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Art Director, Location Scout & Location Manager Jobs

Updated on March 22, 2018
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna worked on many productions as PA, Craft Services, Talent Scout, Grip, and Producer. Credits include Bowling for Columbine, Wallace.

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Art Director to Location Scouts and Location Managers

What does an art director do? A location scout do? A location manager do?

Would any three of these jobs interest you as a career in film?

Read on and let me know your thoughts on being an art director, location scout or location manager. All three jobs place you right in the film industry – right on the set working with the producer and director.

So, let’s find out what they do and take it from there. Shall we?

Richard Bridgland Production Designer for The Commuter Shares a Special Moment

Interprets the Script

Art directors design the physical environment of the film set in order to create the mood the script dictates to the director, who interprets the script to determine the environment. They work closely with the production designer. Art directors supervise many different people, such as illustrators, scenic designers, model makers, carpenters, painters, and electricians, laborers, set decorators, costume designers, animal makers, and makeup and hairstyling artists.

All these positions can provide an entry to the motion picture industry in major cities or at a film location shooting. From these positions, a person can move up to an art director or even a director.

Many start these jobs in live theater productions and move to film and television where they then move back and forth between the stage, film, and television. For these people, happiness is working in the entertainment field and making a living at what they like to do best – create an environment that helps tell a story and make it real for the audience.

Robin Mounsey - How a Location Manager Worked on Tough Terrain

Location Scouting a True Art Form

Location scouts or location managers work with the art director and director to find the ideal location for a particular shot in a scene. Location scouts are hired early in the preproduction phase of the movie.

Nathan, who is a location scout all over the world but calls the Bay area in Northern California his home, feels location scouting is a true art form, "You are trying to interpret the script while finding the right location that can make all the difference in the movie."

Not to mention he has to keep the director’s job easy in making the environment suitable for the story. I have heard a-many-a story of how a location scout found the house for the perfect location to shoot the scene – it really makes all the difference in the world to be a sharp location scout.

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Independence

While it's true that the art director and director get all the credit, it all starts with the ingenuity of the location scout. The location scout will find the location for the director and then get his/her approval. Usually, the same person will switch hats and become the location manager.

The location manager handles all the logistics of using the location, such as permits and approval from local governments. Whenever problems arise on location, it's the location manager's responsibility to handle them. Such things that could arise are noise control or crowd control. Even electricity goes out; the location manager quickly remedies the problem, so filming can continue – because time is money in film production.

Being a location manager can be a bit tense at times, but Nathan says the job offers a lot of independence – “you're pretty much your own boss.”

How a Production Designer Works with a Location

Mark Putland talks about designing and building a replicate Winchester house in at the Melbourne set. The movie Winchester went to the original Winchester House in San Jose, California to shoot some exteriors and interiors. The production pretty much rebuilt the set to film the bulk of the movie. Listen to Putland's interview and not the research he carried out to make sure the production design was authentic.

What Do You Think?

Which job would you like on a film production?

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Salary

A location scout is a glamorous job, but the pay is not all that great. On the average, they make around 52 thousand a year in the Los Angeles area. In New York, a really good location scout will make around 67 thousand a year. In San Francisco, a good scout will make 66 thousand a year. These are all independent contractor positions. Location scouts who work for a production company will make about half of what an independent contractor.

Scout to Manager

Some location scouts stay with the production after scouting and become the location manager for the production. The reason for this is because a lot of times a location scout will help with permits and other civil regulations for the production even before the production starts filming. Since the location scout is familiar with the locations and permits, it makes sense that the production company hires them on for location manager.

Travel?

Some have reported on the Internet that location scouts travel around the world. If they work for a production company, then yes, that could be true. Most location scouts work in the area they live; particularly if they are independent contractors. One particular scout worked the Northern California area and rarely traveled. He would only travel if a former client asked him to scout for a production outside of his jurisdiction, but that was very rare. It would be more fortuitous for the production company to hire a local scout in the area they were planning to film because the local scout knows more about the area than a scout traveling into the area.

There are times when a production company cannot hire a local scout because one is not available in the area. Then, it would make sense to hire one the company has worked with before since they have an established rapport and work ethic.

© 2007 Kenna McHugh

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