A location scout is the professional most directly responsible for finding suitable locations for film or TV productions. In this article, we’re going to look at what makes location scouting such an important piece of a successful production, and show you how to use technology to make the job easier.
What does a location scout do anyway?
Location scouts work directly under the locations manager on the production crew and investigate locations in person. After they find a good location, the scout will figure out how to film in that location legally and negotiate space rental agreements if necessary.
On smaller productions, the location scout position may not even exist. If that’s the case, then the job is usually filled by the director or the DP. While it may seem like a simple task at first, location scouting should not be taken lightly.
Location scouting process:
There are many main aspects to the location scouting process that have turned it into an invaluable role in a film production. There is no making a movie without some level of location scouting. Below is a breakdown of the location scouting process and how it affects production.
Casting a Location:
One of the first thing that a location scout will do after receiving a project is read the script. In order to effectively choose locations that will work for different scenes, they need to gain an understanding of the story as a whole. Finding the perfect location for a particular scene is one thing, making each location compliment the others while still remaining interesting in unique is something very different.
Above all else, a location scout is a dedicated researcher. They try to fit the requirements of the budget, the script, and the film crew all into a short list of recommendations for the director to choose from.
The research process will usually include finding locations online and then visiting them in person to perform what’s called a technical scout. During this in-person visit to a location, the scout will take photos and run a checklist that has all the requirements that the production needs to have in place in order to be able to film.
After they are given the green light for a particular location, the next step is to secure it for filming. Different locations will need different types of agreements and insurance in order to be used in a film. It’s the responsibility of the location scout, or the location manager or bigger productions, to make sure that all this is in place before the film dates.
The production may even require that they secure backup locations in case of unforeseen circumstances or if they have a script change. This is a common practice on really large productions where literally nothing is left to chance.
Basically, any film production that has more than one camera is going to need some type of permit to shoot in public areas. Permitting is handled through the local film office and is usually a straightforward process. When a film has permits, then local law enforcement is notified and any issues that might come around can be avoided ahead of time.
Technology is changing how location scouts do their jobs
Scouting for locations in the past used to mean physically going to an area and looking around for places to film, but technology is making the job of a scout much easier.
Finding locations online used to be difficult too, but it’s becoming more practical each day. You can learn so much about any given city now online that a large majority of a locations scout’s job can now be done remotely.
Most scouts will adopt a hybrid strategy for finding and vetting locations. The first step will involve extensive online research to determine the feasibility of a filming location. This research includes looking at everything from the climate to permitting and local incentives. Once a few possible locations are identified, the scout will travel to investigate further in person. There are simply things that cannot be known from online research.
Another big thing that a location scout will do is take extremely good pictures of a location to test how it will look when it is filmed. These pictures give the director and locations manager a good idea of what they can get out of a particular location.
The truth is that technology will probably never replace the location scout. You need a creative and driven person on your team who can take a script and then translate that into the perfect filming location. Locations can make or break your film and it’s not an area that you want to cut corners.
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