Do you know what a professional Location Scout is ?
Grab a coffee or a cocktail. I’d like to tell you about Location Scouting — with me. Here is my DEFINITION of Location Scouting: I provide location OPTIONS to filmmakers and commercial photographers. I am a collaborator. I prefer 100% engagement in the name of creative context. 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. The lengths I go, the things I look for, the service I offer, and the wisdom I possess — all confirm I am one of the best Location Scouts in the business.
For later, here is a longer definition to digest: Location Scouting. For now, have a seat — relax. Do you have a drink? Good. If you are interested in working with a professional and willing to engage with me about your project — we’re half way there. I will ask more questions but we’re just talking. If I can help you, I’ll explain what I can do for you. If we’re a fit — terrific! If I can not help you, please, let me tell you — versus hearing or assuming via an uninformed source. Thank you. Sip your drink. 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 and working toward 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 pike 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 Locations department isn’t needed? We are fellow collaborators. Many of us are not getting a call—to have a shot at being considered. And then there are those projects where a scout is hired (and should become the Location Manager) but they are cut before shooting begins… but 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 process. Yes, I am aware of 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?
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 the one 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 helicopter, plane, or boat.
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, association, school, colleague, or film commission – out there 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 and nobody wants to work with you. 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. Relish in the collaboration. Rinse repeat. It’s good karma. We all want to work on good projects with good people.
* 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.