A location scout who sources stunning scenery across Europe for movies and ads explains what a typical day looks like and how to break into the industry

Location Manager, Eugene Strange

Eugene Strange is a location manager and the director of the UK location company Salt

He manages the sourcing and maintenance of film and ad locations across the UK and Europe. He’s managed locations on commercials for the likes of Nike and Sony and has worked with stars such as David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson.

Unlike many people in the industry, Strange didn’t go to film school. He got his start as a runner, carrying out basic assistance on set, before moving to location scouting after shadowing senior location staff.

The location-scouting process is still "one of the most enjoyable parts of the job," Strange said. He’s spent a lot of time in the Scottish Highlands, and he said one memorable scouting experience was driving from Paris to the south of France, scouting a scenic route for Jude Law to drive in a Dior campaign. 

He walked Insider through a typical day on set and shared tips on how to get a start in the industry. 

Strange has an early wake-up call

An image of fields at sunrise.

"On a filming day, I get up at 4 or 5 a.m. to be the first on location to see the caterers in at around 6 a.m.," he said. 

Morning filming runs between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

A residential street covered in purple wrap for a film shoot.

Many of the sets Strange scouts and manages are houses, so he’s on hand during each shoot to make sure the homeowners are being looked after. 

"The key part of the job is making sure that the location is happy when you leave, and you haven’t trashed that place," he said. 

The typical lunch break is between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. 

An image of hills with actors in costume marching across the land.

​​"You get a choice of three main courses and three puddings, and afternoon tea sandwiches, cakes, snacks, and tea and coffee on tap," Strange said.

Shooting usually runs until 7 p.m.

A photo of a block of flats behind a football court.

Strange is on set at all times in case something disruptive happens. 

"Sometimes you can be filming in a street and suddenly there’s filming taking place that you need to persuade to stop, or there’s a lawnmower two streets down that we need to find," he said. 

When filming in residential areas, Strange has to placate the locals. 

"At the end, we knock on doors and give people bottles of wine for putting up with the sheer volume of people on the street," he said. Sometimes this goes further, such as handing out blackout blinds when filming into the night with lights, he added. 

How to get into the location business

An image showing blue water, hills, and trees.At the start of each project, Strange takes his brief, and the first step is sourcing the location. His access to a network of location managers and location libraries helps narrow the search. 

"Every location under the sun is pretty much in a location library," he said. 

The key thing for Strange while at prospective locations is to take accurate photographs that can easily be sent to directors and clients via instant messaging while still on location. 

Once a location is given the nod, he speaks to councils and landowners for permission, is involved in drafting the contracts, and makes sure the site is ready for a host of trucks and crew to arrive. 

Strange’s first job as a junior location scout was to find a fairground for a commercial, which saw him ringing around fairground operators to see where shows were taking place, and then approaching landowners and councils for permission to film. 

He said that in the location world, junior scouts are often thrown into the deep end, and that the good ones "learn quickly." 

The latest Advertising Producers Association day rate for a location manager on a television commercial is $685.78 (501 pounds).

"In the grand scheme, we don’t get paid what a director of photography or a production designer might get paid," Strange said.

He added, "I would say I certainly get paid way more than the average wage in the country."

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Molly Innes July 27, 2021 at 03:33PM

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