What do Location Managers do all day?

It’s a question that is often asked by my family who fondly believe I spend my time in idle chit-chat and gossip with high-powered film and media executives sipping skinny-latte Mocachinos (whatever they are!) and eating sushi. But consider the following exciting ‘James Bond’ style scenario.
“Our hero and heroine are on the run, driving fast through the city, weaving in and out of traffic, they attempt to escape their pursuers while overhead a helicopter follows. As they approach a famous lifting bridge, lights flash and gates start to close. Ignoring the lights and the instructions from uniformed guards armed with machine pistols and the like, our hero drives through the barriers and up the slope of the opening bridge before screeching to a halt with the car teetering on the edge. Hand in hand our heroes jump from the bridge into the water below and swim to a waiting speed boat which zooms away up the river to safety” Phew!
Location Managers are responsible for the filming on Location. It is their job to find the location in the first place, to get approval from the Director and Production Designer, before starting the lengthy process of getting all the necessary permissions and permits that allow filming to commence.
In the above scenario, this might involve the following:
Meetings and contacts with the Film Liaison Officers for the Councils on both sides of the bridge, and in this instance, The City of London who are responsible for the Bridge itself; the PLA (Port of London Authority) who are responsible for the river. We would need to involve the Met Police; the River Police, the RNLI; the CAA (for permission for the helicopter) and the Firearms unit and organise a series of site meetings to ascertain exactly what is possible and the best and safest way of obtaining the Director’s wishes. The filming will almost certainly need to take place on a Sunday and may well stretch over two or three weeks to get all the elements required for the sequence in-place.
Then comes the search for the parking areas for all the equipment and vehicles that will be required for the filming. This is often street parking for up to 20 large vehicles, which parked end to end could be as much as a 150 meters of parking. In addition there is a requirement for a Unit Base for the Caterers, Make-up and Wardrobe vehicles as well as the Artist’s Vehicles and parking for the 60 odd technicians, stunt co-ordinators, supporting artists and other vehicles that need to be close by. There is the small matter of arranging road closures for the actual filming, organising the diversions and ensuring the correct signage is in-place. The helicopter will need permission to fly over London and a place to land and re-fuel. Then there are the residents’ letters to all the residents in the area, which informs them of the filming and apologises for any inconvenience that may be caused by our actions. The point of contact for complaint is the Location Manager who will have to deal with the many possible problems that the filming may cause (parking problems and noise being the most likely).

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On the day of filming, the Location Manager is responsible for the smooth running of the location, allowing the Film Unit to complete its work.
This will include the provision of support equipment, anything from access equipment to toilet provision, site security, site lighting and possibly heating if the scenes are at night, Direction signs for the Unit vehicles and dealing with any problems or last minute requests made by the Director or the Unit.
And then the next day we do it all again!
One of the most interesting parts of the job is the places that we get to see. From Nuclear Power Stations to Mines and Caverns; underground passages and huge industrial or military sites. Large Stately Homes to small terraced ‘back-to-backs’ the list of possible locations is endless and we are always interested in new areas to film in.

Filming in the UK is on the up with the number of film crews working on any given day, increasing all the time. Although this is good for the industry it puts increasing pressure on residential and business areas in the UK. Film crews need careful preparation and management to ensure that the work can proceed smoothly and with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience to residents and members of the public.

About the Author:

Richard Godfrey is a freelance Location Manager, working primarily in Television Drama and Films. He has more than 15 years of experience working in and around the London area and has worked on long-running series like The Bill and Casualty. Recent productions have included: EGYPT; Supernatural; Merlin; The Commander and Above Suspicion (La Plante Productions).

Richard is a member of the Guild of Location Managers, which seek to promote professional standards of Location Management throughout the industry

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