A location manager serves as a liaison between the producer or director and the property owner by taking responsibility for all aspects of a filming location – from securing permits to managing on-site operations.
Primary Role: Location Assessments
For location managers, the biggest responsibility is assessing potential settings. This task requires developing a vision for the film’s setting and seeking out possible locations that would allow the director to realize their artistic vision. Once they’ve secured a site, location managers prepare the area for the crew and coordinate any logistics.
Location managers often work with assistants for secondary tasks like: electricity sources, Wi-Fi access, and required permits.
5 Key Responsibilities of a Location Manager During Pre-Production
Before production begins, location managers are responsible for these important tasks:
- Working with the director and production designer, which involves reading the script, understanding the creative vision, and discussing basic logistics
- Hiring a team, including a location scout to find potential sites, an assistant location manager to provide support, and location assistants to handle details
- Visiting potential sites to evaluate logistics like power access, parking spaces, medical access, and potential disruptions
- Considering the location, which involves negotiating with property owners, securing filming permits, meeting health and safety requirements, and getting insurance coverage
- Locking down the location and completing final pre-production details like hiring security and cleaning staff
5 Key Responsibilities of a Location Manager During Production
During a film’s production, location managers have five essential jobs:
- Weighing in on the schedule for the crew, which involves setting a start time, handing out maps, and making sure everyone knows where to be at any time
- Handling daily logistics and troubleshooting problems that happen during filming
- Preparing the next site so production can continue without interruptions
- Liaising with community members, which involves communicating with neighbors and authorities
- Wrapping the location after filming is complete
To work as a location manager, you often need standard education, training, and skills. Find out what it takes to succeed in this industry.
Education and Training
To work in the film industry, many aspiring location managers earn a bachelor’s degree in media studies, filmmaking, broadcast production, photography, or communications. Even if you major in another subject, you can benefit from taking college-level classes or professional courses on these topics.
What Qualities Are Required?
If you want to work as a location manager, you should have these essential characteristics:
What Skills Do You Need?
To excel as a location manager, you need to develop these skills:
- Physical fitness
- Time management
- Knowledge of federal and local regulations
Personality: Maximum Patience
When you work as a location manager, you often need endless patience to handle all needs and requests from the film crew, the director, and the property owner. Because issues can arise at virtually any moment, you should also be flexible and able to resolve any problem you might face.
Unions, Groups, and Associations
Unlike other film industry professionals, such as directors and actors, location managers don’t have a union or a single professional organization. Instead, you’ll have to connect with people and work hard to build relationships in order to form a professional network.
Career Prospects and Advancement: How You Start and Where You Can Go With It
Many location managers follow a similar path when advancing in the industry. Learn more about career prospects and advancement potential for location managers.
Entry: Work Experience
Because location manager roles are often considered advanced positions, you need entry-level film experience first. To get a foothold in this industry, many aspiring location managers work as location assistants or assistant photographers. In one of these assistant roles, you can hone your technical skills, get firsthand experience with the film industry, and make important connections.
Assistant Location Manager
After getting valuable film industry experience and working alongside accomplished professionals, getting a job as an assistant location manager is often the next step. These professionals work closely with location managers and may also collaborate with location assistants and unit managers.
In most cases, an assistant location manager’s primary responsibility is to support the location manager. In this role, you can expect to handle logistics and physical tasks, but you won’t need to negotiate contracts or financial matters.
Professional Development, Training, and Progression
Location managers don’t usually complete formal training programs. Instead, you can expect to learn on the job. If you find that you need formal education or training in a certain area, you can consider enrolling in a professional course or joining a seminar run by a local organization.
Although some location managers have full-time corporate jobs, the vast majority are freelancers who accept contracts for individual projects. Either way, you can work for a variety of employers, including:
- Major film studios
- Independent production companies
- Post-production houses
- Community film projects
Lifestyle: What to Expect
When you work as a location manager, you have to be ready for the lifestyle. Find out what to expect from this profession.
For location managers, work hours don’t always translate to a traditional schedule. As former location manager Lori Balton explains, the job can require a 24/7 commitment once production begins. This is because location managers often have to be present to address any issues on the film set, and they may have to put in additional hours to plan ahead or organize the next location. They’re often the first person at the set and the last one to leave.
In addition, work requirements may vary depending on the season. Location managers tend to be busier in the summer and have more free time in the winter. Those who want a more predictable schedule might opt to work as scouts instead. As long as they can complete their work, many location scouts can set their own schedules.
Managing in a Man’s World
Film crews are often mostly male, which means female location managers should be prepared to handle related gender dynamics. For example, accomplished Irish location manager Catherine Geary noted that she only worked with two female crew members throughout her career.
After gaining experience in the industry, you may develop a preference for working in certain locations. Many location managers find distinctive settings that work for a variety of productions, which causes them to return again and again. According to location manager Tony Holley, it helps to have some knowledge of the area where the film is being shot.
Salary & Benefits: How Much Does a Location Manager Make?
Location managers who work for film studios earn an average weekly salary of $3,000. Because most location managers are freelancers, you may have to negotiate rates for each project. According to veteran location manager Alex Banderas, daily rates for location managers can range from $350 to $1,100 per day, plus mileage reimbursement if they have to travel to another state.
Ready to take the first step toward a location manager career? Get more information about the Nashville Film Institute and learn about our programs today.