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Before we look at information on becoming a film production location scout, let’s be clear about the difference between a location scout and a location manager first. In a small, low-budget production, a location manager would have to do location scouting as well as liaising with the production designer and director. In a large production, a location scout works under the location manager. What this means is the location scout recommends locations to the location manager, who will have the final say on whether to accept or reject the recommendations.
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Duties and Responsibilities
If you’re thinking all you have to do is go out and look for a location and come back and report to the location manager, you’re wrong.
Firstly, you will have to identify locations that would meet the demands of the script. For instance, if the script requires a park, you can’t just recommend any park that you come across. You may have to find a park that leads to a cave, where the serial killer who abducts joggers hides.
Secondly, even if you find a park which leads to a cave, it would not necessarily be accepted by the director. You would have to produce "evidence" that the location is truly ideal for the park scenes.
The "evidence" mentioned above would be providing photographs or video clips of locations to be evaluated by the location manager and director. As such, a location scout must be well-versed in handling still and video cameras.
The scout would have to record panoramic and descriptive visuals of a potential location keeping in mind the aesthetic needs of the film. Most of the time, the scout would have to document visually beyond what is needed by the script so that the director and production designer would get a complete feel of the potential of the location. This would include getting visuals under different lighting conditions, night and day.
The scout would also need to make sketches of the location isolating crew, vehicle and prop areas as would be needed during the shooting.
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Depending on the nature of the production, a location scout may have to handle contractual matters relating to a location. This would include negotiating a location agreement which to be signed between the owner and producer.
If the location is a public place, then the necessary permission and permits would have to be obtained from the authorities. The scout may also need to be involved in liaising with the residents and businesses in the area to help with smooth film production work.
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If you’re interested in becoming a film production location scout, you must be psychologically prepared for the duties and responsibilities the job demands. While you could always learn the technical aspects of the job over time, there are certain qualities you must bring to the job right from the first day.
This would include the willingness to travel to remote locations on short notice, ability to work long and odd hours without complaint and ability to deal with "difficult" members of the public in the process of securing a location (film people are not welcome everywhere). Patience, tact and a good sense of humor would go a long way in bringing you success in your job.
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In most instances there isn’t a direct route to becoming a film production location scout. You may have to start as a production assistant and work your way up. Again it depends on the magnitude of the production. In a smaller production you may easily get a job as an assistant location manager-cum-location scout as long as you’re willing to take instructions from the location manager and display interest in the job.
In larger productions there would be experienced location scouts, thus shutting the door to newcomers. Some location managers, however, would not mind recruiting location scouts who are willing to learn and work for no pay.