How to be a Location Scout for Print, Commercials, TV and Film
It seems to me life is more and more about who you know and who knows you. Being a Location Scout was one of my possible career choices when I was younger. It seemed like a really awesome job that had highly desired elements: being able to travel, being in the entertainment industry, seeing your work make a difference, and having good work variety.
Today I met a Location Scout from Pinpoint Locations and must have asked 20-30 questions! Here are the major ones:
How do you get into a career as a location scout? Location scouts are different for print, commercial, TV and film. As a location scout, you need to specialise. Getting in is about meeting people, working with people, and growing your network. You usually start off in something really junior such as a photography assistant or freelancer; in film and TV, it might be a Production Assistant or even someone's Personal Assistant. Either way, you start working and people will start trusting in you and your skills. You can tell your boss you want to move into scouting. Or if someone is needed for scouting, volunteer to do it. After getting some experience decide on whether you like it or not, then you can start considering it as a career. You can become a freelance scout or start your own company or try to find work with a larger company. A good starting point is by finding and contacting your local guild or association. Or you can contact some location scouting companies and look for an entry level job. For example the OMDC.
What kind of scouts are there? Besides being specialised in one geographic area and media format, there can be other types of scouts. There are exectuive scouts for films who are responsible for finding the locations in general, but then recruit several local location scouts to find specific scenes once a general place has been decided. There are technical scouts who go to the location to figure out the technical aspects of the shoot. For example, lighting, space requirements, angles, etc. The scouts can be involved even during the shooting in some cases. In other cases, only the location manager is on site during the shoot. The location manager will manage the shooting permits and licenses.
What's it like being a location scout? It's a lot of variety. If you own your own location scouting company, it can be very seasonal. It will be project based. You find clients, give a quote (rough estimates are $300-500 per day) and are paid to do the work. For scouting: you use online websites such as flickr and wikipedia, do google searches, use location databases, archives and libraries (i.e. Absolute Locations), and go on-site. Talk with owners, get permissions, negotiate deals, take preliminary pictures, schedule visits, and coordinate the final shoot.
More info on location scouts on wikipedia.