PGGB Membership Focus is our monthly series designed to shine a light on our talented members, and the roles they perform within the 25 grades we represent across film and high-end TV. For our third instalment, we dive into the Location Manager role, speaking to Andrew Dalmahoy, Aurelia Thomas and Richard George about their career journey.
The role of a Location Manager is synonymous with the film and television industry – it’s a career that’s almost exclusively used for media productions. Typically involved from prep to wrap, they’ll work with the Director, Production Designer, and Director of Photography to break down the script and review storyboards to work out the type and quantity of locations required.
There are countless places that could be used for filming around the world and a myriad of resources available to aid in scouting these locations, from film offices and Google maps to a Location Manager’s own directory.
The role involves a lot of communication, with various points at which Location Managers need to coordinate logistical and practical elements for a shoot to be able to take place, while at managerial level they’re responsible for the recruitment of the locations team and day-to-day running of the department.
For Andrew Dalmahoy he spends a lot of his time thinking about “Every possible thing that could go wrong. You plan for every contingency! As Mark Walledge (Supervising Location Manager on The Crown) used to say ‘the distance between success and failure is the thickness of a rizla paper’ and he's absolutely right. There can be one tiny, tiny thing that you could have missed, that can have massive repercussions.”
To be constantly thinking about possible eventuality on a production and how to mitigate those possible risks can be exhausting, which is why for Richard George, persistence is key: “You need to persevere, you need to be diplomatic, and you need to be able to talk to people.”
Richard goes on: “You need to inspire confidence in people, particularly if you're persuading them to do things that they wouldn't ordinarily do - like first time location owners. But there's also a perseverance because very often you can be knocked back at the first hurdle.”
This can especially be the case if a location has not ‘come off the books’ as Richard tells us “There's an element of digging and an investigation that needs to happen. What you're actually doing is you're digging up a location, effectively, and it can be quite a long process. You've got to be quite dogged. That's what David Broder used to call it, dogged, in your investigation as to how and why: why you can't do it, and how you can make it so!”
For our Location Managers it seems that this grit and determination to source the best locations for the job pays off in the end. Aurelia Thomastells us about a location she found over two decades ago, now recognised as key to one of the most iconic scenes in modern British cinema. “People are like, ‘wow you worked on Love Actually and you found the house Andrew Lincoln has the little cards!’ I got sent to knock on doors at a bunch of Mews’ in Notting Hill. I knocked on this particular door, and this girl answered who I was at university with four or five years before! She'd wanted to be an actress and had actually auditioned for a part in the film and she said to me, ‘well, if I can't be in the film, you know, it'd be lovely if my house was in it.’ So, it was just a sort of happy coincidence.”
In common with the Andrew and Richard, Aurelia’s journey into the industry was through a non-traditional, almost accidental, route, but it drew her in immediately: “I was a student at Bristol University, I read history of art, my parents lived in Wimbledon, and I got a job at Wimbledon tennis for a company called Set Meals who did catering for US TV crews. They then rang me just as I was sitting my finals and asked if I wanted to work on an American war movie for the summer, and I ended up on Saving Private Ryan! My mind was blown.”
Having all spent many years in the industry honing their craft to become experienced Location Managers, all three interviewees were able to gain membership with the Guild to support their career progression – and not just by providing invaluable Location Management ID cards!
Andrew noted “You have to get to a certain level to be a member of The Guild. You must be proposed, seconded and have a number of credits working in the same grade. So, I wanted to be a member, not least because of the nice ID card that you get for Location Managers, which is very useful because people do ask you to prove who you are, and to be able to with the card is helpful. It's being part of an organisation where you know that you've achieved a certain level, they don't have anybody and I think that's part of the attraction, really.”
This sentiment was echoed by Richard: “It's an institution that was something I aspired to. The Guild have always provided an ID card, which is also invaluable when we're knocking on doors… To have some sort of way of saying I'm part of this and this is a respected institution, you can find them and can check them up - It was something I was really proud of when I joined.”
Richard continues: “I don't think I'd ever give up my membership because of the fact that you run an availability service, the Step Up to Production Manager training course that I’ve done, and having available job opportunities on the website.”