Our guest today is Jen Farris, a stellar location scout whose location credits include the TV series Lovecraft Country, American Soul, Atlanta, Genius, and Sleepy Hollow. Jen has also worked in the location department on multiple films including Just Mercy, Game Night, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and the upcoming film, Dear Evan Hansen.
A Location Scout is in charge of finding and securing locations for a film or television series. Working non-stop from the permit process to wrap, the locations department involved in many aspects of production and works with a variety of departments.
The Location Scout is brought on to production after the Location Manager. They begin by reading the script and imagining how to recreate the spaces described by the writer. Then, they will travel around in the production's filming radius to look for locations that fit the script's descriptions and the writer's vision. For many Location Scouts, this includes driving around, finding locations that they believe would work well for the production, and knocking on doors to begin to get approval from the business owner or homeowner that owns the property the Location Scout would like to use.
A big responsibility of a Location Scout is to get permission and permits from the owner and city officials to use the location on a certain date. This step is very important, as the owner of a property needs to be adequately informed and aware of what the production will require of them if their location is used. They will ask the location owner for contact information and to take pictures or shoot video of the location. If they aren't able to take pictures, they can do research online.
After doing their research, they will return to their team and pitch the locations they think are viable to their team. Once the team agrees, they will continue with the permit and contract process to lock-in that particular location for the production shoot.
When looking for locations, a Location Scout must keep in mind access to parking lots, the noise level of the surrounding area, and proximity to sound stages nearby. If the location looks viable and the owner has agreed to the stipulations of the production, the Location Scout will look for parking lots nearby that can be used by the crew on the day of production. A scout may even speak to neighbors to keep them in the loop about what may happen with the film shooting in that area.
The Location Scout works throughout the production with the locations team to help solve any problems that may arise during the filming process. For instance, if it happens to rain, the locations department has to shift all of the permits to property owners, the city, etc.
Imagination: A location scout must visualize what they read in the script in order to find locations that match what is described by a writer. This includes details like imagining the era, the sounds that would occur in the background of a scene, and what kind of architecture would surround characters in a scene.
Reading-skills: Location Scouts read a lot of scripts at once. The ability to comprehend, research, and take notes will help a location scout know what to look for when out on a scout.
People-Skills: A location scout is often the first person that interacts with the public as a representative from the production. People skills will help them work with location owners and with other departments as they work with a location to make it the best place to film a scene.
Event planning: A location scout must keep in mind the needs of multiple departments when securing locations. A background in event planning helps any location scout have respect for all of the details that go into meeting these needs and executing a successful shoot at a location.
Seek out opportunities to work as a Location pa on a film set and make the right connections to get a job in the Locations Department. Then, work your way up to a Location Scout as you gain experience. Begin reading scripts closely with locations in mind -- nothing is stopping you from practicing as a location scout!
The salary for a Location Scout varies based on the production budget. The national average for a Location Scout's yearly salary is $86,100. One can expect a salary range from $45,000 to $165,000 in this position.
Union: For more information on salaries and joining the union, visit iatse.org.
The kit box rate for a Location Scout varies according to production. Union shows honor a kit rate and may reimburse a location scout for the use of their camera, editing software, GPS software, and use of a computer. For Jen, she has been asked to total the value of this equipment when negotiating rates with a production.
Often, Location Scouts are able to turn in gas receipts to receive reimbursement, while other shows may request mileage.
Learn more about Jen Farris: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6432301/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Learn more about Randy Wayne: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1357477/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Film Crew 101: Certification is an extension of the free Podcast series "Film Crew 101" (available on apple, spotify, and wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts). Each episode pulls back the curtain on all the different roles that go into making a film or TV show from Gaffer's to Best Boy's and First Assistant Director's to Second Second Assistant Director's.
If you have ever dreamt about working in film and television but don’t know where to start, we invite you to get certified with Film Crew 101.