Skip to main content

Blowing up houses and scaling mountains: Hollywood location scouts share what the job really means

"Location managing is the most fun job you can have with your clothes on."

Location Managers Guild International
Image credit: Location Managers Guild International

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I’ve been chased around parks by drug dealers; I’ve been escorted off properties and literally rescued off of a side of a mountain. I’ve been to jail and I’ve been shot at,” said Captain Marvel and Suicide Squad location manager Ilt Jones, “ And literally none of that is as unnerving as being here in front of you all. “

From the sounds of it, there are few better sentiments that sum up what, exactly, location managers in Hollywood do than what Jones described, and on the Hollywood Location Scouts panel recently at San Diego Comic Con 2023 a full panel room were graced with exactly what that entails. Let’s be honest — it’s not exactly a job that most people think of when it comes to the glamor and glitz of the film world; but from the sounds of it, the process of what location managers do is something of an artistic adventure in and of itself. First, of course, it all begins with an idea and a script.

“We read that script and boil it down to how it might exist in the world. That takes a lot of research. Is it going to be in Ireland? Atlanta? Calgary? What places in the world do we know that fit the feel of this? Where is that cave that the writer wants? Where have I seen a house like this before?” explained She-Hulk location manager Andrea Keener.

“The fun part for me though is going out and finding these locations and adding my own ideas for what will work best for the writers’ vision. You turn down a street that people don’t normally pay attention to. You find a place that doesn’t have the staircase that the author wants, but there’s a magnificent doorway that could really make the atmosphere. There’s some textural and artistic to present in all of these things. And it’s all about seeing where those camera angles can go within these places. It’s about bringing these conversations and characters to a real place and making it something new.”

“It’s all about breaking it down,” added Matt Palmer, location manager for shows such as The Last of Us and The Stand. “You pay attention to architecture and you look through the location files and you find ways to sometimes have to bring time periods back to life. Sometimes you’re going to make Vancouver look like Korea. So where can we make that happen?”

So for every suburban house blown up in a Marvel movie, every mossy-building in post-apocalyptic worlds, or diner scene with just the right amount of tension, there has been an entire world of searching to make that happen.

CHeck out our full coverage from SDCC 2023 here.