How to Make the Most of Your Time Filming on Location

Photo Source: Margaux Quayle Cannon

When you get cast in a project and have to travel to be on location, your work experience can differ from shoots in your home city. I recently spoke with two of my actor friends to get their insight on how to take care of yourself when traveling for work. First up was Kathleen “Bird” York, an actor, screenwriter, and Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter currently starring on the CW series “In the Dark.” Second was Willie Garson, who was a series regular on USA’s “White Collar” and is perhaps best known for playing Stanford on HBO’s “Sex and the City.” Excerpts from our conversations are below.

What are some of your best tips for being on location?
Kathleen York: “Start getting up early to suit the time change, so your 5 a.m. [Eastern] call is not a 2 a.m. [Pacific] call.”

Willie Garson: “Be a citizen of that spot. Find the best breakfast, the best thrift stores, and—my favorite—vintage record stores. Also, get outside! Where do people go to hike and explore?”

What are some of the best ways to take care of yourself while you’re away from home on location? Do you prefer a hotel or a rented apartment or house?
KY: “Airbnb. It’s nice to feel part of a neighborhood. And a kitchen makes it feel like home.”

WG: “I prefer a hybrid apartment-hotel. (The Sutton Place in Vancouver comes to mind.) That way I can have my own stuff around and, if possible, a washing machine, but still get cleaning service for the room.”

How do you keep yourself grounded when you’re not sleeping in your own bed?
WG: “Buy food that makes you feel good, and use the gym. It’s not a vacation, even though a hotel can make it feel like one. It’s a shared experience of working. And definitely try to eat with someone; that’s important. Also, return every phone call and email. ‘I’m on location’ is not an excuse to drop out of life; you want that support and closeness when you return. I commuted to New York from Los Angeles for over 15 years for my TV shows, and if I hadn’t supported those real friendships, I wouldn’t have any.”

Is working on location different in terms of day-to-day production?
KY: “It’s 100 percent different. You can inhabit your character more easily when away from your ‘identity’ town. You can live as someone else and truly [feel] how much that environment would shape your character if the location used is indeed where the story is set.”

WG: “Working on location is easier, but often longer hours. You don’t have the daily encumbrances of children, pets, house chores, mail, etc.—even though you may miss them all, your responsibilities are mainly on the work, which is a relief, for sure.”

READ: The No. 1 Problem With Today’s On-Location Productions

Do you find that your relationships with the cast and crew are different when you’re on location?
KY: “Yep. Positive and negative. Casts can get into cliques, and if you’re not in that clique initially, it can get lonely. You have to be OK with that and not assume the cast will become your social safety net. Find local friends. Also, the crew is often local on locations. They won’t have the same needs to connect on the weekends that you will. They have their own lives, so you really have to be proactive to create a plan for yourself to stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation if it’s a long shoot. Challenge yourself to find a new interest or set a goal to accomplish something while out of town. I wrote a pilot for a network. It gave me focus on days we weren’t shooting the series.”

WG: “Location friendships, romances, allegiances spring up very fast. You’re a traveling circus with a shared experience in the trenches together. It’s important to be who you are, not misrepresent yourself and suddenly become this different person. Some of my closest friendships will never be broken after a deep bonding on location. That lasts forever.”

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Marci Liroff
Known for her work in film and television, producer and casting director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world. Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light.
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