Thursday, October 20, 2011

Awards and awards...

 So what's a parking lot got to do with this blog?

The LA Times carried a story yesterday about an awards ceremony for location managers who find locations for movies.

My first reaction was; more awards shows? And this time for location managers? The Academy awards are already losing the audience and no doubt part of it are the dozen or so awards that precede the Oscars.

You have the Foreign Critics awards, the SAG awards, the DGA awards, the Spirit Awards and least noticeable, the WGA awards. Toss in a few others and there's just too many award shows that by the time the Oscars roll by, you've been beaten into the ground by hundreds of acceptance speeches. 

All of the Academy awards are creative, be that writing, directing, filming, sound, etc. You know the categories. Each of them features a person or persons who create something, be it words, sound, CGI, music, whatever. But the key word here is create.

Location managers find locations. You need a house that looks spooky, it's the location manager, you need a street blocked off, that's the location manager. They look for locations that both the screenplay and the director dictate.

Is the job creative? Well, the definition of creativity in Websters is this: 

"To cause to come into being". 

A writer creates a script, a director creates a movie, an actor creates a part. And so on.

So does finding a warehouse to film in a creative job? One can certainly argue that by finding a location the location manager is creative. But once the location is arranged a whole team of designers roll in and create whatever the location is supposed to be; a warehouse or a bad guy's laboratory or even Mars, as what the production designer did for a screenplay I rewrote called Escape from Mars.

You know what the most important thing is to a location manager? More important than even the location sometimes?


A friend of mine who does locations in Vancouver on big movies says he salivates everytime he passes an empty parking lot. Why? Because a location with no parking is no good. Not only do you have trucks and vans and big semi's, but you also have crew vehicles, people drive to the location and need parking.

How do I know this?

Because I was location manager on a feature a few years ago. I was helping out a friend who was producing a movie and I said I'd help out. After all, how hard is finding a location?

It wasn't long before I realized that not only did I have to find the right location, I had to find parking close enough that it wouldn't take away filming time by having to transport crew back and forth from a mile away.

Now you'd think parking lots are everywhere. But they're not and it took me a week to figure out the best places: 

Schools and churches.

Churches are better because they're only used on week-ends and they can use the extra money. Schools are harder and more expensive because they belong to the city.

A parking lot at a church could go for $500 too $1000 if you plead with them, school parking is upwards of thousands of dollars because you need $2 million insurance policies. And if you want to film at a city school... well, get ready to shell out a lot of money.

I spent as much time looking for parking lots as I did for locations and you learn to deal with people as everyone out there thinks movies have tons of money to spend.

So, back to the awards.

The location manager's awards ceremony was helped by the location representatives for the city and state and even other states as a reward of sorts for the location managers finding locations for their movies. These government agencies depend on location managers finding locations in their district, city, state or country.  So the awards are slightly biased in that each side needs the other.

And there are other film categories that want to be included in awards, especially the oscars. That's the casting agencies who cast actors for movies. Again it's a somewhat unclear category, a good actor comes to a casting agent who casts them but is it a creative thing? Ultimately the final choice is made by the director and producers.

I guess that these points can be argued back and forth but I'm reminded of something a friend of mine once said; 

All you really need to make a movie are three things; a script, an actor and a camera. 

Sure, you have a 10-person crew or a two hundred person crew, but the only ones really making the movie are the writer, the actor and the cameraman. Okay and maybe the director but even there, the director can also shoot the movie.

BTW the winner of the Location Manager awards was a woman who was about to lose a location because of safety reasons and she managed to get a crew to clean it up and pass the city ordinances so the movie could be filmed there.  

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