If a film crew is a rock band, then the location manager is the room service attendant who has to clean up after the band has trashed the hotel suite in an orgy of drugs and mayhem.
Locations is the Achilles heel of low-budget films, in part because it supports all the departments. The director, DP and production designer want to repaint the walls. The sound mixer wants to turn off the fridge. The grips need to stage their stands, and the best boy electric needs to tie in to the breaker box. Hair/makeup need space to set up their chairs and mirrors. Wardrobe needs a place for the actors to change. The cast needs a holding area. Production needs a copy machine. Everyone needs an outlet and an extension cord. The locations department has to satisfy all these needs, as well as:
- Obtaining permits
- Garbage collection
- Location protection
- Rental contracts
- Neighbor/owner relations
- Sourcing nearest hospital, hardware store, copy shop, supermarket, etc.
- Bathrooms - finding and stocking them; or renting them
This is hard, critical work. Producers can make it easier by doing the following:
1. Plan for garbage collection.
A medium-sized set (30-40 people) can easily fill one 3 cubic yard dumpster PER DAY. On low budget films the location manager often ends up overfilling the building's own dumpster or cans, which annoys the neighbors and leads to unpleasant smells. Research local cartage companies instead. They're not expensive. Also, get the larger, thicker garbage and recycling bags.
2. Get involved in cleanup.
Everyone should be responsible for cleaning up their areas. Make sure all the departments have bags nearby, and lead by example - pick up a broom on the first day.
3. Go small.
Buy the "grenade-size" water bottles and bite-size crafty snacks, or use big water jugs and cups. Pint bottles tend to accumulate, forgotten and half-full.
4. Protect the space.
Put butcher paper, rubber mats, or corrugated cardboard over the floors (secured with nonstick painter's tape). Wrap sound blankets around items, banisters or surfaces that might get 'dinged.' Put mud mats down when it rains. Budget for these items!
5. Give cash.
Location managers tend to need it for gas, tolls, fuses, neighbor/ice cream truck bribes, parking meters, security guards, and off-set meals. It's generally better to give the manager a float and then re-up it based on receipt turnaround, rather than have him/her go out of pocket first.
Following these suggestions will keep the neighbors away, the owners happy, and you from getting hit with damage claims. Give your location manager some love!