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Job Title: Location Manager

Job Overview

Location managers are responsible for finding potential shooting locations and arranging for permission to shoot in those locations, including obtaining the necessary city and state permits and licenses. Additionally, they may oversee any location scouts used to do the legwork of finding and photographing potential sites.

Special Skills

Successful location managers are tenacious problem solvers. They must listen well, follow instructions, and be able to negotiate with people. “The ability to listen to what others have to say and having a good sense of humor has helped me,” says former location manager Charlie Baxter. “I'm pretty easygoing.”

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

Baxter suggests working as a production assistant as the best way to begin your career in filmmaking. “Start in a position that allows you to see what other people do.” Offer to work for the location manager for free, so that you can learn firsthand what they do, then work your way up the ranks. “It's a hard business to get into if you don't live in L.A. or New York, and it's a hard business to get into if you do live in L.A. or New York. You just have to go out and try and hook up with people. It's all about personalities. If you get along well with people and they like your attitude and your energy, they'll recognize that.”

Professional Profile: Charlie Baxter, Production Manager, New Dominion Pictures, and former Location Manager

A Virginia native, Charles Baxter earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “My plan was to work in theater, regional and national theaters, as an actor and ultimately as a director.”

While auditioning as an extra for the television miniseries Kennedy, Baxter was offered a job that changed the course of his career plan. “I had just gotten out of college and went down to this big audition for extras. It was in a high school gymnasium. There were about 3,000 people there.” Seated in the bleachers were a few members of the production crew: the location manager, production manager, and publicist. They asked Baxter what he was doing at the audition, and that if he really wanted work, to give them his name and telephone number. He later received a call offering him work as a production assistant.

“I hadn't really thought about film until I took that job. I was making $25 bucks a day and no per diem.” Toward the end of the first week, he was sent to Washington, D.C., with the rest of the production. There he shared a hotel room with two other crew members, still making only $25 a day. Filming returned to Richmond for another month, and then went on to West Palm Beach, Florida. Baxter was again asked to go along. The offer paid for airfare and hotel accommodations, but included neither a wage increase nor per diem. He took it. The final location was in New York and although Baxter was invited to continue working on the film, the budget would not allow him a hotel room. Fortunately, he had made friends with crew members who lived in the city and they offered him a place to stay. “It was a great experience. I didn't make any money, but I got to see all the different jobs available. I was smitten by the time I returned to Richmond. I let it be known to other production companies that this was a business I wanted to be in.”

Baxter found work as a production assistant with several local production companies. About nine months passed, and the same location manager who had hired him for Kennedy called to offer him an assistant location manager position on The Murder of Mary Phagen miniseries.

Baxter continued to make connections, establishing a reputation for being dependable and hard working, while he scouted locations for local production companies. He was hired as assistant location manager when the NBC miniseries Gore Vidal's Lincoln came to Richmond. Three weeks into the shoot, the location manager was let go and Baxter was offered the job.

“Trying to be a location manager outside of New York or L.A. is a catch-22 in a major way. Nobody is going to hire you if you don't have experience, and how are you going to get experience if nobody is ever going to hire you? They took a chance.”

As production on Lincoln wound down, one of the show's producers offered him the job of location manager for the Disney Channel's Goodbye, Miss 4th of July, shooting in Tennessee. When that show wrapped, Baxter returned to Richmond to serve as location manager on the television movie My Name Is Bill W, starring James Woods and James Garner. Three-quarters of the way through production, Baxter had a near fatal car accident. “It was four blocks from my house at 8:30 in the morning on March 11th. I was reaching over my seat taking notes while talking on the cell phone and ran a traffic light. A city bus T-boned me.”

Rushed to the hospital with collapsed lungs, broken ribs, a fractured pelvis, a concussion, a damaged aorta, and other injuries, he was given a one percent chance of survival. On the eighth day after the accident, the film was coincidently scheduled to film at a location near the hospital. Garner and Woods came to visit Baxter and a walkie-talkie was brought to his room so the crew could talk with him.

Baxter was released from the hospital just ten days after the accident. A month later he received a telephone call from British film producer Bernard Williams, offering him the location manager job on Navy Seals. Another Williams-produced film, What About Bob?, followed.

What do you like least about your job?

“Probably my least favorite thing is that it's a lot of hours, a lot of changes, and a lot of stress in trying to rectify all the changes. It's all-consuming.”Charlie Baxter

What do you love most about your job?

“I like the creative aspect. I like being able to give my opinion on how and why something will work. I like the collaboration between people trying to make something happen. I like meeting new people. I like the satisfaction of not just finding a location, but actually making it happen.”Charlie Baxter

“Navy Seals was one of the greatest experiences I ever had. We built all of the sets in the interior of a National Guard Armory in Roanoke, Virginia. We had carefully laid down this sub floor and laid everything down on top of it because … it had a traditional gymnasium floor. On the last day, at the end of the shoot, everything was done; everything was over and everybody was happy.” One of the crew members dragged a genie lift across the floor, gouging a furrow that cost the production $50,000 to replace the floor. “Those are the little things you get to deal with. You think it's all over and guess what? The floor is ruined. Everybody is gone and you've got to call the insurance people and deal with it. It's a headache.”

Baxter went on to work on True Colors, the series pilot for The Monroes, and features Major Pane, First Kid, and Hush. For Hush, he scouted locations from Georgia to Rhode Island looking for the right setting. “I was on the road forever. They finally settled on a house near Charlottesville … When we looked at it, it was so magical and beautiful in the middle of nowhere … [By the time the production began filming, it was] summer, one of those years where the 17-year locusts come out. We were ready to start filming and all of a sudden there was this incredible noise of these locusts; it was deafening. Everyone was looking at me, asking ‘Can you go out there and exterminate them?’ I'm like, ‘Yeah. Billions of locusts?’”

For the film Virus, Baxter was charged with moving a 600,000-foot ship that no longer had an engine from one shipyard to another to have work done on it. “The construction crew would come in from L.A. I found a space for them: some hangars and a dock in Newport News. We were ready to go and I get a phone call from the producer saying, ‘We're going to have to bail out and regroup. We have to take three or four months off, but we want you to stay on. I ended up moving the ship to a shipyard in Norfolk and spent three months having work done on it to get it up to safety and speed so we could film on it. Then I kept hauling it around to different docks.”

Baxter went on to turn a small Tennessee town near Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex into a coal mining community for October Sky. His challenge for The Replacements was to not only find and negotiate use of a football stadium for shooting, but two additional football fields for actors to practice on. “It wasn't as easy as you might think, because high schools and colleges were getting ready to practice.”


* “I don't get wound up and I never accept ‘No‘I just don't accept it. There has got to be a way to make whatever it is happen. I don't give up. I find a way and am willing to negotiate.”Charlie Baxter

* “Compromise and don't take things too seriously. Many of the people I know, the stress absolutely fries them. You have to find a way to not take it all too seriously. Don't let the pressure that the production company and other parties are applying become insurmountable. Focus and let common sense be your guide, and you'll probably find out it's not as bad as you thought it was.”Charlie Baxter

His next film was Hannibal, directed by Ridley Scott. “That was probably the best experience I have had so far in my career of filming, without a doubt. Ridley is so smart and creative and funny. He's a gentleman. It's an absolute pleasure to work with the guy—but talk about stress.” When Scott had initially scouted Washington D.C.’s Union Station, it contained a carousel. When the time came to shoot, the carousel was gone and Baxter had to locate another one and have it re-erected in the same spot. “Then I find out that Sue, the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the Chicago Museum, is going to be erected in the main hall. I have to call and tell Ridley there is going to be a dinosaur in the hall. We adjusted.”

He was finishing up work on Hannibal when he was offered the location manager position on Hearts in Atlantis. “They asked me to come replace someone. It was a hard show. We took over a community in the small town of Stanton, Virginia. We had 13 homes at an intersection up on the hill. We needed to be there for weeks. Because of the type of lighting and how they were going to control the shade, they wanted the power lines dropped or turned off so that there was no chance of the guys operating the big condors getting an electrical shock.” It proved too time consuming to turn the power off and on each day, so the only solution was to shut the power down for two weeks. “Which meant I had to bring in and wire each house to a commercial silenced generator.” Then, someone had to deal with making sure the generators didn't run out of fuel.

After Hearts wrapped, Baxter accepted the position of production manager for New Dominion Pictures. The company produces television programming such as The FBI Files, The New Detectives, and Special Forces: Untold Stories, for Discovery, The Learning Channel, and other cable outlets. Baxter's next step will undoubtedly be producing.

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