A Day in the Life of a Locations Manager

06 Feb 2020

8 mins
Guy Bishop, Locations Manager
Guy Bishop, Locations Manager

The UK film industry is currently worth £2 billion and employs around 66,000 people. It is an industry on the up, but there is a growing need for more young people to be applying for new entrant roles, particularly in certain career areas.

According to Screenskills research (November 2019), "In terms of general skills gaps, 70% of respondents identify managerial and leadership skills as the major concern. Other areas include financial skills and the ability to work to a budget and project management, planning and organisational skills".

At Into Film, we believe that we can help encourage the next generation of filmmakers through identifying these skills gaps and providing resources for teachers that show them how to include information around careers in their teachings through the curriculum.

Focusing on the Locations department, we are delighted to have some insight into the work of Locations Manager Guy Bishop (Maleficent: Mistress of EvilPokèmon: Detective PikachuJudy) who writes below about a typical day in his job. Bishop runs various initiatives to engage with young people looking to get their foot in the door for locations work and has some great advice for young people.

Locations Manager Guy Bishop

"The Location Department is usually the last thing people consider when they fantasise about working in film, but without Location teams, filming simply could not happen", Guy explains. "We make sure that the film crew has the best conditions possible to do their work. In a booming industry, starting as a Location Marshal remains one of the best ways to get started and find out where you fit into the great filming machine. After time, new entrants will often move to other departments but for those who like a challenge, who like the outdoors, who like creative problem-solving and hands-on work; there's a place here for you..."

4:00am

I drag myself out of bed; the familiar struggle with gravity as my pillow beckons me back for more. The drive is invariably long, and I can barely keep my eyes open, such is the freelancer lifestyle to which I've signed up to. The drive gives a chance for introspection, at least, whilst I turn up the volume of whatever tunes keep my eyes open.  

This was very definitely not where I saw myself when asked the '10 year's time' question. As a middling student, I neither stood out nor made any great number of friends. I didn't grade highly enough to get into my university choices, but a series of retakes saw me scrape into a good school, where I was again a middling student but stood better socially. I studied Medical Product Design with a view to prosthesis; fascinated by the precedents set by Robocop, Star Wars and more, but it ended up not for me.

During my education, I had been a water-sports instructor and the summers were a balm. It was here that I was first introduced to the idea of management. Quite by accident (as I never rose to a senior position) I found myself giving advice and coaching to younger instructors, using common sense to handle situations or manage personalities. It seems strange to think that the skills which are now so invaluable, had such humble beginnings.

After University, I lacked direction; I held aspirations towards writing, which I was naively unequipped to succeed with, but the wish to be less dependent on my parents led me on several paths including a packaging factory and tending bar. Mixing drinks is not difficult, but dealing with the pressure of a stacked bar, while music thumps and sweat drips from fluorescent lights, has proved quite useful.

It just so happened that a friend of mine was working in film as I ended my pub career. Concerned for my lack of income, he offered me a space on the roster for a commercial twinned with a feature; "easy beer-money!" The work was calm. The money was better than I'd known before. We enjoyed scenery, salary and succulent pork belly. This was where I wanted to be.

In those early days, I was naïve to the realities of film-work. I struggled for weeks to get my next job, as anxiety stayed my hand from cold-calling. I generally picked up contacts who were close to finishing their work and unable to hire staff. After a while, however, I found a contact who scored me a place on a major feature. I saw the preparation & wrap stages which surround our shoot days and understood the breadth of location work. The next big opportunity came soon after and woke me to the misleading glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It's actually dirt, sweat and mud and sometimes a little blood. It's bags under your eyes and callouses on your hands and a pit in your stomach when you work through lunch. It's rain in your eyes and down your back and a cold which you can't shake off. It's hard; but nothing worth doing is easy.

By fighting and challenging myself daily with the trials we come up with on film sets, I feel more fulfilled than I ever did at my previous employments. Prospecting for your ‘self' is the real treasure of the film industry. Somehow the fantasy becomes a part of you, it builds you; you can discover a new self, a braver self, a stronger self with which you can accomplish impossible things.

It's not complicated work in the Location Department. We don't save lives or solve the riddles of the universe. We just try to find the best way to get through the day whilst walking the tightrope between crew doing their best work and not causing a great disruption to the public lives surrounding us. It is easier said than done, but we generally get through the day without anything exploding!

It is hard to summarise, but as I park my car, holster my walkie and start my day with a carb-loaded breakfast, I know one thing for sure; I couldn't see myself doing anything else!

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