After many years and miles of location-scouting Nebraska, I am sharing my Locations Library.
NebraskaOnLocation.com is for Inspiration, Education, and Collaboration. Visit. Do get inspired, explore, engage, opine — and ask questions. Expand on your original vision, consider multiple options, view with a wider lens. Ask more questions.
Of course, the larger hope here is for NebraskaOnLocation to serve as a long-overdue marketing space for the State being a viable filming Location. Pictures, as they say, are worth a thousand… well, you know.
NebraskaOnLocation.com IS a photo folders and galleries based platform. It ISN’T a traditional website. A simple hint; when in doubt, tap or click on any photo and / or scroll. To get back or escape, go back or escape or open a new page.
I recommend starting at Welcome to Nebraska and the Welcome Messages. There are suggestions about search, navigation, and collaboration. Or jump in anywhere. Tap and scroll. Visit random folders. Get lost. I find locations like that all the time.
If you’re new to this type of platform, here are a few quick navigation hints.
Click or tap any Folder.
Click or tap again on any Gallery.
In a Gallery, click or tap on a photo to enlarge.
Arrow or swipe to scroll gallery.
Esc to see full Gallery again.
Consider a new window for NebraskaOnLocation or Home or Back or tap the TinyHouse in the upper left corner.
Select Folders are Regions which are from my Nebraska State Map (Map button at top of site).
Second to the fun ride of Categories and worth exploring, is the folder named Small Towns in Nebraska. No, all of them aren’t here but you’ll get the general idea. Sorry to any missed. It might be as simple as I haven’t got to your photos – yet.
Anywho, there it is. It’s a start. Please know it is a constant work-in-progress. Just entering keywords and meta data to help with search is arduous and ongoing. Let me know what you think. Be kind. Have fun. Stay safe.
All photos are copyrighted and protected. IF you choose to share, do so via Folder or Gallery link. IF you choose to grab screen shots, please do so thoughtfully.
If your project is green-lit and fast-tracked—reach out ASAP for fast answers via my contact info. or this form.
Client and work project folders are always sent privately. Your project is embraced with discretion—until after airing.
Location Scouting is a professional process which happens long before any filming begins. It is mostly an unnoticed craft and hardly ever credited. If you are unaware of this key position in motion pictures; please read my blog post about LOCATION SCOUTING Definitions, Process, Collaboration, Respect. Warning: it is my POV. It isn’t personal, it’s just business.
This site and NebraskaOnLocation.com created, designed, and maintained by Jamie Vesay, a thirty-years experienced professional Filmworker. He is a Location Scout / Manager, Producer, Fixer for commercial motion pictures. He has worked on almost every genre / format / category of motion pictures and in virtually every position in filmmaking, including Special FX Coordinator, Art Dept., and on-camera Talent. Here is his Resume.
Since changing lifestyles is the main theme of the movie Downsizing it is filled with real estate scenes. Colleagues who are Agents and Brokers will recognize many familiar scenarios. From first-time buyers with underwater aspirations to moving, mortgages, and meeting the associated occupations along the way. The word downsizing — is the science-fictional plot and a parallel nod to the wants and needs of an American home. House size is compared with dollar values in a (real) big world versus a very small one. If you haven’t seen Downsizing; here is your SPOILER ALERT!
I was the Location Scout + Manager for filming Downsizing in Omaha, Nebraska. For the past thirty years I have worked on movies, commercials, and all sorts of motion pictures. Commonalities in film locations and real estate are ubiquitous. Coincidentally, I was inspired to obtain a real estate license after working on this movie. From a Filmworker turned Agent I thought it would be fun to share stories from my experience.
Scouting for a movie begins similarly to initial chats with Buyers and Sellers. “Wants? Needs? Budget? Timeline?” The Director (the Buyer) for this project was Alexander Payne. He is hardly a “first-timer” so in theory there might be anxiety about meeting the client, but I had an advantage of previous work-history on the movie Nebraska. I was familiar with his style, interests, and mainly how he trusts the industry pros he hires for his collaborations.
Before any meeting, I read the script and create a list of locations. I do market research prior to any “showings” and before presenting any solid options. Like real estate, the internet changed location scouting. Yes, I do initial searching online and then contact real estate agents, property managers, builders, and homeowners while building a first pass list – still just for me. Although the internet is awesome, as in real estate, there is no replacement for good old-fashioned driving around, seeing places and meeting people—in real life.
I scout every location solo while checking off the creative looks and practical logistics before offering any location as an option to the Director. IF a location is a possibility, I then confirm its availability. Here’s another spoiler alert: there are location owners that have zero interest in letting a movie use their property. I am totally respectful of their choice. So beyond that first big question, the next ones are about calendar, work schedules, neighbors, HOAs, and if my offer will be remotely acceptable.* If all good and the vibe is positive, I can proceed to show the Director what we call Selects. It is at this point, favored locations become Sellers.
There were four house locations scripted as being in Omaha; exteriors and interiors. Plus two modern upscale condos in a big city, at least one massive mansion in Leisureland, and a rustic village in Norway. Early on in pre-production, before any hints of doubling ** and film cities hadn’t yet been selected***, my scouting periscope watched for all possibilities in Nebraska – oh, except the Norwegian fjord.
The Omaha duplex involved a fair amount of action, included exterior shots – front and back, including an alley entrance, and interiors on three floors. I knew this would be the location-to-find challenge of the show. There’s always at least one per movie. I initially scouted about a hundred duplexes. I got it down to about twenty to present as Selects. We physically scouted about ten. “Hold on, Jamie. How do you choose a location?” I find and suggest options based on the script, the Director’s vision, my creativity, and the practicality and safety of the location. For this movie, when I looked at the duplex above (my location-scout photo) I chuckled at all of the windows. I also knew there was a yard sale scene and it might be funny to host it on this slight hill. Alexander agreed.
The scene from the movie. Note the sign; a Moving Sale because of downsizing.
The word McMansion was scripted. Characters Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey (Kristen Wiig) go to a showing there. Alexander prefers real locations and real people, so when he needed a Real Estate Agent for a scene, he cast real Omaha agent Linda Andersen from a local broker.
This is the McMansion exterior (establishing shot). Use of the sign was legally cleared by the studio. Cars are called picture vehicles. The car on the left is the Agent’s (in the movie). In real life, it was owned by another Omaha agent who I met while scouting a model home. That model home ended up not being a select but I snapped a photo of the vehicle – and Alexander cast it.
The McMansion interior was a different house. Here’s my scout photo, months prior to filming.
Below is the scene from the movie. There’s real Agent Linda Andersen.
Another scout photo below.
This shot is in the trailer. Audrey loves it. Paul is hesitant. He says,
“…I just think we should take another look at that place in Benson.”
Paul and Audrey meet up with friends at another one of the houses set in Omaha (photo below). A high school classmate of Paul’s, who underwent the downsizing process, pitches him on the pros of being small. He convinces him to at least go visit and see what they have to offer in Leisureland, New Mexico. By the way, this house location was scouted in Omaha but because of production budget and schedule, these exterior and interior scenes were shot elsewhere.
Leisureland is a classic Hollywood fantasyland. This new tiny world was created by a mix of physical locations, proper placement of green screens, arduous filmmaking, and expensive digital effects. Practical locations become the foreground or background in what’s called a plate.Very early in scouting, the idea of shooting Leisureland in Nebraska was indeed discussed. We scouted Omaha area Linden Estates, West Shores, and Newport Landing. The latter looked good. It could have been large-scale filming in Omaha or at least gathering plates to place digital mansions on empty lots. However budget and schedule forced these scenes shot elsewhere too.
Watch this “new home build” sales pitch on equivalent value and upgrades – in Leisureland.
And a new home build presentation like no other.
Paul and Audrey return to Omaha from the Leisureland exploration trip – inspired, yet still on the fence. Their decision is made after listening to a phone message (also real people casting). That voice is real Mortgage Banker Tom Milo Goodman.
You’ll have to watch the movie to learn how the rest of the story plays out.
Collaborating with all of the location owners in Nebraska, including others not mentioned here (restaurants, manufacturing facility, shipping distribution center, etc.) was awesome. I wish we could do it again and more often… Working with Alexander Payne and top-shelf Hollywood pros is always a great ride. Downsizing was a fun one.
* Location owners are paid a location fee in exchange for permission to shoot on their property. Insurance is issued by the production. From location agreements to W9 forms, check requests, and insurance certificates, there is plenty of paperwork to do on any movie at each filming location – and non-filming locations (used for parking, select departments shop space, storage…). There are offers, counter-offers, negotiations, and occasionally “sorry, this property is no longer available.”
** Many scenes in movies and TV are “doubled” – meaning a location is shot elsewhere other than the scene’s scripted location. Some locations are doubled between exterior and interior. It happened at the duplex, McMansion, and other locations shot in Omaha. Downsizing is the first and only movie where Alexander Payne doubled his beloved Omaha outside Nebraska.
*** When a movie is scripted in multiple cities, production will choose one as a main hub or basecamp city. Film incentives (tax breaks) drive most decision-making. Even if a movie is set in one city or town or in a totally digital world – cities, states, and countries with best incentive packages win the production and the local economic benefits. Early in pre-production, I work extra hard and hope that ALL of the movie will be shot in my state. Yet my experience has taught me that most major movies are made in strong film-incentive states and countries. Nebraska has zero robust incentives. Downsizing was filmed partially in Los Angeles, Omaha, Norway and the majority in Toronto, Canada.