Location scouting is a crucial part of any film production or photoshoot. In fact, hiring a location scout or location management team is often one of a producer’s first orders of business.
Most big-budget scripts have anywhere from 30 locations on the low end, to 100 or more locations on the high end. And all of these locations need to be found, negotiated with, and have shooting dates scheduled. And all of this is the location scout’s job.
If you’re directing and producing a smaller-budget production, you may have to do the location scouting yourself. Which is why, though this guide was primarily conceived to help you know where to find a location scout in Los Angeles, we’ve also included some great places to start looking for locations as well.
Start with a do-it-yourself approach
We’re going to start with the DIYers. If you want to do things the old-fashioned way — on foot with a camera — Los Angeles is a wonderful jungle to get lost in.
If you have the time, it can be extremely rewarding as a director/producer to scout your locations yourself. Scouting requires many of the same skills a director uses to get the shot right: seeing a location in terms of the mechanics of getting a shot.
Some basic tips if you’re planning to scout your own picture:
- Scout locations at the time of day you plan to shoot
- Take copious pictures, and take a 360° video walkthrough
- Take copious notes: Where will people park? Where will makeup and dressing set up?
- Note potential roadblocks, such as properties that become unusable in inclement weather, or properties with difficult or pushy neighbors
- Note any sources of ambient background noise or echo
Tip: If you’re seriously considering a location, tour the site with the owner. They’ll be able to answer tons of questions, which will save you headaches later on, and this will make you feel more comfortable when you negotiate a filming contract.
Try Los Angeles film location websites
If you don’t have all the time in the world, the simplest way to find locations these days, by far, is to begin online. Some great places to begin include:
Peerspace makes it easy to find locations for photo and film shoots. Featuring thousands of production locations in Los Angeles, our unique platform simplifies the process of location scouting, making it easy to find and book spaces by the hour or day — no problem. Peerspace listings have thorough descriptions, along with ample photographs, to let you really see the space you’re interested in booking in advance. You can also pour through reviews from other photographers and filmmakers who have shot there in the past, letting you know what it was like to work at the particular location, as well as about the helpfulness of the location’s owner and staff.
Further, many Peerspace locations make it easy to rent equipment on-site and also have connections to a variety of other contractors. Make sure to thoroughly read the listings to see what extra services the location provides, as every extra bit of help can be a lifesaver when you’re an indie filmmaker.
LocoScout is specifically aimed at helping location scouts find publicly owned shooting locations. Public parks, school gymnasiums, school swimming pools, train stations, wooded areas—the list goes on and on. LocoScout also makes it easy to contact a location about a production, and it keeps good notes on each of their locations — including any known special requirements for filming — such as if you are required to have a film monitor on set. Overall, public locations tend to be pretty big, which makes them flexible, and you can also get access to a number of locations you can’t get access to anywhere else, but that show up again and again in film. Your script have a high school in it? A hospital? A bridge? A forest? Check out LocoScout.
We’ll mention LA 411 on the list again later when we discuss location scouts. LA 411 has an extensive list of locations in Los Angeles and has a variety of unique locations — ranches, churches, ice-skating rinks, theaters, and more.
Peerspace is excellent for finding both private locations and studio space, and LocoScout is excellent at finding big public locations, and LA 411’s list will fill in the gaps between the other two lists, providing access to lots of unique spaces in the area.
Some other sites:
Want to hire a location scout?
If you’d rather hire a location scout or a location management team to handle your locations for you, here are some great places to begin your search:
Production hub offers an extensive selection of location scouts and management companies from all over the world, including over 60 options in Los Angeles alone. Production hub keeps helpful biographies on each of the scouts they list, allowing you to see their résumés and get a feel for their working styles and philosophies. If you find a scout you’re interested in, you can contact them directly through their Production Hub bio.
LA 411 has an extensive list of over 150 location scouts and managers in the LA and surrounding area. Like Production Hub, LA 411’s listings make it simple to research and get in touch with location scouts and managers. They’ve been one of the most trusted sources of production expertise in LA and New York for more than 30 years.
The Location Manager’s Guild maintains a members list. A search of their database for location scouts in Los Angeles returns 75 results. The member bios here are less comprehensive than the other websites on the list — but they do generally provide an email, at the very least, for each location scout or manager. You’ll probably need to do additional research, but this list is a great jumping off point for some Google sleuthing.
Maintain your relationships
We feel these are all great places to begin, whether you’re looking for where to find a location scout in Los Angeles, a full-service location manager, or just looking for locations on your own. In this industry, it’s really important that you maintain your relationships. The more you work with someone, the more comfortable you become. And the more comfortable you are, the more you’re willing to take risks, to allow yourself to be creative. And that’ll apply both ways. The partners you make in this industry are all creative, passionate people — and when you work with people who feel comfortable giving you their all without holding anything back (and you feel that way with them), this is when the magic starts to happen.