LOCATIONS AND TRANSPORTATION
Job Title: Transportation Coordinator
The transportation coordinator is the head of the transportation department and is responsible for obtaining and managing all vehicles associated with a production, including big trucks, trailers for the makeup, hair, lighting, camera, and wardrobe departments, dressing room trailers, honey wagons, personal trailers for the director, stars, and others, picture cars, and all rental cars for cast and crew. The coordinator also hires and manages the transportation captain and drivers. “Transportation is an art,” says transportation coordinator Bob Foster. “It's the art of putting big trucks in little spaces.”
A commercial driver's license and experience driving big trucks are necessary. Union productions require drivers to be members of the Teamster's union.
Expanded Job Description
Prior to being put on payroll for an upcoming television series, Foster will have already arranged for rental cars for the production staff. His first day on payroll, he sets up his work space within the production office and meets the various crew members he will be working with. His next tasks are to read the script and take notes of picture cars and other vehicle needs, then obtain a list of locations and acclimate himself to them, making note of potential concerns. For instance, the production plans to film while traveling down a particular road. Foster's job is to point out that a certain bridge along the road has an 11-foot clearance, but all the trucks are 13 feet tall.
When a production is produced by DreamWorks, which requires that all drivers pass a drug test before being hired, Foster is responsible for making certain that testing is completed.
Before the rental vehicles are assigned out, he ensures that a purchase order has been processed for each and that each is insured. “Whether I get a piece of equipment from Georgia, Florida, or wherever, before that vehicle leaves to come to me, it has to have insurance on it.” Next, Foster makes a list of the trucks and trailers required by each department, from property to makeup, camera to wardrobe. He must also determine trailer requirements for individual cast members, some being predetermined by contractual obligation.
Foster then concentrates on acquiring the needed equipment and hiring drivers. In the course of making these arrangements, he will go with the location manager to scout various locations. “They will be looking for me to tell them whether we can park all the trucks in a particular lot or if we need more room.” He also goes out with various tech scouts to determine where the generator and lighting will be set up, and checks out the proposed camera angles to ensure that the vehicles will be parked out of camera range, yet remain easily accessible.
Throughout the production, Foster oversees the transportation department, ensuring equipment and drivers are where they should be, when they should be. “Being a driver, you're the first one on set and generally the last one to leave. If the crew call is 7:00, that means the actors probably have to be there at 6:00 for hair and makeup. Which means the hair and makeup people probably have to be there at 5:30 to get ready for the actors. We have to be there prior to that to get the trailer set up. If it's hot outside, we have to get it cool inside. If it's cold outside, we have to get it warm inside, so that everybody is comfortable when they come in. We make sure all the lights are working and the generators are up and running. At the end of the day we have to take it down, move it, and get ready for the next day.”
Generally, Foster begins prepping a production three weeks in advance of filming, and concludes between two to five weeks after filming has wrapped. In addition to making sure that all vehicles are returned, he may also have to oversee the repainting and/or restoration of a picture car to its original condition.
Advice for Someone Seeking This Job
“Transportation is not just carrying a pretty actress down the street in a blue Lincoln Town Car. You're always the first person on set and the last person to leave. You have to be in the Teamster's union to drive on movies, in most cases. Try to come in as a PA in the transportation department or an intern, and see what goes on and work your way up. I don't hire anybody who does not have a commercial driver's license. I recommend you get a commercial driver's license and then decide what you want to do. If you want to learn how to drive a big truck and you've never driven one before, I recommend going to a reputable trucking company or driving school to learn. If you want to be a generator operator, get with a vending company that specializes in production equipment and learn. All generator operators have to pull cable before they become operators. Learn from the ground floor up. I like my people, men or women, to be able to drive everything that we have. If you're on the set and you have some type of situation where you need to move something in a hurry, anybody can do it.”
Contact rental houses and volunteer to intern so you can learn the equipment. They will train you and when the equipment goes out, you may be the person they send with it.
Professional Profile: Bob Foster, Transportation Coordinator
Bob Foster never considered that his experience driving big trucks and pulling trailers while in the military, in construction, and as a volunteer fireman, coupled with his knowledge of law and the people skills gained as a police officer, along with a love of automobiles and a passion for collecting antique cars, would be ideal skills for becoming a transportation coordinator for feature films and television.
What do you like least about your job?
“The thing I like least is having to deal with budgets. I don't like it when you come onto a production and they say, ‘Here is what you've got to work with,’ and then they tell you they need 10 trailers, but the budget has just got room for five. That's the thing I like least: working on a budget.”—Bob Foster
What do you love most about your job?
“I love the people. I have always been a people person—I've never met a stranger. I like working with people from all different walks of life and different parts of the country. I like talking with them and learning something from them. I love the camaraderie of being with people.”—Bob Foster
He discovered the potential for working in the film industry when a friend asked him to help move some trailers for a production. Later, the friend called on Foster to go to North Carolina and work on the film Love Field. He was assigned to drive for actress Michelle Pfeiffer for 16 weeks. “She is just a down-home sweetheart; a very, very nice girl,” he recalls. Upon completion of that assignment, he was offered another driving job on a production shooting in Richmond. He worked his way up to co-captain while driving on a production filming in Georgia, returning to Virginia as a full captain on the made-for-television movie Miss Rose White, all within his first year working in the business.
* “Be yourself and treat other people like you would want to be treated.”—Bob Foster
* “When I go to work for a producer or a unit production manager, my main objective is I want them to hire me on the next project. I want them to want me to come work for them again.”—Bob Foster
Offers continued to “snowball” with television work, and on films such as My Cousin Vinny and The Jackal, for which he served as transportation captain. Before long, Foster was being hired as transportation coordinator. His work on Girl, Interrupted, which shot in Pennsylvania, earned him a referral from the state film office to work on Lucky Numbers. His résumé also includes the features The Contender, Hannibal, Hearts in Atlantis, and the series DC.
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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in Film and TelevisionLOCATIONS AND TRANSPORTATION - Job Title: Location Manager, Job Title: Transportation Coordinator, Job Title: Transportation Office Coordinator Or Transportation Accountant