Location Scouting

By Bong Ray Yang

08 March 2022


In film production, location scouting is finding places to shoot commercials, television shows, or movies. A location manager (or scout) searches for interior or exterior venues to serve as the setting for scenes depicted in a script. Location scouting is an important part of the preproduction process.

When needed, most of the research, location visits, photography, and documenting is done by the location scout before they do a visit. They find and visit properties to determine the usability for production and work with the owners for permission to use the space for filming.

Location scouting is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking and it is crucial to see a space beforehand to ascertain whether it’s suitable or not for a shoot. 

Location selection is one of the most important aspects of a successful production as it is crucial to see a space beforehand to ascertain whether it’s suitable or not for a shoot.  

Finding the perfect location takes time and a good amount of professional research. Location scouts get the opportunity to cast locations that match both the script and the vision of the Director. In some cases, the script may affect the locations and likewise, the location may affect how the script is being portrayed. For example, it may affect the approach, tone, cinematography, style, and aesthetic of the project as well as making sure to tailor to the Director’s Storyboard.

Smooth?… not so…

Based on the SCOUTING video for reference, being a location scouting isn’t always smooth and easy even after research. The places that they may want may sometimes be unavailable, costly, worn down and some places have nice settings but the sound coming from traffic may also be a blockage in their locating scouting journey.

On most scouts, there is usually a crew that will be usually going together with the Location Scouter, namely the Director, Location manager, 1st AD, Producer, PM/UPM, Production Designer and the transportation coordinator.

Good Location scouting habits

  • Time your visit properly
  • Take notes
  • Have a contact at each location
  • Take photos and videos
  • Have your permit handy
  • Double up
  • Consult satellite imagery of locations
  • Based on this few points, lets focus on Taking Notes

Taking Notes during Location Scouting

In my opinion, taking notes during a Location Scout is important because we can take down important notes that we might forget. Sometimes taking down how the environment may affect the shoot, the tree coverage, potential hazards, nearest electricity source, listing down the positive points of the location site etc… Small details like this may add up and be put to good use when needed.

After finding as many locations for the director, the director will sort through the locations with his team to filter out the most applicable locations.

What to look for on a scout?

  • The actual requirements that the location needs
  • What time does the unit need to be wrapped out
  • What time can we get into the location 
  • How accessible is the location for equipment’s (e.g: loading docks, elevators)
  • What are the noise factors
  • Do we need to place lights outside the streets
  • What other scenes can be shot in this location or nearby
  • How close to the location can we get
  • Check if there is parking spaces
  • What are the neighbourhood curfew 
  • Where will they have lunch
  • Can they shoot at night

I have identified that to be able to succeed in being a Location Scouter, they often share unique personality traits. 

Anyone with the following characteristics may be well-suited to a location scout role: 

  • Creativity and strong aesthetic instincts for imagining the potential of different   locations 
  • Patience for listening to different wants and concerns 
  • Flexibility for adapting to suit director and screenwriter requirements 
  • Punctuality to ensure productions meet their shooting schedules 
  • Physical fitness for hiking to remote locations 
  • Commitment to continue observing potential locations, even if they are between projects 
  • Realistic to ensure they make smart decisions for productions rather than letting their feelings for a location get in the way

Courtesy to Studiobinder