Our first LS Productions Team Tuesday is our fantastic, retro and highly specialised Location Manager Amy.
Amy and I sit down at the LS Productions kitchen table for a cup of tea and a chat. Having worked in close proximity in the 10 months since she started at the company; I feel I know Amy pretty well. Five biscuits and some in-depth conversation later, and I realise that there’s much about her I don’t yet know, not least of which that she’s met and worked with Joss Whedon; “A cool guy. Very down to earth.”… And that’s just for starters.
Between pulling locations for jobs, attending forums on the future of Scotland’s creative industries and working on scouting every nook and cranny of the UK she can muster; it’s been hard to pin this one down.
Having started at LS Productions in February 2015, Amy has since revitalised the locations arm of The Company, growing it into a fully-fledged Locations Department with the clout and pulling power among the best in the country. It’s certainly one of the largest, with over 100,000 photographs and more than 1,250 locations. She’s inquisitive, hard working, organised and most definitely a people-person – everything that she says makes for a good Location Manager.
So how did she get here? Originally from London, Amy had trained in Drama and Set Design before gaining work experience, making props, set dressing and, finally, moving into work for an art department on features such as the early drama Katherine of Alexandria with Peter O’Toole. She confesses that this was completely by accident: “I had a friend who worked on the production, and they were in need of art department to help create a Roman Base Camp. I helped them prep, set design the base camp and set builds. It was brilliant to see how creative you can be and what you can achieve on such a low budget.” From that point, she was hooked. “I started to do some freebies for set designers, art directors, work here and there. To work in moving image I had to work my way up again, start from scratch and make new contacts.” She jobbed her way up to Assistant Art Director, before freelancing and finally switching into locations. “It wasn’t a conscious decision, but it combined everything I like and had knowledge of: photography, architecture, landscapes, an understanding of production and the industry, creative input and – geekily – the legal side. I really like doing the permits and hire agreements.”
Big Feature films Amy has since worked on include Legend, Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon) and The Inbetweeners II, as well as TV shows such as 24 and adverts for brands including Adidas, Nissan, Audi and Santander. So not too much, then… “I really enjoy working on projects of that size, but the considerations are so much higher. When scouting locations for such large features you have to really think with your practical hat on; there are huge crews, big stunts, locations being used for weeks on end; stills shoots can be more flexible. There are long lead times, a project may start with just the Director and Location Manager liaising, scouting, seeing what would work and what wouldn’t. It’s exciting; working for these big location agencies in London gives you access to exclusive buildings and places that you perhaps would never else get access to.”
One of her favourites of these locations is an old vinyl factory in London that she used to represent for filming. “It was a crazy, old abandoned factory. Directors loved it because they could get a fantastic 360 view around the space from wherever they were positioned. We did a tech recce there for Avengers.”
Amy moved to Scotland from London in the autumn of 2014, with her boyfriend James (whom she met whilst working for the large Locations Agency “The Collective”), embarking on a life up North very different to that in London. He started a Masters in Brewing at Heriot Watt, and she a highly competitive Assistant Location Manager Training Scheme with the Production Guild. She says that Edinburgh has many of the pro’s but few of the con’s of London. With it’s fantastic culture, museums, events, festivals, proximity to the outdoors and its social atmosphere; Edinburgh is somewhere Amy can definitely imagine staying. So much so that she has decided to book in surfing and skiing classes from January. “James and I have talked about giving each other them as gifts for Christmas.”
This renewed passion for the outdoors filters into her work, as it should. “The industry here is smaller than in London, but the locations in Scotland can be so much more incredible and varied. When working down south we didn’t venture too much further than the M25, but here we have Glencoe, the Highlands…” Amy did much research of the Film and TV industry in Scotland before the move (“There’s definitely a buzz about what’s going on up here; there’s a different culture in London,”), and so stumbled upon LS Productions (then Location Scotland), before deciding to apply for a job.
“It’s a funny story really… I sent in the world’s worst application for a job in production, but it was pretty obvious where my passion lay. I met with Marie, Sarah and Michelle, and only talked about locations. Needless to say, I didn’t get that job…” All clearly wasn’t lost; a few months later and a spot freelancing in LS locations opened up. Her first job was the TV advert for Peugeot, freelance became permanent and the rest, as they say, is Amy Morement history. “For me it’s the perfect job, I still get to be on set and location managing, but I love working with location owners so much and also working on the database, scouting; it combines everything I like really.”
“I was also really struck by how the team is like a family. Everyone is friendly, interested in you, you instantly walk in and feel at home. There’s something about it; they always hire really special people, with a similar work ethic and friendly, open attitudes. For me, having only recently moved here, it was a great welcome.”
"There’s something about [LS Productions]; they always hire really special people."
So what does a typical day look like now? “When I’m in the office I’m putting forward location packages for clients, options for live jobs, working on the library, sending out scouts… We're very much focused on developing a database across the UK, working with regional scouts, location managers and location owners to unearth the best locations for the database, rich in both images and invaluable information. We are also working hard to build a collection of exclusive locations to expand our offering to both location owners and to the film and TV drama industry.” What about on set? “As a Location Manager you’re always the first person on set and the last person to leave. Many things fall under your responsibility, from prepping the location, setting up a unit base, holding areas, green rooms, security, power, logistics, dealing with department requests from the tech recce. Your job is to make sure that everything runs smoothly. You’re one of the few departments that are in constant conversation with other departments, the location owner or representative, the client. It’s important to build that sense of camaraderie, but you’re always answerable to someone and need to do a great job.”
“I once got told something that stayed with me: “The sign of a good location manager is that you don’t know their name.” You shouldn’t need to ask for them.”
On seeing the films, commercials and shoots she’s worked on: “I always just feel very proud. I feel like often when you’re putting locations forward you have to have quite a lot of vision, and it’s nice when everyone’s vision comes together to make that realised. Even if the final result isn’t what you expected it to look like, whether your input was big or small, you helped make that production happen and it wouldn’t look that way if you hadn’t been there. So yeah, pride. The only thing I would say is that I can’t watch TV in the same way again – I’m always just looking at the locations and trying to figure out where they are.”
So what is next for Amy and the LS Productions Locations Department? “I see a strong in-house location team, hopefully helping to introduce new people to the location department, both in-house and on set, and work with assistants to give them the support they need and bring them up through the industry. I would like my department to be renowned for their knowledge of our locations database and their ability to manage a location on set. Our knowledge of locations in Scotland is already incredible but I want it to be unrivalled. Watch this space.”