LOCATION SCOUTING Definitions, Process, Collaboration, Respect.

Yes, I am old-school alumni with an honorable resume. I am always interested in the next collaborative journey… I am many-miles experienced and willing to share the answers but today — I have questions.

Do you know what a professional Location Scout is ?

Do you know what a professional Location Scout does ?

Here is 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 service I offer you, and the wisdom I possess — make me one of the best Location Scouts in the business. Please allow me to tell you about Location Scouting — with me.

Grab a coffee or a cocktail.

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. I prefer 100% engagement in the name of context and best result. 

Have a seat — relax.  Do you have a drink? 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. If I can’t help you – hear it from me versus an uninformed source. Assume nothing. Reach out. I will ask many questions but we’re just talking… If we are a fit — terrific. Let’s go!

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 (over-used) metaphor is — every structure has a BLUEPRINT. Do you want cookie cutter or an elaborate mansion? It’s cool either way but both projects need a blueprint. It is the PLAN — a.k.a. directions to realize your vision. By the way, I have no interest in locking you (or me) in a box because all of us want the element of creative exploration to remain…

We are collaborating toward the same common results — aren’t we?

There are basic tools available, which at one time were standard on all projects. Scripts, storyboards, treatments, and schedules are versions of blueprints. Sadly, more and more projects are coming down the road with none of these. Why? How? Where’s the plan? Why?  Yes, I said why twice.Now — right about this time, after I have asked other crazy questions — such as Where are we shooting? What time period? Color of the barn? Budget? — I get a heated retort, “Dude, what’s with all the questions?”

Sip your drink. I will too. Okay, before we move forward I do need to ask about a disturbing issue. What is this auto-reaction or uneducated reply or “I’ve been taught”… that a Location department isn’t needed? We are fellow collaborators. Many of us are not getting a call to have a shot at being considered. 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?  There are projects where a scout is hired (and should become Location Manager) but they are cut before shooting begins… yet on the same job, a 3rd AD or 5th AC or 13th PA is hired or retained.*  Location Scouts and Managers** are key members of a crew — and the process. 

Do you know there are multiple versions of a Location Scout collaborating?

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. During this phase, there could be a team of scouts traversing the earth at the same time in search of locations.***Another vote for sharing the creative 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.The 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, occasionally we scout from a boat or helicopter or plane or horseback…

The 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. 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.

IF you are anti-Location Scout(ing) — you have not collaborated with a great Scout. If you are quick to lump me into one of your previously “bad” experiences BEFORE I show you the value I bring — I 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.  It is waaay uncool.

If you are a Producer with zero respect for the craft or a 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 great blueprint – the first rule of collaboration is #DontBeADick 

Drinks are near their end. I’ve sat back down. 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-budgeted 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. 

Welcome to Nebraska

Welcome to Nebraska USA. We’re happy to collaborate with you. This site is about on-location film production and commercial photography.*

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 6.29.05 AMWe invite you to be surprised by the diversity of Locations, availability of Crew, access to Equipment, and ample Amenities to support your project.th_Magnolia shoot 2009 TRD CRPD IMG_0377 copy 2 Version 2 WMNEL

Omaha is the your best choice to fly in to and base from…

… but if your project is elsewhere in the State we can happily help there too.Filming BTS Nebraska Plainview Jamie Vesay LBLD WM IMG_3205

Wander around the website. Try Search. Ask about anything. If your project is greenlit – reach out ASAP for honest answers. VesaysRep@gmail.com

WELCOME and thank you for visiting.

This site is curated by Jamie Vesay, experienced Locations Scout/Manager and Creative Producer. He is an industry veteran. He gets it.

* Information here is about budgeted on-location production (professional filmmaking and commercial photography) and processes inherent to legitimate projects. These processes encourage industry standards such as permission to shoot on property, location fees, insurance, safety protocol, codes of ethics, and legal and proper logistics. 

Content COPYRIGHT © Jamie Vesay

Niobrara River near Valentine

The Niobrara River near Valentine Nebraska is a National Scenic River. This alone should give you reason to be curious and make you want to visit…

Niobrara River 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9646 copy

…but many Nebraskans will tell you they go for the canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and camping. Add the giant overhead canvas of the open sky (which is just as amazing at night – seeing the stars) the surrounding topographical blend of Sandhills and riverside bluffs, pine and cedar trees, wildlife, and the hospitality of the town of Valentine – it is a wonderful destination for visitors.

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If you will be commercially FILMING or PHOTOGRAPHING near, on, or in the Niobrara river – there are a few things you should know…

The Niobrara river near Valentine is in north-central Nebraska. Plan a minimum of three days stay in the area to travel, overnight, and see most of it. Standard amenities such as food, lodging, and basic supplies are in the town of Valentine (unless you opt for a cabin or camping out-of-town).

Niobrara River cabin on river at Sunny Brook camp 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9110 copy

Firstly, know that the river WATER is technically managed by the National Parks Service. If your production is of any scale and scope; this should be a starting point to discuss your project. Be professional and have an open discussion with them. They are receptive to filmmaking but they are managers and protectors of the wild river. There is a National Parks Service office in Valentine.

Niobrara River Norden Chute IMG_9038 - Version 2 TRD copy 2 WM2x Twitter copy

SAFETY should be at the forefront of every decision related to working near the river. Even on your location scouting you should be recognizing the most practical areas for production that are SAFE! For more considerations to safe shooting on water (including rivers and others) consider a review of this blog post about Filming on Water.

Niobrara River kayakers LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9436 copy

Most of the LAND surrounding the river is private property. IF you have an inside track on a land owner or if you’re working for an entity with access to the river, you’re more than halfway there. If not, my advice is to partner with an Outfitter that knows and works the river. More than likely they own a piece of property that gives you river access and a base-camp to park, put-in, or get out.

Berry Bridge Campground at Niobrara river 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9410 - Version 2

I recommend Brewer’s Canoers and Berry Bridge Campground. Mary and Randy are natives to the area and are wonderful collaborators. They provide canoes or kayaks and tubes, life-preservers, and many other elements to help your project happen. Check with their schedule though because they are in the river-fun business first and the tourist season can be very busy.

Niobrara River tubes LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9477 copy

Another idea for collaborating with a property as a shooting location is Smith Falls State Park. There is ample parking, modern restrooms, picnic tables and a shelter, and if you’re “roughing it” you can tent-camp at the riverside. The waterfalls of Smith Falls fame are not on the river proper. To see them, it is a hike down a trail, over a bridge, more trail, and up a wood walkway. The photo below is from the south side of the river in the state park.

Niobrara River at Smith Falls SP 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM IMG_9395 copy

The largest section of land is within the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge. 19K + acres are managed and permitted by U.S. Fish & Wildlife. Any filming within the Refuge boundaries will need to be approved and permitted. Note: there are NO TUBES permitted in the river within the Refuge property. Kayaks and canoes only.  Tubes may enter the river just east of the Refuge property.

Niobrara River from Buffalo Bridge in Frt Niobrara Wildlife Refuge 514 LBLD Jamie Vesay WM TRD IMG_9731 - Version 2

The length of the river between Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and Norden Chute BEGS TO BE SHOT WITH A DRONE. I’d love to see creative, cinematic shots: Low over the water of course, high past the bluffs, under the bridges, or through the bridges steel girders. I’ll give you this one: start it on the tube or kayak and lift off – or better yet; vice versa.

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For now, here are more MISCELLANEOUS Production tips:

  • Ideal times of year to work on the river are MAY (within the two weeks prior to Memorial Day ) or FALL (when foliage is changing). Reason for May is less people. The river tourist season gets going in June and summers can be crowded – unless that is what you need to shoot.
  • TRAVEL TIME (with production vehicles) from the town of Valentine to the river is 30+ minutes, depending on where you’re going. Allow more time to get to places further east.
  • Many ROADS in from the main asphalt highways of SR 20 and SR 12 – are DIRT and GRAVEL. The road to Smith Falls State Park is about four miles on gravel.
  • CELL SERVICE near the river is bad to non-existent (as of 2014). Texts worked in most places.
  • Children under the age of 12 in a Tube – MUST wear a LIFE JACKET.
  • Be aware of FIRE DANGER. In dry, hot summer months the risk is HIGH.
  • Note the SUN path and times of sunrise and sunset against the areas of the river you will be working. The bluffs and slight canyons could be in shadow.
  • The river DEPTH is as low as ankle-deep to 3 to 5 feet with deeper pockets sprinkled about.
  • The CURRENT can be slow to swift depending on time of year and recent rain.
  • Water CLARITY can be brown from sediment. Conflicting reports of it becoming more clear, slower, and lower as time moves closer to summer – if no large rain.
  • PUT IN points (and exits) have plastic mesh embedded in the ground. Practical for traction but not appealing if you are photographing there.

Go earlier in season.    Partner with an outfitter.    Be safe.     Have fun.

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All PHOTOS and CONTENT  Copyright Jamie Vesay