In this article, we will explore the role of the film location manager.
Your location choice determines how your audience interprets a scene. It must help with story development and reveal more about a character. What’s more, some people even say that the location is a character in a movie.
Locations management is not the first job people think about when looking for work in film & TV. But it is a creative, logistical role that should not be overlooked.
What is a Location Manager?
The location manager is the head of the locations department. They lead a team of unit managers, and location scouts to secure locations for a film set. Duties also include attending recces, taking photographs and getting permission to use sites.
They work with a range of production staff, such as the director and production designer. It’s not only a managerial role but also a highly creative one. The location needs to be practical, affordable, complement the script and match the director’s vision. In other words, they need to bring the fictional world to the screen.
Location managers also work in production, where they oversee the film set and its safety. Like all film production roles, this is a self-employed position, that undoubtedly will require long work hours. In this next section, we will break down the job role in the different production stages.
Location Manager Responsibilities
- Complete a script breakdown
- Attend production meetings
- Hire the locations department
- Find locations and conduct recces
- Secure location permission from owners
- Fit the location into the production schedule
To begin with, the film location manager will read the script. Then they will complete a script breakdown, and look at storyboards or concept art. During the early pre-production, there will be many meetings with the producer, director as well as the production designer.
Locations can be found by using online location libraries and film commission advice. On large film sets, they will hire a team to help them. A location recce is when the crew visits a site to see if it is a good fit for the film. There will be a few recces before production, including a technical recce with the DOP and grip.
A location not only needs to look right but also needs to be practical. The site needs to have a power source, room for car parking and trailers. Furthermore, the atmosphere must be quiet, especially if the scene has dialogue. The location manager needs signed permission to use each location too.
- Manage the location and their team on set
- Keep the location owners and public happy
- Make sure the location is looked after
- Oversee location health and safety on set
- Return the location in the same condition
During production, film location managers are always on set, making sure that everything goes to plan. Additionally, they help the crew know how to get to the location and where to set up.
The location owners also must be happy with the shoot, and the site can not become damaged in any way. When the film wraps at each location, it’s cleaned and returned to the owners in satisfactory condition. Lastly, they will politely thank each location owner.
Education & Skills
Also, the UK’s top film school NFTS has a series of location management courses.
It is also inevitable that you will need a driving license and work outside frequently. Even so, it is still a collaborative role. You will need to work with a team, landowners and talk to the public.
Creatively a location manager will need to have an eye for design, with attention to architecture and landscapes. Photography skills will also come in handy. You will need to learn the law when it comes to filming in public places.
It’s typical to progress in this department by working up the ranks. Many location managers start out as location trainees. If you can’t find an initial film placement, the job has a lot in common with live events work, (for example, music festivals and show tours).
When you have enough work experience, you can apply for assistant locations and scout positions. Eventually, you will have built up enough experience to apply for location manager roles. On the other hand, you can work up to this role by working on low-budget films. This would mean working as a location manager and learning how to do the job on the job.
Like all film crew roles, location managers are self-employed freelancers. They negotiate their own pay rate per project. However, unions such as Bectu and Production Guild can provide advice. Typically, you would start on a minimum wage as a trainee before working your way up to the role.
Your salary also has a lot to do with the production budget. On major feature films, a location manager will make £300-£400 per day. However, on lower budgets, this will go down to £200 per day.
Want to know what other crew jobs role salaries are? Then check out our updated page of film production crew rates.
In short, if you enjoy working outdoors and want a challenging, creative role, then perhaps location management is for you.