LOCATION MANAGER: Matthew Kania
Matthew Kania is a Location Manager whose credits include the films "Paterson" and "Wonderstruck". He is currently working on the Netflix series "Seven Seconds".
Many things have changed since I started working on tv and film productions in New York over 15 years ago. Location agreements and contracts have doubled in length. Liability and safety concerns present themselves more frequently. Even simple permissions such as lowering flags and placing set dressing on stoops can now quickly become difficult tasks.
However, the collaboration between Production Designers and Location Managers has remained constant. At the beginning of each job we still take the same steps together. We mobilize the scouts so they can search as efficiently as possible. We determine the reality of bringing the pages before the camera. We lay the very groundwork for the foundation of the aesthetic.
Sometimes we huddle together with no shelter (pre-production office). And sometimes we spend an inordinate amount of time trapped in a car together, awkward silence included. This is one of the points in pre-production where a location manager is really included in the creative process.
With so many tasks of our trade having transitioned to digital, it seemed for a time that the relationship between designers and managers might lessen. We no longer spend countless film rolls or manually tape pictures to constructed folder for presentation in person. We no longer lug banker’s boxes full of location folders to and from the office for reviews. But despite the simplification of these image transfers and presentations I still interact with the designer more so than any other department head.
Once we move further into pre-production, the relationship is easily tested. With budgetary constraints many times taking priority, labor and resources weighted against the logistics of a shooting location can be off-balance. But in many instances this causes an even closer alliance as we strive to give the production the time and space it needs.
I have had the privilege to work with a truly experienced and talented group of designers in my career so far. Designers who I like scouting with make the work feel more exploratory instead of simple trial and error. A passionate designer can quickly become a tour guide into aspects of the city that are surprisingly foreign to me, despite my experience.
A location manager I worked for once said that in New York more than anywhere else, the location department is an extension of the Art Department. This feels truer every time I begin breaking down the script. Especially since the designer is many times the first person outside of my department that I share it with.
LOCATION MANAGER: Nick Rafferty
Nick Rafferty is a Chicago-based location manager working in tv and film. His most recent collaboration was with Adam Stockhausen on Steve McQueen’s upcoming "Widows" feature film.
My job always begins with a phone call, which often comes out of nowhere, but never fails to send you someplace new and unexpected. Even if you are covering the same ground, scouting the same city, you are seeing it again for the first time, through new eyes. You are wearing the eyes of the production designer and seeing the landscape through the lens of the script.
When you start on a project, the possibilities are infinite, and the first step is to develop a common language with the designer, to understand what they are going for. That often begins with a conversation, but it's not until you start communicating through images that you begin to understand each other. Sometimes the designer will provide reference photos or concept art. Sometimes you start by photographing the actual scripted places for research. And sometimes the designer just wants to jump in the car and begin to see the place as you do. But the moment you land on something that speaks to their vision, it's a beautiful connection.
The best part of my job is to have a seat, front and center, to the creative process. Every director works differently, and every project is unique. But the one thing that remains the same is that you begin with an idea and translate it from page to place. It's always a journey, and the designer is your captain.
A great location manager has the charisma to tame a lion and skin as thick as a rhinoceros. Every project will have its victories and defeats. Being able to bounce back with a solution is the key to survival. On any given day a location manager must be able to cut a deal with a pawnshop, forge a connection with a cemetery gravedigger, or talk your way onto the rooftop of a skyscraper. Often all in the same day. In the end, a mercurial director or a demanding designer is really no contest compared to what we have to overcome out there in the real world. Levity and a good scout lunch work wonders with the lions.