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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We caught up with the owner of one of our favourite locations, Brown House, for an insight into her experience of recently hosting a multi-media shoot during lockdown.

What were your initial thoughts when you were asked to host a shoot during lockdown?

Personally I was happy with the idea, however some of the family were concerned about strangers coming into the house who might bring infection, so we thought about it quite a bit. It made an important difference that the shoot was in the garden rather than in the house.

What were your main concerns ahead of the shoot?

The shoot itself was to be outside, but of course the crew would need access to the kitchen and the loo, so would not be entirely outside. The main concern was if the crew were not careful, they could inadvertently bring infection into the house. They were reassuring that they would be very restricted where they went and we decided we would disinfect the surfaces in the kitchen and the loos after everyone had left.

How did the experience of this shoot differ to pre-pandemic shoots?

Everyone was absolutely delightful, as always! On the recces, everyone wore masks, used hand sanitiser and kept their distance. They spent very little time inside the house, for instance they waited for each other and talked outside, rather than all being in the house at the same time.

How was your experience while the shoot was happening?

I was in the house to start with, but out for most of the day. The team were thoughtful, for instance they suggested opening up the side gates to give most people direct access to the garden, which limited the number of people who needed to come into the house. And they brought a winnebago, which was used as a green room instead of using a room in the house. During the day, someone needed to make a call – rather than just go ahead and use the study, they phoned me to ask if it would be OK for that person to sit in the study to make that call, which of course was fine.

Did you feel that the Covid-19 safety precautions put in place by the production were adequate?

Yes, very much so. Everyone was wearing masks, including outside even though it was hot. Most or all people were outdoors most or all of the time, they set up tents outside, so there were just a few people in the kitchen. Covid warning signs were also put up,  reminding everyone to wash their hands and the loos were clearly signed so no-one would go into the wrong rooms – they were very careful. And the house was left immaculate afterwards, as always.

What advice would you give other location owners, ahead of hosting a shoot in the current climate?

It’s a personal choice, people must make their own decisions. However I am happy we did it and this was a few weeks ago, the virus was more prevalent then than it is now. When we got back in the evening, we wiped down with disinfectant all the doors and surfaces where people would have been, it didn’t take long.

Any further comments or interesting tidbits you’d like to add?

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