Girls Just Want To
What a Location Scout really does...
You might know me from your submitting to a casting opportunity, maybe being on set together or perhaps you are one of almost a thousand body transformation participants for globally airing health products that I have had the honor of coaching over the past 13 years or just as likely, maybe I have rented your home or business for a day of commercial filming. Everything I do revolves around connecting people and places for unique opportunities and most often on TV!
I love that each day in my world can be very different from the next. But no matter the career paths I have taken, I have always been able to follow my passions and combine them with the production world. I have turned my lifelong passion for health and certifications in nutrition and fitness into more than fifty successful trial product programs for TV, but I didnt want to only do testimonials and on-camera hosting, I wanted to keep moving forward and challenge myself outside of just health and wellness, so for the past couple years I have been combining my other loves, which are all things design, decor and exploration with the relationship building of property and business owners to help bring storyboards and directors treatments to life with the ability to scout and manage a wide array of locations. I wanted to be part of the creating the aesthetic and mood for a commercial by finding great locations to film at.
I love being a location scout and manager. Every project is different from the crew to the location logistics, the look, feel and space needs and so on. It is impossible for me to watch TV anymore without wondering what the location scout went through to find, book and manage each scene location whether it is for a commercial, TV show or movie!
What does a location scout do?
Television Location scouts are an essential part of the filmmaking process. As a scout, I am responsible for scouting (a.k.a finding not just one, but several “perfect”potential locations for each scene), negotiating the rental terms, securing owner permission (this some times involves government entities) and any necessary permitting, creating the parking maps and site plans, securing a basecamp, managing the shoot day logistics for filming. (Interested in submitting your home or business as a film-friendly venue, please click here)
The first step in the process of filming anything once a Directors treatment or storyboard has been approved is to find the perfect location(s). This is where the location scout, me in this case, comes in. We are responsible for searching for and identifying suitable locations based on the clients vision and the Director and Director of Photography’s (DP) needs. Often it is the Director and DP (sometimes they are one in-the-same) that steer the client toward a particular esthetic based on the storyboard and how they think they can use and frame the space. The Director/DP’s job is to have a keen eye for being able to make the location help tell the story and it is essential for them to give as much detail on what they want to the scout so no time is wasted. I work closely with the production team to understand these requirements for each scene and find locations that meet those requirements AND that will be film-friendly, as well a logistically possible. That last part can lead to a LOT of creative problem solving in order to fit a 50 lb sack into a teacup.
Once I have my marching orders, I will typically spend a significant amount of time researching potential locations, both online and in-person, pull from my established database of homes and businesses that I constantly am growing. I will also reach out to my network and ask for referrals, whether that be on social media, to real estate agents, business owners, friends, former nutrition clients, talent I have cast, and so on. In some cases, I pay a referral fee if we film at a location introduced to me by someone else.
I often then visit a variety of locations, such as parks, hotels, restaurants, and private residences, to assess their suitability for filming. During these visits, I will take photos, use a sun scout app to assess where the sun is when to best assist the DP, on angles and timing of the sun, video and notes to share with the production team in my location deck. Sometimes I will need to take measurements or have bystanders fill in as talent references in the space. After my initial scout, I put together a location "deck" as either a gallery link with location folders for each place or scene or if the projects requires a more in-depth take on the locations I will do a full on-brand PDF presentation to give a lay of the land much more in depth at each place.
Once the client/agency/DP/Director narrow down their top choices, we will often then do a "Directors Scout", meaning I take the Director (and usually also the producer) to see the top locations in person so they can narrow it down to their final choices so I can then officially book those. Sometimes a shoot will need to happen quickly or is low key enough that the company will book virtually via my scout presentation and then only do a Tech Scout. Either way, next comes the "Tech Scout", this is where all key players go to each final booked location and decide shot framing, time of day for reach scene, how long they will need for set up of each scene, what camera equipment will be needed, what props and staging with the art department are necessary, what lighting, gels and diffusion are a must, is a generator needed, if so, what size? Do we need ADA compliant ramps to cover cords? Is there a Grip truck coming (is it 3, 5 or 10 tons), what else is needed from the G &E (grip and electric) Department, what will be the priority parking situation, where will we stage crafty, catering/meal service, talent holding, hair, makeup, wardrobe, restrooms and any other nitty gritty detail that needs sorted for the shoot to run smoothly. The tech scout allows the AD (Assistant Director) or the Director or producer on smaller shoots, to shape the shoot day schedule so a call sheet can be made and all permitting and permissions can be finalized.
Pfew! Are you still with me, or is your head starting to spin?
Permitting; Rules & Regulations
Once suitable locations have been identified, I am responsible for obtaining the necessary permits and permissions to film at those locations through the local Film Commission. They are an absolute necessity in taking the proper measures. This involves working with local authorities and property owners to secure the necessary permits and permissions. Sometimes this means coordinating with parks departments, parking authorities and parking lot owners, Harbor Masters, property managers, local police, fire chiefs, neighbors and local businesses. When we enter a community, a mid to large size production can create a stir, take up parking, street space or space in common areas, or simply disrupt an otherwise quiet neighborhood, so I do my best to make everyone aware in ample time what will be taking place and for how long and negotiate anything that needs to be considered to mitigate disruptions or potential profit loss for neighboring businesses.
It is also my job to lay the ground rules for the property and community to the crew so we all follow the same guidelines. At the end of the day, I want to be welcomed back to these homes, neighborhoods, parks and businesses with open arms. I pride myself on working very hard to respect the property and community that is allowing us to shoot.
As a location scout I am also responsible for understanding the rules and regulations governing filming in each location, and ensuring that the production team adheres to these rules. For example, is there a noise ordinance? I already mentioned police and fire sometimes we need to go a step farther and organize with traffic control agencies to ensure the safety of the crew and the public during filming as well as permit routes for filming from moving vehicles and utilizing road or bike lane closures and rolling road blocks with police escorts.
As a location scout my job rolls into location management on the shoot day. I am responsible for managing the logistics of filming at each location. This involves coordinating with the production team to ensure that all necessary equipment and personnel are on-site, parked as directed and able to be ready when filming begins. A smooth crew landing is VERY important so we set the tone, start on time and give the crew the best shot at making the day as low in stress and high in performance as possible. If we are in a public space, it in my responsibility to have permitted the equipment, motorized vehicles that might be necessary to have to get equipment or talent to set faster, placement of lights, tents, generators, camera carts and so on. All of it needs to have been included in my site plan when permitting, if we are in the public domain.
I will also work with the producer, production coordinator or production supervisor to coordinate any necessary transportation, such as shuttles, golf carts or rental cars, to get the crew and equipment to and from each location.
On shoot day, making sure bathrooms are clean, stocked and accessible, house protection is laid if we are in a home or office, this may include laying floor mats, RAM board, corrugated cardboard on the walls, stair and banister protection, bubble wrapping windows on or next to high traffic areas, removing fragile items from the filming area, adding extra fire extinguishers, taping off "no-go" areas or roping off lawns, driveways or areas we will see during filming and the list goes on!
Placement of catering and craft services, as well as hair/makeup, wardrobe and talent holding are also my logistical responsibility and should follow what we decided during the tech scout. We will need to ensure that the crew has access to food, hydration, and other necessary supplies during filming.
There are a lot of nuances I add to my repertoire of things I do and provide that help enhance the professionalism and experience for the production team throughout the process and for the crew on the day(s) of filming. I like to keep those to myself, it is part of what sets me apart from the scout competition ;-) But the teams I work with notice those extra details and that is what matters, that what I did aided in their having a great shoot, one that felt calm, smooth, welcoming and in-control. One where you see smiling faces throughout the day and end in big hugs being passed around.
Did I mention I love what I do, the places I get to explore and rent and the people I get to meet? Any questions? email me! Info@TampaProductionLocations.com or visit www.TampaProductionLocations.com