How to become a location manager (with role requirements)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The role of a location manager involves turning a script into an on-screen reality by finding various shooting locations and securing filming permits. If you're passionate about working in film or television production, becoming a location manager can be a lucrative, esteemed and rewarding career path. Before deciding whether this role is suitable for you, it's important to understand what the job entails and what its requirements are. In this article, we define what a location manager is, describe how to become a location manager and explain what you require to secure the job.

What is a location manager?

If you want to know how to become a location manager, it's beneficial to understand the role. The location manager is one of the most important roles in film and television production. They supervise scouting crews as they work to secure various shooting locations. The role comes with many responsibilities, from securing on-site permits to addressing location safety assessments and organising transportation to and from sites. Although this role may vary depending on the company you work for and the requirements of the shoot, all location managers have the following general responsibilities:

Finding and securing filming locations

The most important responsibility of a location manager is ensuring that the production has everything it requires to shoot a scene. This involves finding and booking on-site locations, determining the logistical needs of the shoot, obtaining permits and representing the production team to external stakeholders and the public. Because of these high-level responsibilities, a location manager is a senior position.

Related: A complete guide to the film production management process

Breaking down the needs of the script

Location managers work closely with production designers and directors to understand the project's vision. The location manager discerns the tone and mood of a scene and translates this into reality by determining suitable locations. After determining these needs, the location manager hires and works closely with a team of people to secure the required locations.

Negotiating budgets and fees

A location manager abides by the production team's budget to hire the people they require for their teams, such as assistant managers, unit managers, runners and location assistants. They also work closely with line producers to calculate location costs and coordinate schedules and budgets for the shoot. This includes negotiating fees, such as transportation, storage and parking fees, with different locations and property owners.

Related: A step-by-step guide on how to get into the film industry

How to become a location manager

If this role appeals to you, you may wonder how to become a location manager. While there are several different ways to become a location manager, the following are the most important steps to take:

1. Obtain a relevant degree

Although you can become a location manager based on your prior experience in the television and film industry, obtaining a relevant degree can increase your chances of securing the role. There are several degrees that are relevant to the career but pursuing one that focuses on media or film is beneficial. For example, you may earn a degree in film and television, broadcasting production, film and television production or communication and media studies. Before choosing a degree, discuss your options with a career counsellor to determine which is the most appropriate for a career in location management.

2. Gain practical experience

A location manager develops their skill set by gaining invaluable experience on-site, so it's important to involve yourself in local productions. There are various ways to gain experience. For example, you can apply for internships for entry-level positions such as location scout, production assistant or runner. You could also do voluntary work or find a mentorship. These hands-on experiences can introduce you to the requirements of the industry and prepare you for the complexity of a location manager role in the future.

Related: How to become a production assistant (plus skills and duties)

3. Develop a professional network

Learning to network and grow your professional circle of contacts early can help you become a location manager, as it allows you to build your reputation in the industry. There are several ways to do this. For example, you might attend professional conferences and events or relocate to major hubs of television and film production. Learning how to build professional connections and communicate with directors and writers can help you get work and grow your presence in the industry.

4. Develop a professional portfolio

Compiling your educational projects and previous jobs into a professional portfolio can prepare you for new jobs or networking opportunities by giving prospective employers an idea of your experience. Your portfolio can include the projects you've worked on, their outcomes and any professional references from writers or directors you've received. Presenting these to new contacts or employers allows them to immediately understand the depth of your knowledge in the industry and help you secure future work.

5. Apply for location manager roles

Once you have the appropriate education and experience, you can start applying for location manager jobs. Many types of projects require location managers, including independent productions, community film or television productions, large-scale film production companies, educational production companies and advertising production firms. You can search for jobs through different online platforms. Start by offering freelance work or getting in touch with your professional contacts and enquiring about any roles they know of.

Related: What can I do with a media studies degree? An overview

The most important duties of a location manager

Because location managers have many responsibilities, their daily routine may vary drastically. The following are some of the most common and important duties of a location manager:

  • Determining shoot locations: Although this involves many sub-tasks and requires several team members to accomplish, determining shoot locations is the primary duty of a location manager. This includes everything from understanding the director's artistic vision to figuring out which site to shoot on.

  • Hiring a location team: A location manager is responsible for hiring a team that can ensure the success of a shoot. Team members can include location assistants, runners and even clean-up crews.

  • Managing the shoot site: Location managers deal with any issues that arise during the shoot. This can include problems relating to daily logistics, such as organising the team's schedule, or communicating with local authorities regarding permits.

  • Managing site clean-up: After the shoot is complete, the location manager ensures that the site returns to its pre-production state. This is especially important when filming in natural locations where environmental permits and legislation may require you to enforce specific clean-up procedures.

Related: How to become a showrunner: definition, steps and benefits

The most important skills for a location manager

Location managers perform many different tasks simultaneously. This means they require a solid, well-rounded set of skills to succeed. The following is a list of the most important skills for a role as a location manager:

  • Organisational and planning skills: Location managers organise teams of people to scout locations and secure the correct permits to turn those locations into film and television sets. This role requires attention to detail, organisational and planning skills, time management skills and administrative prowess.

  • Communication skills: Because location managers oversee a large team of people and negotiate with various people regarding sites, communication skills are necessary. Location managers often work with a diverse group of people on each site, including their team, external and internal stakeholders, the general public, private landowners and permit developers.

  • Trustworthiness and dependability: Because this is a senior role with many responsibilities, location managers are typically trustworthy, so their team members, production staff and stakeholders can rely on them. They require the ability to adapt to ensure that they meet everyone's needs while producing a successful shoot.

  • Leadership skills: A location manager allocates various tasks to different members of their team and ensures that they complete these tasks efficiently. This requires taking control over complex situations, mitigating issues that arise and communicating with people with both authority and approachability.

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