Location Manager  What They Do

Just the Facts

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dotLocation managers are part of a collaborative project where everyone involved is trying to create the same thing: a great product. That product could be a commercial, a television pilot show or a Hollywood blockbuster.

"The job has huge responsibility," says Janice Frome. She is a location manager.

dotLocation managers are one of the first people hired into a commercial, television or film production. Among other things, they read through the script and think of locations that would be good for shooting.

They secure all permits from cities, including parking permits for huge trailers, and any permits they need for special effects shooting.

dotAnd they hire scouts to look for locations in a particular area, or they scout the area themselves. Then they negotiate on behalf of the production company to get permission to use the location.

"You're the liaison between the community -- whether it's residents or merchants -- and the film company," says Frome.

dotAnd negotiation with so many different groups don't always go easy. But the location manager is expected to be an exceptional problem solver.

"You can't be someone who blows up and has a short temper," says George Ladas. He is a location manager based in Washington. "It just doesn't work, because when things go wrong on a movie set or a location, you have to remain calm while everyone else is losing their heads."

Ladas says that on one occasion, he was working on a film when it was discovered the room in the house they had rented at $1,000 a day was too small to shoot in.

"It turned out once we actually got there the day of the shoot with all of the crew and equipment, it was just too crowded," he says. "So the producer and the director asked me if I could talk to the owner about tearing out one wall."

dotOften, producers expect a great location on very short notice. Ladas says when that happens, he pulls out all his resources and works at finding what the producer is asking for. If he's looking for a swimming pool, for instance, he will contact swimming pool contractors, interior designers or even architects.

"Your people-to-people skills have to be really good," he says. "If they're not, you're not going to be a good location manager. When you're just negotiating with the homeowner they don't realize when you're doing a TV show or a movie that when you're actually shooting you're going to be bringing 40 to 80 people with you, so it's like a big circus."

dotProjects can last a single day, as in the case of television commercials. Other projects can take up an entire year. Usually, those are film projects or television series.

dotLadas says that besides having good people skills, a location manager must be competent with a camera.

"You definitely need to be able to take some decent photos and make what you're shooting at least good enough that the director says, 'I want to see this place,'" he says.

"You need a good eye," says Frome. "You have to be a thinker. You have to be able to sometimes conceptualize. There's lots of variety, lots of challenge."

dotEveryone in the film or television business is a freelancer. It's an element of the work that is attractive and also stressful.

"It doesn't matter how many years you've been in the business, you constantly think 'Am I ever going to work again?' That's the life of the freelancer," says Frome.

dotLocation managers spend a lot of time driving around, a lot of time in the office and a lot of time on the set. In fact, they spend a lot of time just plain old working.

"A short day would probably be 10 hours," Frome says. "And that would probably be the day that you're hired and the day that you leave. And then after that it's between 12 and 15 hours a day." She says she also works weekends if it's necessary.

"It's a project, so the attitude is whatever it takes to get the job done."

dotLadas says that the running around that location managers do makes the work difficult for a physically challenged person.

"Someone with a disabled arm could still do the work," he says. "Someone with disability in the legs where they can't get around quickly or they're in a wheelchair? No, they wouldn't be able to do the work.

"It'd be nice if it was more of a job for people with physical disabilities, but it's not really that kind of a job. You've got to be mobile. More office jobs in the film business are better suited to [work with a disability]."

At a Glance

Make sure the location is ready for filming

  • They're the liaison between the community and the film company
  • They work in different places with different people for nearly every job
  • Hands-on experience is the best training