Location Managers Guild International

Fall 2018

The Location Managers Guild International (LMGI) is the largest organization of Location Managers and Location Scouts in the motion picture, television, commercial and print production industries. Their membership plays a vital role in the creativ

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16 • LMGI COMPASS | Fall 2018 Wing, an eight-part comedy series set in a busy hospital. Ed, the South African location manager, had forgiven me for my poor start. He got me onboard this nine-month production as the assistant location manager. The concept was to film in a working hospital for the authenticity of the environment. After weeks of scouting, I finally found a hospital willing to host us during the workweek but with many conditions attached. We had quite a few more locations to find but Ed, with two weeks to go, decided he couldn't face this six-month shoot and resigned. Here was my open door … I stepped through and convinced skeptical producers I could manage this long and complex shoot. All I remember is working seven days a week, losing a major location with two days to go (not my fault), having my assistant fired (to this day, I still don't know why), being so ill during the two weeks' hiatus that I nearly could not return, sleeping in my car, getting calls from the facilities drivers at 2 a.m. as I had no unit manager, locked gates, cutting padlocks, doing my own street reservations and rushing back to the hospital to stop us being thrown out, on more than one occasion. At the end, I didn't work for about three months afterward due to exhaustion. But I survived. Since then, I never looked back, and one job led to another, the next being The Thick of It, a BBC political comedy series written and directed by Armando Iannucci, which eventually led to my managing feature films. The brief was simple: three 30-minute shows set in 10 Downing Street and an anonymous office block for a government department. Armando wanted to shoot in sequence, so he wanted one site to handle both locations. I found it in the disused Guinness Brewery in West London, now sadly demolished. Three years later, after assisting on a couple of films, I received a call from a line producer. Armando was making a film version of his successful political comedy; was I interested in location managing it? And so, In the Loop was my first film as location manager. I loved it. I had to find locations to illustrate the political landscape of London and the UN building in New York. This was one of my best scouts, looking Tom Howard (left) with Sigmund Elias Holm, Norway Film Commissioner, on Fam Tour of Norway. Photo: Lori Balton/LMGI for mid-century architecture. London is blessed with amazing buildings from this period and I scouted as many as I could. Finally, we settled on three unique buildings to make up the United Nations: the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal College of Physicians and the TUC Building. One of my favorite film days was turning the lobby and ballroom of the Royal Festival Hall into the public lobby of the UN. Confused public walked through this busy space, UN logos and signage covered the usual Festival Hall signage with Peter Capaldi striding through performing his best Malcolm Tucker expletive enforcer speech on his phone. It was a truly startled public we captured on camera, leaving us in tears of laughter from hidden-camera positions. My first experience of filming abroad came with the TV movie Turks & Caicos from renowned playwright and director Sir David Hare. We hit it off on a TV drama called Page Eight, starring Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz. David had written a screenplay about a middle-aged spy, Johnny Worricker, caught with a comprising file implicating the Prime Minister in illegal rendition. Shot like a film, the final day was in Stanstead Airport, Johnny on his way out of the country with the file. David stated he was going to shoot three different endings, one of which left the story open. Screened on BBC2 and buried in the evening schedule, it still received rave reviews and it had the open ending. Where in the world would the spy hide with the file? Two years later, I found out. David called, asking if I had ever been to the Turks & Caicos. My initial thought was I had to replicate a Caribbean island in the UK. "I would like you to go to the Turks & Caicos next month as I want to film at the hotel I stayed in when writing these scripts." The Caribbean in January, I couldn't believe my ears!! Producer Celia Duval asked if David had mentioned the locations he wanted to feature. The best bit was David holidayed in an Aman resort made up of pavilions set in acres of woodlands and pools. It was a bit make or break, if we didn't get this resort, David would be very disappointed to relocate the drama. He told the financiers that if we didn't shoot in the Caribbean, then perhaps he would not want to make it … high stakes then. The producer made an initial call to Aman HQ in Howard on Fam Tour of Norway. Photo: Lori Balton/LMGI

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