One of the great things about cinema is its ability to transport audiences to far and remote places. These places are often a character themselves within the story of a film. Finding these locations is an incredibly important component of filmmaking that is put on the shoulders of a location scout. What is a location scout and why are they critical in the pre-production process of filmmaking? It may be obvious that they find the locations of a film, but they are also responsible for much more. In this article, we’ll analyze the various duties of a location scout as well as the skills needed to become one.
What is a Location Scout in Film?
Location Scout definition
Unless your entire production is being shot in a sound stage, locations need to be found. But even then, the director and production designer might need references for those sound stage sets. So it's safe to say that having someone in charge of finding the right spot for the shoot is critical. For a complete guide to the major roles in film production, check out our ultimate guide to film crew positions.
LOCATION SCOUT MEANING
What is a Location Scout in film?
A Location Scout’s primary role is to find and secure locations that best suit various scenes of a production. It's also important that they have both a creative eye and an eye for logistics. They collaborate with the director to understand what locations will best suit their vision and the story. Collaborating with the producer to ensure the locations fit in the project's budget is also part of the job.
Location Scout Duties:
- Collaborate with director and producer
- Find best locations for a film
- Secure permission to shoot at a property
Location Scout Job Description
Location Scout duties
Location Scout jobs entail various responsibilities that start as soon as pre-production kicks off all the way through the end of production. Let’s take a look at their various duties.
Breakdown the screenplay
First and foremost, the Scout must have a comprehensive understanding of the screenplay. This will inform them on the locations that they must find and the characteristics of each location.
Script breakdowns are beneficial for various departments. When it comes to locations, a proper breakdown will give a Scout a clear understanding of what type of locations they need to find and how they should serve the story.
Collaborate with director and producer
In addition to the screenplay, the director will help inform the location scout on the direction of the locations the story needs. The director may inform them on how locations will be shot. For example a location shot with an aerial shot will need to be chosen differently.
The Scout will also collaborate with the producer to make sure the locations they scout work within the producer’s budget.
Find the best locations for the film
Finding the best locations for the film is on of their primary duties. The locations they find should not solely be accurate to the script, but also strive to elevate the story.
Because of this, location scouts must be detail oriented and understand the filmmaking process. There are various location details to keep in mind while scouting. Check out our video breakdown of location scouting below.
Gain Permission to Scout a Property
Once a Scout has gathered a list of possible locations, they need to gain permission to scout the properties. Typically, Scouts are accompanied by the cinematographer, production designer, producer, and director on a tech scout. For everyone to properly scout the locations, they need access to the property.
Secure permission to shoot at a property
Once the director, DP and producer all sign off on final locations, the Scout must secure permission to shoot at a property. This means having a solid understanding of governmental laws and undergoing necessary paperwork and permits to gain shooting access.
Make sure you obtain a location agreement signed by both you and the property owner.
For example, places like historical sites are often more difficult to shoot at. More often than not, sets are built to replicate these locations.
Other considerations: accessibility to the locations, the proximity between locations, and the cultural implications of shooting at specific locations.
Ensure property is left appropriately
Once production at each location is finished, the Scout is also responsible for making sure each location is left appropriately. This often entails taking photos of the locations before production and helps them make sure the location is left how it was found.
Location Scout Jobs
How to become a location scout
Traveling and exploring various places to find awesome locations for a film draws many to the role. While there are no clear cut ways to becoming one, it takes a combination of experience, skills, and getting your foot in the door to start your career. How does one find location scout jobs and land them?
Experience and Skills
Scouts must have an eye for both creative storytelling and logistics. While no formal education is necessary, Scouts should have a solid understanding of the film production process.
They should also have knowledge of both government laws as well as cultural awareness for international locations.
For example, check out the massive location complications that needed to be sorted in this behind the scenes video of The Revenant.
On the creative side, a Scout should have some photography skills. This will allow them to photograph interesting locations to build up their portfolio. This portfolio should show off their eye for locations and attention to detail. A Scout's portfolio should be made of locations they’ve found and photographed as well as past projects they’ve worked on.
What is a location scout at the bottom of the ladder? To get your foot in the door, it’s a good idea to get on set as a Production Assistant and try to assist the locations department.
While most Scouts choose to stay as scouts for their careers, some move up to assistant location managers and location managers.
Location Scout Pay
Location scout salary
What exactly is a location scout making in salary? This depends greatly on experience and by project. Location scouts, like many filmmaking roles, are freelance and by project.
On average, they make $85,000 per year. The range varies, however, from $45,000 — $160,000 depending on experience and production budgets.
Location Scout Jobs Links
Find location scout jobs
You can find these positions by looking on online job sites like Indeed.com and Entertainmentcareers.net. When it comes down to it, however, finding a job as a location scout comes down to networking.
Like we mentioned earlier, getting a job as a PA is your best bet to meeting others in the industry and expressing your desire to work as a Scout.
Discover more filmmaking roles
Location scouts are an important, but often overlooked role in the filmmaking process. To continue through our series of the various filmmaking roles and positions, you can explore similar jobs like cinematographer, production designer, or director. Or you can jump over to our Film Crew Index to browse the entire range of filmmaking roles. Understanding what everyone’s role on a film set is will help make you a better overall filmmaker and a more efficient crew member.