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What is a location manager?

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Written by Esther C

Published Apr 25, 2024

In the thrilling world of film and TV production, the role of the location manager stands as a pivotal bridge between the script's vision and the story coming to life in real-world settings.

This multifaceted role spans the pre-production and production phases, and involves scouting potential sites, negotiating agreements, and overseeing logistics on set.

In this article we break down all the responsibilities of a movie location manager and explore the skills you'll need if you're interested in venturing down this exciting career path.

Contents

  • What is a location manager?
  • What is the difference between a location scout and a location manager?
  • Essential skills you need to become a location manager
  • Location manager responsibilities:
    • Responsibilities during pre-production
    • Responsibilities during production
  • Final thoughts

What is a location manager?

movie still from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Still from 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' (credit: New Line Cinema)

The location manager is a crucial role in the pre-production and production stages of filming, but unlike other film crew members they are not explicitly involved in the shooting process.

They handle the creative side of finding the perfect filming locations, but they are also responsible for handling the practicalities of making a location work for filming. So they will negotiate contracts, obtain permits, manage budgets and coordinate logistics. 

The location manager is responsible for hiring and overseeing the entire location department. They report into the production designer, but also frequently work alongside the director. 

What is the difference between a location scout and a location manager?

movie still from The Beach
Still from 'The Beach' (credit: 20th Century Studios)

Location scouts are generally hired by the location manager to source and evaluate potential film locations based on the script and aesthetic requirements.

Scouts research and visit multiple locations either in person or virtually and document them with detailed descriptions and photographs.

Location scouts and location managers collaborate throughout the location selection process and so it's crucial they work well as a team and have effective communication.

The location scout presents their options to the location manager, providing details about each one’s suitability, cost, and availability, so they can make the final decision based on the production’s requirements and constraints.

Essential skills you need to become a location manager

movie still from The Sound of Music
Still from 'The Sound of Music' (credit: 20th Century Studios)

There’s no formal training required to become a film location manager, although the more experience you can get within the film industry the better prepared you'll be.

If you are considering completing a short course or full-time study in filmmaking, read our guide to London’s best film schools

These are the five core skills required for the role:

Team leadership

Timing is crucial because there’s so much that needs to come together at once on set, so the location manager must be able to effectively delegate tasks and information to their team and the rest of the film crew. 

Adaptability

Location managers need to think quickly and creatively to address challenges and unexpected issues that may arise during location scouting or filming, such as weather conditions, unexpected scheduling changes, or last-minute location adjustments.

Diplomacy

Location managers need to manage relationships with property owners and the community and be able to diffuse any tension or solve any conflicts that may arise.

Attention to detail

Location managers need a good eye for design as well as an eye for the practical details of filming locations, for example, identifying potential logistical or legal obstacles and ensuring that all paperwork is in order.

Endurance

Location managers frequently work long hours - they arrive early to set to prepare and leave late after shooting wraps, so they need the stamina to endure long days of physical activity, often outdoors.

Got a scouting project but don't have anywhere to 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.

Location manager responsibilities:

1. Responsibilities during pre-production

Movie still from The Hangover
Still from 'The Hangover' (credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

During the pre-production phase of a film or TV project, the responsibilities of a location manager typically look like this:

Initial discussions

After reading the script, the location manager works with the director and production designer to build out an idea of their vision for the sets and establishing the types and number of locations needed.

Hiring

As the location manager oversees the locations department, they are in charge of hiring the team. Team members may include:

  • The assistant location manager who can manage the current set while the location manager preps the next location.
  • The location scout who researches and provides various location options to the location manager. 
  • Location assistant(s) who are available to perform any necessary tasks on set, including keeping the set clean, clearing up after filming has wrapped, and controlling pedestrian traffic during a shoot.

Location assessments

The location manager will visit the locations to narrow down the options provided by the location scout and gather information to take back to the director and production designer.

When conducting a location recce the location manager will ask the following types of questions:

  • Is the location accessible? Considering factors like proximity production facilities, availability of parking, and ease of transportation for crew and equipment.
  • What are the logistical considerations? Such as power sources, bathroom facilities, and space for equipment setup.
  • What are the permit requirements? This will depend on whether it's a private or public space.
  • What are the potential challenges or limitations? Such as noise restrictions, weather concerns, or scheduling conflicts that may impact filming at the location.
  • Do the visuals align with the desired look? Including lighting conditions, architectural features, and overall composition.
  • Is the location safe for cast and crew? Considering any potential hazards and accessibility for emergency services.

Negotiating permissions

The location manager will contact property owners, landlords, or local authorities to obtain filming permission at selected locations.

They will need to negotiate agreements for filming schedules, fees, insurance requirements, and (if applicable) road closures, security, and stunts.

Coordination and planning

If all goes well in clearing the location, the next phase is known as “locking down the location” when the contracts are signed and the setup can begin.

This stage requires collaborating with other departments, such as transportation, production design, and technical teams, to ensure the crew has everything they need at the location.

The location manager will need to develop detailed plans for parking, equipment setup, crowd control, and other operational aspects to ensure a smooth production process.

2. Responsibilities during production

Movie still from Mad Max: Fury Road
Still from 'Mad Max: Fury Road' (credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

During the production phase of a film or TV project, the responsibilities of a location manager typically include:

Scheduling

The location manager and the assistant director arrange the crew’s arrival times, provide maps and directions and ensure each crew member knows where they’re supposed to be throughout the shoot. 

On-site management

Either the location manager or the assistant location manager will be on-set each day to manage and resolve any unforeseen issues that arise during filming.

As part of this role they will monitor safety hazards, enforce safety protocols, manage crowd control, and coordinate with security teams or local police if necessary.

Prep

The location manager will simultaneously prep the next set location. 

Public relations

Location managers act as a liaison between the production team and the local community, residents, or businesses near the filming location. So they may need to speak with neighbours and local police to address any complaints and minimise disruptions.

Documentation and reporting

They will need to maintain and file the necessary paperwork during filming, including daily production reports, incident reports, and any documents relevant to permits, contracts, or agreements.

Post-filming clean up

Once production has wrapped at the location, it is the location manager’s job to oversee all cleanup and make sure everything is left in the same condition as they found it. 

Final thoughts

Location managers are key figures behind the scenes of every successful production, responsible for finding, securing, and managing the perfect filming locations.

The role requires a blend of creativity, negotiation skills, and logistical expertise to pull off a smooth shoot.

And while it can be a challenging job at times, it has many rewards too, like experiencing some of the most amazing locations in the world, from beautiful beaches to remote farm locations.

Looking for filming locations in the UK?

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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