Location Managers Guild International

Spring 2020

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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L ocation manager Daniel Lee/LMGI has always been an artsy-type. Raised in Manha an by a mother who worked in the fashion industry, he a ended the LaGuardia Performing Arts High School and started college at Hofstra University while working occasionally as a runway model. It was during his time at Hofstra that he began to turn his a ention toward fi lm, and his growing interest in the medium would eventually send him nearly three thousand miles across the U.S. "Hofstra had a fi lm department," said Lee, "but it wasn't an art school and by that time, I was used to being around artists and creative folks." Feeling more and more out of place at Hofstra, he sought other possibilities. His mother was originally from Oakland, and he'd spent some time on the West Coast as a kid, so California seemed like it might be a good place to try out. "I ended up transferring to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. I think moving to California was always something that was on my mind," he said, "and being around other quirky artists who didn't follow the norm … more eccentric types … was defi nitely more my style." By that time, Lee had taken a deep dive into fi lm—mostly kung fu movies—and, as his taste expanded, he began to seek out a way to make fi lm his career. It didn't take long. He ended up getting a job as a production assistant on the Will Smith movie The Pursuit of Happyness and worked on a few indie movies and commercials after that, but things changed for him when he got to a job in the production offi ce on the Gus Van Sant feature Milk. The scale of the fi lm, about slain civil rights leader and San Francisco hero Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn), was eye-opening for Lee and the reception of the fi lm by audiences and the industry alike (Milk was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning two, including Best Actor for Penn) had a profound effect on him. It was a diffi cult job but the satisfaction he felt at the end of the shoot gave him a hunger for more. "In my experience, the harder, more grueling production often tends to be better in the end and that was defi nitely the case with Milk," said Lee. "I think that the more emotional currency you invest into a project makes it a better project … whereas a project that maybe pays you more where you're less emotionally invested, never seems to work out that well." Lee took that mindset forward as he moved into the Location Department, a move borne out of an unlikely scenario. How Partying Can Lead to the Location Department After a few years of working as a PA and offi ce assistant, Lee found himself in high demand whenever big shows came to the Bay Area and, at that time, working for just 11 or so days on a PA salary would pay all of his expenses. "I was working a lot and most of what I was making was just savings or party money," said Lee. Flush with spare cash, Lee was going out as much as six nights a week partying even though he was always the sober member of the group. Being the sober guy meant that he was counted on to be the designated driver for whoever he was partying with. "This is before every cellphone had a GPS," he explained, "and I was just driving around a lot and constantly going to different places all over the city." A typical night would start at a friend's house. From there, the group would pile into Lee's car and head off to meet up with some more people before heading to a nightclub. After shutting down the nightclub, they'd often head to another house to meet a new group of people. "Someone would write an address on a beer-stained napkin and I would just fumble my way to these different houses all over the city," Lee laughed. "I got lost a ton of times, but eventually, I just stopped getting lost and got really good at making my way around the city." All photos courtesy of A24, except as noted.

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