you in the loop and gets you good friends. (And even better connections!)
  • You get to travel. Possibly the most alluring aspect of the job is the potential to travel all over the world looking for that perfect setting. Different countries, cities and buildings – this is a job that could potentially take you all over the world and experience some breath-taking places.
  • You get to see some amazing properties. Location scouting isn’t all rolling landscapes and American deserts. Sometimes it’s finding the right living room for a nappy commercial, or the right kitchen for a particular character in a TV Drama. Whilst this might not be as thrilling as exploring the Borneo Rainforest, you’ll certainly see some impressive real estate.
  • You gain a varied skill-set. It’s not just about having a good eye for a great location – there are many other skills you need when working as a location scout. You have to think people management, logistics, noise control, budget management - it’s a varied skill set that requires creativity and common sense in order to pull off the full package. 
  • Location scout salary. Once you have gained some solid experience in the role, the salary offering can be quite attractive with progression to location manager and production manager common. While starting out, don’t expect to be paid a fortune, but through experience, reputation and time on the job, you can enjoy a comfortable income. 

Why film location scouting can be hard 

  • Logistics. Part of finding the perfect location is making sure that it is accessible so that trailers of lights, cameras, catering, toilets and everything needed to sustain the shoot can get there. Shooting permissions from the local authority will also have to be granted along with hiring in local help, such as guides and medical support. As if coordinating this wasn’t enough, it all must be carried out within budget. Multitasking and staying on top of things is an absolute must.
  • Timing. Much like an event, a smooth shoot relies on a good timing schedule with certain pieces of equipment and crew all arriving at the right time. For example, late arrival of onsite toilets, or accommodation means that it will be impossible for crews to function. Sourcing the right equipment for a shoot in the right order can be a stressful task especially if the project is large.
  • Accommodation. Filming involves a large degree of perfection to get the best shot which means you might need more than one day on the set. If this is the case, location scouts need to organise sleeping and living accommodation. Regardless of what you are filming, a day on shoot can be extremely physically demanding whether it’s staying in the same position to capture a wildlife shot, trying a single scene repeatedly or setting up lights and riggings. Sometimes the pursuit of the perfect shot can go on for days or weeks making respite vital for all involved.
  • Noise control. Sound is a vital aspect of filming on location. To ensure clear and consistent background noise, you’ll have to perform a “sound reccie” and scout a location that isn’t in the path of anything loud like a school, an airport or a main road. If this is the case and you can’t compromise on the location, you have to make the necessary demands (such as closing the road) to ensure you have the right noise level on the day, and this is something that can add to the budget. This can be harder with more central places, like London film locations. For a location scout this has to be factored into how you select your locations, one wrong move and you could be left with a location that’s too loud, without adequate budget to pay for closures for noise reduction
  • Weather. Filming in England has its joys. The fresh countryside, the brisk awakening air. But when you’re trying to film a summer scene in October in a farm that’s being hit by gale force winds – you’re unlikely to convince your audience it’s July. This is why a lot of filming is carried out in South Africa and New Zealand, where the landscape is British looking but the sun shines like our (rare) summer. However, this is where timing and budget need to be planned efficiently.
  • Budget Control. Your budget will make or break your project no matter how creative and inspiring your ideas are. Managing this budget to deliver the most unique location ideas is a tricky task which is why it is usually the preserve of seasoned pros with experience. Remember, you’ve got to factor in the amount of people and equipment that are travelling to your location, which can be a challenge – sometimes a discouraging one. However, this makes it all the more satisfying when it all falls together.

Find out more about our range of elegant filming backdrops at Senate House

Filming on location in London

Location scouting is an extremely rewarding job that comes with challenges that make it all the more worth it. It can take you on adventures no other job can, whilst also posing many obstacles along the way. Whilst you could be scouting out the jungles of Malaya and Mountains of Kyrgyzstan for your next brief, many scouting assignments call for something more city-based and traditional. If you’re looking for a second-to-none filming location in London then Senate House maybe the perfect option and offers: 

 

  • Excellent accessibility,
  • Plenty of space and lends itself well to busy logistical schedules
  • Multiple filming locations
  • One of a kind art deco asthetic
  • Central London location
  • Multiple choices for nearby accommodation
  • Catering
  • Member of the London Filming Partnership. Find out more.

We are also offering a range of flexible booking options and discounted rates for any bookings made this year for 2021.  Get in touch today and see what we can offer. 

 

 

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