Location Scout Job Description: What Does a Location Scout Do?
A location scout’s primary job is to find locations best suited for a particular scene or production. They choose locations by breaking down the script and talking to the production manager, director, and/or writer to ensure the locations they’re scouting—and ultimately presenting and securing—fulfill their vision for the project.
Location scouts are some of the first people hired in pre-production as locations need to be scouted and secured well in advance of principal photography. Once hired, a location scout will consult their files (part of the job is to keep extensive notes—both images and written—on potential locations around the world, then visit the interior and exterior sites they’re considering.
Paul Kostick (“Sex and the City”) describes the job as “detective work”: “You’re always trying to find a one-of-a-kind place, one that no one has ever seen before. But the location also has to work from a technical point of view. And it has to please a lot of people — the client, the production designer, the art team and most of all the director.”
And once you find the location, it has to be exceptional enough to spend the money to get the entire production there, says Georgette Turner (“Wonder Woman: 1984,” “Downton Abbey”). “You get the script early on and know that certain things can and need to be built in the studio, but then you look to open up the movie by getting out on the road, looking for an incredible landscape that has something unique or different about it that cannot be physically recreated.”
It’s also up to the location scout to gain permission to scout a property, secure permission to shoot there, and coordinate logistics.
Alternate Titles for Location Scout
The location scout reports directly to the location manager, scouting potential locations and presenting their findings. They also work with the production manager to determine if locations are feasible for shoot: Will local government allow filming? What permits are required? Can nearby resources support the needs of the cast and crew?
Location Scout Salary
An average annual salary for a location scout is $85,000.
Location scouts are represented by the Teamsters, which means at least the guaranteed minimum rate is paid on union productions.
How to Become a Location Scout
Location scouts are mid-level members of the location department. Many location scouts start as entry-level crew members (PAs) before becoming full-fledged scouts. While there is room to advance within the department—assistant location manager, location manager—many choose to remain as location scouts for the entirety of their professional careers.
Turner does caution that while it’s a job that “takes you places you never imagined you’d get to,” it’s also an incredibly tough one: “For people who are thinking of a career in the industry, they must be prepared for long days, being outdoors in all the elements and sometimes not in the most glamorous locations.”
Location Scout Required Experience + Skills
There’s no formal education or training required for work as a location scout; a background in photography and a strong understanding of the film and production process is helpful, as is an eye for detail, cultural awareness, and a working knowledge of local government.
Most importantly, though, is the willingness to explore the world—and even your own city—to build up your portfolio of unique, cinematic locations. “I always have my camera with me. I’m always looking, always taking notes,” says Kostick. “For just one movie, you could be looking at several hundred locations over a solid month. You might see three places in an hour. I’ve probably taken 400,000 pictures.”
For more on how to get work on a film crew, visit Backstage’s crew hub!