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Becoming a film location scout is a dream job for many. Unfortunately, few know where to begin or think that it is simply a pipe dream.
That could not be further from the truth, since there are practical and tangible steps that can be taken to ensure that anyone has a great shot at becoming a film location scout! While it is certainly a glamorous and exciting job that allows scouts to travel and live an adventurous lifestyle all while earning a healthy paycheck, that also means that it is inevitably a difficult industry to break into.
Beating out the countless others for one of these coveted positions will not be easy, but the advice found in this article should give a nice head start!
While this is often the type of job that people just seem to “fall into”, there are proactive steps that anyone can take to find this fantastic career opportunity. One idea would be to simply attempt getting a foot in the door in the film industry. This would entail doing something like signing up for any opportunities to be an extra in a film. Doing things like this will help the hopeful location scout to begin building their network within the film industry that could open other doors in the future. Another option is to settle down in a remote area and get to know the area incredibly well, particularly if it is well-known that this is a location that does a lot of filming.
There are enormous amounts of applicants that try to obtain these jobs and live in New York. It is much more rare to find an applicant with a working knowledge of desirable film locations in, say, Africa. Should someone take this route, it might be helpful to work in tourism in that particular country, since it will allow for getting to know a country intimately and it is also an industry where word of mouth and reputation can spread quickly. These jobs also allow for a nice transition into location scout positions. One final job that would allow for a seamless move into a position as a film location scout would be a fixer for documentaries. This position involves hiring crew, arranging logistics and keeping the show moving at a forward progression. These are all skills that are essential to being a great film location scout and are directly transferable. Further, it helps develop a keen eye that is so critical for these types of positions and can even help building a network in film with a little bit of luck!
Presumably, someone that stumbles upon this article and wants to be a location scout knows this. Still, some more detailed analysis of the day-to-day aspects of the job are always helpful. Finding a location for a film based on the script is the first order of business but it is rarely that simple. Logistics are always involved with real-world locations. Sometimes, being able to sell a director on the value of a particular location due to logistics issues will be critical. Once the locations are finalized and shooting begins is when the true challenges start to arise. The hours can be extremely grueling due to the fact that a location manager is often one of the first to arrive on set and one of the last to leave. Shooting films internationally can also lead to complications due to government corruption and bureaucracy abroad. Governments can make film crews jump through seemingly unnecessary hoops, so having a high tolerance for this tediousness and some good allies will be essential when navigating these issues. Still, despite some challenges, this is an incredible job that is primarily filled with positives!
This is possibly one of the best jobs in the world for a free spirit. This job will often, if not always, take location scouts down the unexplored path or the road less traveled by. Perhaps the greatest perk is that film location scouts are able to work with some of the most truly creative and fascinating individuals in the world! Working with legendary directors, talented actors and more on a daily basis is almost reason enough to become a location scout! It is absolutely true that being a film location scout is not an easy job, but it is equally true that this is one of the most rewarding career paths for anyone with an unbridled sense of adventure!
The best advice is to choose a country that has not been overly filmed in and choose a country that evokes passion and a desire to be there. There is nothing worse than settling down in a location that is terrible, even if it is for a great job. Perhaps most importantly, build a location library. Once a location scout has been at this trade for a while, it starts to become clear which locations are great as reference points to keep going back to.
Having a library of these locations can drastically cut down on the time spent searching for suitable locations, which makes for a very valuable location scout for films with finite budgets. Finally, continue to build that network and continue working on skills of the trade. Some of these skills are patience, flexibility, creativity and the ability to keep a level head during high stress periods of filming. These should be the main tools to put any film location scout on the right path to a rewarding career. So, with that said, stick with it and have fun!