LOCATION SCOUTING Definitions, Process, Collaboration, Respect.

My name is Jamie. I am old-school alumni with an honorable resume. I am many-miles experienced with ample credits and always interested in the next collaborative journey. I am willing to share answers about most of it… but today I have questions.

Do you know what a professional Location Scout is ?

Do you know what a professional Location Scout does ?

My DEFINITION of Location Scouting: I provide location OPTIONS to filmmakers and commercial photographers.

I am a collaborator. The lengths I travel, the things I see and look for, the services I offer YOU, and the wisdom I possess — make me and my like-minded colleagues the best Location Scouts in the business. Please let me tell you about Location Scouting — with me. Grab a coffee or a cocktail. Have a seat — relax.  Good.

Are you interested in working with a professional and willing to engage me fully about your project? If yes — we’re half way there. I prefer 100% engagement in the name of context and best result. I will ask many questions but we’re just talking… I have zero interest in locking you (or me) in a box because creative exploration should remain… If we’re a fit — terrific. Let’s go!

I scout within industry parameters of practicality, safety, and budget. My bar is high and my lens is wide. I am a multi-hyphenate who is also a Producer. Hence, I scout with a Producer’s mind and produce with a Scout’s eye.

On any given project, in an industry whose lifeblood is creativity, the last words I want to promote are basic or standard. Yet there MUST be a PROCESS or plan in place for all involved to be successful. The best metaphor is — every structure has a BLUEPRINT. Do you want cookie cutter or an elaborate mansion? Either way is cool but both projects need a blueprint. It is your PLAN — a.k.a. directions to realize your vision. 

Scripts, storyboards, treatments, and schedules are versions of blueprints. There was a time when these basics were automatic on all projects. Sadly, more projects are coming down the road with none of these… Why? How? Where’s a plan? Why?  Yes, I said why twice. After all, we are collaborating toward the same common result — aren’t we?  Now — right about this time, after I have asked other crazy questions such as where are we shooting? What time period? Colors? Season? Budget? — I get a heated retort, “Dude, what’s with all the questions?”

Sip your drink. I will too. Before we move forward I need to ask about a disturbing issue. What is this reaction or maybe an uneducated reply or an “I’ve been taught” answer that a Location Scout or Manager isn’t needed?
Yes, I am well aware of lower budgets, new ways, and a perceived DIY movement but since every position is a hybrid of three to five anyway — why not have a Location Professional on your project? We are fellow collaborators. It is a bit humorous on projects where a scout is hired (and should naturally become the Location Manager) but they are cut before shooting begins… and on the same job, a 3rd AD or 5th AC or 13th PA is hired.*  Location Scouts and Managers** are key members of the process.

Do you know there are multiple versions of Location scouting?

The Location Scout’s scout is most often done by a Location Scout only. This is the first pass. I might be doing a few days of research before I hit the road. Best to have a Location Scout see all available options before wasting production’s or the Director’s time. Street-views on maps are fine to find where it is and see the neighborhood but nothing replaces seeing it in the present day. There are various reasons a location might not be available or right for your project. During this phase, there could be a team of scouts scouting at the same time in search of all locations.***

Another vote for sharing your vision (+ script, boards, plan) with me? When I scout, I watch for other things needed on the project. I have found everything from talent to wardrobe to animals. On the movie Nebraska I spotted an option for a bus and it was used in the film.

A Director’s Scout is when the Director sees the lay of the land – usually accompanied by a Location Scout. This could be seeing previously scouted “selects” or a fresh drive-around in the name of inspiration. The Production Designer should be on this scout too. This scout happens most often on movies and large commercials. At least it should be happening.The DP Scout is a bonus scout, more often associated with movies. It is an extra layer of collaboration for the Director, DP, and Production Designer. The Location scout and/or Manager is present too. Yes, we do occasionally scout from a boat or helicopter or plane or horseback…

A Tech Scout is all department heads and key crew seeing all locked locations. It is the homework phase before the shoot begins… Answers range from where do we park to how much power do we need to where catering sets up, etc. ???  The Location Scout/Manager is most heavily peppered with questions — from everybody. Related factoid: the Location Manager makes this daily schedule – not the ADs.

“But Jamie, technology has disrupted the world — and in certain instances, there is no going back. The next generation does things differently from the way they’ve been done.” Got it. The entire freakin’ production business has changed. Still, any of these ideals are not reasons to dismiss a basic proven process — or worse — outrightly disrespect your colleagues. And while we’re here – if you are not hiring anybody for any position because of age, race, or sex — that would be discrimination and that is uncool — and illegal.WARNING. I just set down my drink, stood up, and removed my filter.

Firstly, if I can’t help you – please hear it directly from me versus an uninformed source. Calendars and day-rates change. Everything is negotiable.

IF you are anti-Location Scout(ing) — you have not collaborated with a great Scout. If you are quick to lump me or my colleagues into one of your previously “bad” experiences BEFORE you are shown the value I bring — we can’t help you. If you are an alleged filmmaker, production group, film association, guild, school, colleague, or film commission – spreading the word to not hire a Location Scout or Manager (deliberately or accidentally) — STOP.  That is way uncool.

If you are a Producer with zero respect for the craft or any professional process and would never hire a scout anyway… and you prefer to steal shots, trespass, be unsafe, etc. – you and I will never help each other. In fact, if you are that person — it is likely you are also a dick. Before any blueprint – the first rule of collaboration is #DontBeADick 

Drinks are near their end.  I’ll let you go. If you’ve made it this far with me – thank you.

My simple ask is this: use the services of a Location Scout. All we want to do is work on good projects with good people. Relish in the collaboration. Rinse repeat. It’s good karma.


* Most budgeted projects respect the value of a Location Scout. But not all. On large projects, there could be a team of Location Scouts hired.

** The Location Scout often becomes or is the Location Manager. In the case of commercials (at least for me) these roles could also be a Producer.

*** Location Scouts (who work 300 days out of the year) scouting for major motion pictures and national commercials , often travel globally.

For vetting or consideration, please visit my resume.

On IG as NebraskaLocation

Post content and photos COPYRIGHT Jamie Vesay. 

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