I had the opportunity to attend a two-day workshop on how to become a movie location scout taught by a veteran New York location scout. The West Virginia Film Office sponsored the workshop, arranging for it to be taught in Fairmont, a short drive for me. It was terrific!
Film industry veteran Demian Resnick, a New York-based location manager, focused on skill sets needed to become a location scout. These are the people who fan out across the location(s) and find possibilities for different scenes. Demian has worked on several major productions to include Super 8, Cloverleaf, and Almost Famous. He’s also done TV work, most notably for Celebrity Apprentice and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Demian was a terrific instructor and interacted with each and every one of us attending.
They must have a feel for the script, the director, and the assistant director and the multiple requirements of shooting. These include how much space is needed for the cameras, cables, etc. which are used to actually shoot a scene, but also larger, logistical requirements such as parking. It also doesn’t hurt to be handy with a camera, but . . .
it’s not as important as you think! Speed, efficiency, and understanding are most important. Speed is important because once shooting starts, time is money and nobody wants to wait around for anything, especially location scouts. Scouts must be efficient because they need to provide multiple options for each scene, say an Italian restaurant. That means you’re expected to come back with several possibilities. This is also where that “feel” or for the key people and the script come into play. What makes an Italian restaurant? With just a few small changes, you turn almost any restaurant into an Italian one, at least for simple shots. This is where good scouts really earn their money. They can see not only what’s there, but the possibilities and probably costs to get there.
Another key task for scouts is to break the ice and see if the property owners are interested in hosting a movie location. They don’t negotiate-simply determine the realm of the possible. Because the movie business is sexy, this often an easy sell, but not always.
There’s more, but I don’t want to share everything. The West Virginia Film Office is working hard to build the infrastructure, in terms of production workers, here in the state. They also hosted a production assistant workshop in June 2013 which was highly successful. I had a great time, met some cool people, and look forward to a production coming soon!