A Day in the Life of a Location Manager

Darren Pratt has worked for Locate for more than four years. Here, he talks us through the two sides of his job; from location scouting to managing the location on set. Whether he’s allocating parking or location hunting door to door, Darren talks us through his varied role fueled by adrenaline.

Lights up at 5am

In film, people like to arrive early, which means – as the person there to ensure everything goes off without a hitch – I have to get there even earlier than they do. On a shoot day, I’ll arrive on location at around 5am, let the caterers in, work out where everyone will park, and set up signage. The rest of the crew start to arrive around 7am, by which point I should already be set up. It makes for a long day, but it’s worth it. Scouting days are different; they sometimes allow for a later start and have an entirely different vibe. While set days often work to a formula, scouting is a mixed bag – you can never be sure what you’ll get.

Two sides 

It’s nice to have the routine of a day on set, and to get stuck in. There’s definitely a lot more creative input on scouting days, but the two sides of the job each have their perks. On set, I’m the first one there – laying protective coverings and ensuring the owner’s belonging are safe – and the last one to leave, after making sure everyone is happy. When I’m scouting, the days can be more unpredictable. It’s surprisingly easy to switch between the two responsibilities, though, as I enjoy both aspects.

An in-built guidance system

Google is extremely useful. I don’t know how location scouts found anywhere before the internet, especially when just starting out. Over time, I’ve developed a kind of built-in mental guidance system, and am more aware of different spaces and their restrictions – I’ve also created a contact list of useful people to talk to when a certain space is needed, which is important. There’s a lot of research and admin to finding a location, and there can be let downs – there’s no point setting your heart on somewhere that fits the brief looks wise but can’t fit the crew, for example. Mainly, though, it’s exciting. I go and seek out possible locations, and then it can be as simple as knocking on someone’s door and saying ‘hello, we’d be interested in using your house for a shoot.’

Film set vs reality

The most important aspect of my day to day role is delivering what the director/ photographer/ agency wants, whilst at the same time making logistics work. It’s my job to make sure the film world (the crew) works with the real world (everyone else) in a way that lets everyone get what they want and need. It’s also important that locations are left as we found them, and relationships are kept on track. Sometimes location owners need a bit of hand-holding as they may be new to the industry and not sure what to expect. I must do everything in my power to make sure there is nothing but good feelings when we leave.

A mobile workspace

Being a Location Manager can get lonely, but it also opens doors to meeting a lot of different people. That’s one of my favourite parts of the job. It’s interesting to get to know so many characters from all walks of life and to travel so much while doing it. The Locate team are a great bunch to work with, too, everyone is happy to lend a hand if needed. On scouting days, I’m generally on my own – my car is my office.

Powered by adrenaline

Before I worked in locations, I had no idea this type of role even existed. When I learned about this line of work my basic reaction was ‘no way! That sounds cool!’ … and it is. It can be exhausting but it’s a great job. I really think you have to be an adrenaline junkie to do it, though. There are really long days, and I sometimes find myself thinking I need a rest, only to then immediately begin pondering/planning the next assignment. I love it. It’s a great feeling seeing the work come together, and to watch TV and be able to say ‘I worked on that!’

 

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At Locate we get to work with some of the best creatives in the business and we love being able to share with you the work they do and their career journeys.

One such creative is photographer Stephen Ambrose. Stephen is an award winning photographer working with design and advertising agencies across the UK. He has recently won 3rd place in the IPA awards Extreme sports category for his latest project Calcio Storico.

Tell us a bit about how you got in to photography? 

My initial interest in photography began with my Dad.  He was a keen amateur and had an SLR. As my interest developed my parents bought me my own SLR when I was 12.  After some bad careers advice I ended up doing business studies at college. I lived in a small northern town and all the careers adviser knew was high street portrait photographers.  Then i got a job in a factory driving a fork lift truck and packing boxes. I stayed for 9 years but towards the end of this time I studied photography at night school where my tutor, Debbie, persuaded me to give up my job and go to Blackpool college full time to study for a degree in photography.  After graduating I relocated to London and started to assist. Firstly Architecture with Peter Durant and Grant Smith and then I fell in to the advertising world when my assistant friend Vik got me in as a second on a shoot with Adam Hinton. This has now taken me all over the world on many campaigns working with all the agencies in London.  In 2017 I won the portrait category at the AOP awards and this gave me my first advertising campaign and I spent most of 2018 working on numerous adverts for Adidas.

What appealed to you about starting this project?

This project started after spending most of 2018 photographing footballers at the top of their game. Then this made me think about what it takes to get to top level sports and I did a project on a young gymnast which showed me the passion that develops from a young age.  Which then led me on to how that passion continues if it doesn’t become a career. I was looking for a project that would show the ultimate passion and sacrifice and I came across Calcio Storico.

What is Calcio Storico? 

Calcio Storico is a game fought between the four districts of Florence, Italy every year.  Twenty Seven men in each team play a fifty minute game. Two semi finals on the third weekend in June and then the final always played on the 24th June, La Festa di San Giovanni (the feast of John the Baptist).  The game has been played since the sixteenth century in the Piazza Santa Croce. Passions run high. They do it for the love of their districts. No money is involved. The rules are no sucker punches and only one on one fighting but apart from this pretty much anything goes.

What were the challenges you faced shooting the project?

The main challenge shooting this project was rupturing my right arm bicep tendon a week before.  But also, as with any project, was gaining access. I had tried to contact the Florence government and was getting nowhere.  Then Locate productions put me in contact with an Italian producer that made a few phone calls and advised me that the best thing to do was for me to write a letter to the Florence government and state my case.  Its a very local event and they like it that way. It’s not something that they want to publicise to the world so I think they liked that I was doing it for me. I didn’t hear anything until 4 days before the first semi final when they emailed to grant press access and then it was a rush to book flights and hotel.

What are you looking to work on next? 

Now I’m looking for an agent.  I find that I’m quoting on lots of jobs but losing out to photographers with agents. The quoting and usage process is a minefield which an agent would be massively helpful as with exposure and self promotion.  I enter competitions and see art buyers and art directors with my folio but that extra exposure would be good. I think an agent gives an ad agency or client confidence in the whole shoot process, even if we all use the same production companies, casting directors, stylists, make up artists etc etc etc.

For my next personal project I’m continuing on the weird and extreme sports of the world.  Calcio Storico was the beginning and it was such an experience. High pressure, spontaneous, chaotic but at the same time keeping yourself composed and thinking of the big picture and how each image will work in the project.  With no art direction and no sports choreography you’ve really got to nail it first time as there’s no repeats of any actions. It makes the commissioned work a little easier.

 

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