In filmmaking, the locations department is responsible for finding fictional locations within the real world. Your film locations will play a big part in character design and storytelling. So it is essential to take your time sourcing that perfect location. Below we have broken down each job role within the locations department, including salary outlook and skills.
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Who are the Locations Department?
The locations department is in charge of finding and managing all filming locations. The team will research potential sites, organise location recces and negotiate a price with the location host. The size of the team and individual tasks will vary depending on the production scale. For example, a high-end fantasy will have a bigger department than a low-budget rom-com.
At the top of the ladder is the location manager and the supervising location manager on high-end film sets. They are hired in early pre-production and start work by completing a script breakdown (a list of locations needed and their requirements). This will be followed by meetings with the producer, director, director of photography and production designer. Everyone needs to be on the same page with the visual style of the film. They then hire the locations department and will begin their research.
You can use the Scouty location dictionary to find and book locations. Search hundreds of unique places by region and keywords. Each production will have different conditions to adhere to, such as budget restrictions, filming region and creative wishes. When locations have been sourced, they organise visits, location recces and negotiate costs with hosts. During filming, they manage the site, and once it is wrapped, they must make sure that it is clean, locked up and that the location hosts are happy.
The location coordinator works closely with the Unit Manager to organise the arrival of the crew and transport. Both roles help set up unit bases and make sure that everyone is parked correctly. The coordinator works under the manager and helps lead the rest of the locations department.
One of their jobs is to ensure everyone has directions to the location. They will do this by placing location signs to help navigate people to the set. Another task is to ensure safety on set. They will have helped complete risk assessments and parole the location to ensure the crew follow safety guidelines. For example, securing cables to the ground to reduce tripping risks. Any damaged property must be reported, and insurance claimed. As such, it’s always a good idea to take plenty of photos before filming.
They are the second in command on small film sets and hold a similar role to the coordinator. However, on large film productions, they will have less responsibility. During pre-production, they help with researching locations, organising visits and take photographs of the site. In production, they might write letters to residents informing them of the local filming. Managing and keeping the public away from the set can be complicated and require interpersonal skills and patience. On high-end sets, there will be additional help by locations marshal’s that help to control the public.
The location scout is an entry-level role in the film industry. On large film sets, there will be several scouts and location trainees. Their job is to assist the locations department in a variety of tasks, including pre-production research. Whilst on set, they will help deliver messages, corner off areas and block off roads. They might be in charge of the petty cash budget, set up green rooms and hand out water to the crew. At the end of the day, scouts will help keep the location tidy and clean. It’s a general role that will vary by production. Still, the tasks won’t be complicated, and instructions will be given by the location manager.
Locations Department Salary
Like all film crew job roles, the location team are freelancers, and the rate depends on the production budget. An entry-level position such as location trainee/location runner might pay no more than minimum wage. In contrast, on high-end productions, the location manager will be taking home a significant salary. You can find recommended pay rates for UK crew on Bectu and additional union guidelines with Production Guild.
Locations Department Skills
You will need to develop several skills to do well within this department. First, this job is a team effort, so communicating clearly with one another is essential. Second, advancing in this department will require a strong understanding of production and every department’s needs. For example, the sound department will need a quiet location. In addition, you will need to have an eye for detail, colour theory, lighting, and aesthetics.
Skills that are helpful for the locations department:
- Strong attention to detail
- Maps and Navigation
- Artistic vision
- Driving License
The locations department works together to find and secure locations for film and TV sets. Without them, there would be a lot of setbacks during production, from public interruptions to safety violations. So make sure to hire a locations team during your next film project.
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