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How to become a location scout

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Written by Esther C

Published Jul 20, 2023

Do you dream of an exciting and fast-paced career in location scouting, maybe travelling the globe to find exotic and jaw dropping landscapes for the next James Bond film? The good news is there are many paths you can take to become a location scout, unfortunately it can also be confusing if you're new to the film industry. That's why we've created this in-depth guide, to break down what exactly a scout does as well as how to become a location scout.

Contents:

  1. An introduction to location scouting
    • What does a location scout do?
    • What skills and experience are needed to become a location scout?
    • Who does a location scout work for?
    • How much do location scouts make?
  2. How to become a location scout 
    • Gain on-set experience
    • Build a Portfolio
    • Network within the industry
    • Join relevant associations
    • Volunteer on projects
    • Develop organisational and communication skills
    • Apply for opportunities
  3. Final thoughts

An introduction to location scouting

What does a location scout do?

A location scout is an individual or a member of a team responsible for finding and selecting suitable filming locations for movies, television shows, commercials, or photo shoots.

As a location scout you will work closely with the production team, including directors, producers, and cinematographers, to identify and secure the best settings that meet the creative vision as well as the practical requirements of the project.

To become a successful location scout you will need to understand the script's descriptions and the desired visual aesthetic and match those with a suitable location. This means there’s a lot of travel involved — you may travel extensively to explore various places including cities, rural areas, and specific landmarks, both locally and overseas.

During the scouting process, you will take photographs, notes, and detailed descriptions of each potential location. Then you'll share these materials with the production team to evaluate and consider. Your vital input helps the team make informed decisions about the locations that will ultimately be used for filming.

As a location scout you'll also need to consider logistical factors such as accessibility, parking availability, permits, and any legal or environmental considerations. You may negotiate with property owners or local authorities to obtain necessary permissions and ensure a smooth filming process.

Once the final locations are chosen, you'll assist in coordinating the logistics of the shoot and collaborate with location managers and other production personnel to work through any challenges that may arise during filming.

person walking towards the pyramids in Egypt
Image by Spencer Davis

What skills and experience are needed to become a location scout?

There are no strict educational or certification requirements to become a film location scout. However, having a combination of relevant experience, skills, and qualifications can greatly enhance your chances of success. Here are some key ones to consider:

Local knowledge

A deep understanding of various locations, including their geography, architecture, cultural significance, and unique features, is essential to be a location scout. So if you're not already, start familiarising yourself with different regions and cities across the UK.

Film and production background

While not mandatory, having experience or education in film, television, or production can provide a strong foundation for a career as a location scout. This is because understanding the requirements and logistics of filming will help you better assess suitable locations. 

Networking

Building a strong network within the film and production industry is crucial. This means establishing connections with directors, producers, location managers, and other industry professionals. Start by attending industry events, joining relevant associations, and engaging with online communities to expand your network. 

Research and organisation skills

Location scouting involves extensive research to find appropriate settings for film shoots. You'll need to conduct thorough research by gathering information and organising details about potential locations. Attention to detail is also key to ensuring the locations meet the project's specific needs, so having experience in any role that highlights your attention to detail will be valuable.

Photography

Being skilled in photography is highly advantageous because as a location scout you'll need to capture high-quality images of potential locations to present to the production team. Strong visual storytelling skills through photographs can make a significant impact on decision-making.

Negotiation and communication

Effective communication and negotiation skills are essential when dealing with property owners, local authorities, and other stakeholders. You should be able to articulate your vision, explain the production requirements, and negotiate terms and contracts.

Adaptability and problem-solving

Location scouting often involves unexpected challenges, such as limited budgets, time constraints, and last-minute changes. So having the ability to adapt quickly, think creatively, and find solutions on the go is vital.

Got a scouting project but don't have anywhere to catalog/store your locations?

Our sister company SuperScout is a private location library platform for location scouts, managers & production teams. Upload locations in minutes, tag them in seconds (with ai), then search and share with your team.

Who do location scouts work for?

You can work for a variety of employers and clients in the film, television, advertising, and event industries. Here are some common employers who work with location scouts:

Film and television productions

Location scouts are frequently hired by film and TV production companies. They work closely with directors, producers, and location managers to identify and secure suitable shooting locations for specific scenes or entire productions. You're probably already aware of the major UK productions like BBC and ITV Studios, but it's worth researching smaller production companies too.

Advertising agencies

Location scouts may be employed by advertising agencies like WPP Group or Publicis Groupe in London to find unique and visually appealing settings for commercial shoots. They collaborate with creative teams and directors to align the locations with the brand's message and vision.

Location agencies

Some location scouts work for specialised location agencies that maintain databases of potential filming locations. UK agencies include Shoot Factory, Amazing Space, and Lavish Locations. These agencies provide location options to production companies and assist in negotiating contracts and permits.

Event management companies

Location scouts can also work for event management companies that organise large-scale events, such as conferences, concerts, or fashion shows. Their role is to find appropriate venues and spaces that meet the event's requirements and enhance the overall experience.

There are two employment options for scouts: permanent and freelance. Many location scouts work on a freelance basis, offering their services independently to various clients on a project-by-project basis. Others are employed full-time by production companies or agencies.

steam train travelling across a bridge in Scotland
Image by Gabriela Palai

How much do location scouts make?

Entry-level or assistant-level location scouting positions may offer salaries in the range of £18,000 to £25,000 per year. As you gain more experience and establish yourself in the industry, your earning potential can increase.

Experienced and successful location scouts working on high-profile film and television projects or large-scale commercial productions will earn higher salaries. It's not uncommon for experienced location scouts to earn between £30,000 and £60,000 per year, and some highly sought-after location scouts may command even higher fees for their services.

In addition to the base salary, location scouts may also receive additional compensation, such as location fees or commissions based on the project's budget. Freelance location scouts often negotiate their fees on a project-by-project basis.

It's important to remember that the film and production industry can be competitive and salaries can vary widely. Factors such as your reputation, the demand for your services, and the complexity of the projects you work on can influence your earning potential as a location scout in the UK.

woman leaning against a car reading a map
Image by Leah Kelley

How to become a location scout 

Gain on-set experience

Location scouting can involve specialised knowledge of the film production process, so spending time in entry-level positions can prepare you for the more advanced work involved in location scouting. You could look for roles such as production assistant, location assistant, runner, videographer's assistant or search for internships. You could also sign up to talent agencies as a film and TV extra to gain your first experience on-set. Gaining industry experience will also provide you with valuable industry knowledge and connections.

Image of filmmakers outdoors
Image by Lê Minh

Develop your photography skills

To become a sought after location scout you need to be able to capture high-quality photographs of your location. After all the production team will base their decisions on these photos, and they need to highlight the location's potential. So invest in a good camera or use a professional-grade smartphone camera and practise, practise, practise.

To develop your technical knowledge further you can watch online photography tutorials on YouTube or Skillshare, or you can enrol in a photography course or workshop to suit your level, for example at the London School of Photography.

If you're looking for a professional setting to practise your photography skills, check out Tutti's range of photo studios for hire.

man holding a camera in front of a rollercoaster
Image by Horacio Rojas

Build a portfolio

As a location scout, your portfolio is crucial because it documents and showcases your work to potential employers. Your portfolio will compile a collection of photographs, location reports, and case studies highlighting your scouting skills and expertise. Try to include a variety of locations to demonstrate your versatility and ability to find suitable settings for different types of projects.

To create your portfolio you'll need to begin by actively scouting for locations. Look for diverse settings, such as beautiful parks, historical churches, Victorian houses, industrial buildings, and rooftop spaces. Not sure where to find these spaces? Tutti is a great tool for location scouts, as we have an array of unique filming locations across the UK.

Consider using an online platform or website to showcase your work, such as Squarespace, Behance and Pixpa. Make sure your portfolio is easy to browse by organising it into categories or sections based on location types, themes, or projects. Include a clear and concise description for each location, highlighting its unique features and potential uses and include any additional materials that demonstrate your expertise as a location scout. This may include location reports, maps, permitting information, or any special considerations you made during the scouting process. This will help demonstrate to clients your attention to detail.

Remember to regularly update your portfolio with new locations and projects as you gain more experience. Removing any outdated or weaker content will ensure that your portfolio showcases your best work.

Image of polaroid pictures and a globe
Image by Taryn Elliott

Network within the industry

Try and attend as many industry events as you can to meet professionals in the film and television industry. This may not lead directly to new work but you'll learn who the key players are in the industry and it demonstrates your passion and dedication to your work. These can include festivals and networking events like the British Film Institute film festivals, Creative UK events, and We Are Film UK talks.

Here at Tutti we love connecting our network of creatives, so feel free to reach out and get in touch with us if you have photography experience and are looking for more work.

Join relevant associations

Join professional associations or organisations related to location scouting. Membership can provide access to resources, industry news, and networking opportunities. Here are a few available in the UK:

  • Location Managers Guild International (LMGI) is an international organisation that represents location professionals in the film, television, and commercial industries. They have a dedicated UK Chapter that provides resources, networking opportunities, and support for location managers and scouts in the UK. Their website is a valuable resource for industry news and information.
  • The Location Guide is a comprehensive online resource for location scouting and production services. They provide a directory of locations in the UK, along with information on permits, location libraries, and industry news. Their website also includes articles, interviews, and case studies related to location scouting.
  • British Film Commission (BFC) is the national body responsible for promoting the UK as a filming location. While they primarily focus on attracting international productions to the UK, their website provides valuable resources and information for location scouts. They offer guidance on filming permits, regional film offices, and other practical aspects of location scouting in the UK.
Image of an orange lighthouse but the sea
Image by Tomáš Malík

Volunteer on projects

If you are struggling to find paid industry work you can still offer your services as a volunteer or assistant on independent film projects, student films, local productions and industry events. This will provide valuable hands-on experience, expand your network, and demonstrate your commitment to the industry. Here are a few examples of where to find volunteer roles online:

  • Search film volunteer roles on job websites like Indeed
  • Apply to work on charity volunteer films as a Director with Media Trust
  • Search for festival volunteer roles with the Independent Cinema Office
Image of Petra in Jordan
Image by Spencer Davis

Develop organisational and communication skills

Location scouting requires meticulous research and organisation. Hone your research skills by developing your portfolio of potential locations, and researching effective organisational techniques to catalog your information and reference materials. And if you're looking for a storage solution to keep your shoot locations safe and secure, check out SuperScout, your own private location library.

Excellent communication skills are also crucial in the role. If you want to improve your teamwork abilities, find group projects to participate in or volunteer for team activities. This doesn't need to be directly linked to scouting either, being part of a sports team will also help you develop effective communication skills. Written communication is a key component of the job too, so make sure to practise writing in a clear and concise way using simple language, and always check your spelling and grammar.

image of man with a backpack standing on a mountain top
Image by Pawan Yadav

Apply for opportunities

Monitor online job boards like LinkedIn, production company websites, and industry job platforms like Mandy UK for job openings as a location scout. Make sure to tailor each application to the relevant job role, including your resume, cover letter, and portfolio, to highlight your relevant experience and skills.

Final thoughts

Even if you feel like your dream job as a location scout is still far from being a reality, there are steps you can take right now to start gaining valuable skills needed for the job as well as building important connections within the film and television industry.

Start building your portfolio today by researching film locations across the UK online with Tutti. Tutti has a huge variety of locations available for hire from luxury homes to commercial buildings, museums, churches and hotel roof tops.

Want to find amazing locations to add to your portfolio?

Choose from 1000+ spaces and locations on Tutti and deal directly with space hosts for a quick, hassle-free booking process.

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