The life of a location scout – one of the unsung heroes of film

Location scout Jennifer Lane explains why East London is now a Mecca for film producers, and introduces her latest project, The Art of Love, which is set there

Jennifer Lane on the set of The Art of Love. Pic: Jennifer Lane

If asked to name jobs relating to the film industry, most people’s immediate thoughts would be something like this: actor, director, writer, producer. Location scout is unlikely to immediately spring to mind.

A location scout is, as Jennifer Lane tells me, exactly what it sounds like — the person who’s job it is to find locations, both in and outdoors, for film sets.

Lane graduated from drama school in 2018 and initially intended to go into theatre.  “I had a bit of a winding path into the industry,” she says. “I ended up doing a few days as a reader opposite the leads of the film I ended up scouting on, and they asked me to come back and help them with some production. That led into location scouting as they didn’t have anyone else on the ground. I originally wanted to go into theatre, it’s just funny that since finishing drama school as my work, both in acting, location and production, has been in film.”

Most notably, Lane location scouted and helped produce the 2021 film The Art of Love which won best feature film at the 2022 Ferrara Film Festival. The film follows influencer Adam and middle-aged London Underground worker Eva who are thrown together to promote a new sex toy which promises to rid users of loneliness. Whilst the pair initially hate each other, they form a bond that forces them both to take an introspective look at their lives and what they really want.

“I was the only location scout, and it was during lockdown, so I did a lot of scouting online using google street view. This meant that I had a list of locations to see when I could go out. We shot in May 2021 but in September the director flew in from Switzerland and we did a location recce. For some locations, we got pretty close to the shoot without them.”

A day in the life of a location scout involves work both online and out and about, and the whole process can take up to four weeks, though for The Art of Love, the whole process took six to eight months due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. “It’s a lot of pavement pounding. I do a lot of taking photos, google maps imaging. It depends on the production and the budget; different boroughs in London own different location so it depends how much you have to spend.”

“Ideally, it’s all done pre-production, though this probably isn’t the case most of the time. Location scouts start when the script is at a final stage. Scouts don’t go too much into the shoot as once they’ve found everything they’re not usually needed unless they’re taking on more responsibility like contracts and paperwork.”

Jennifer Lane on set of The Art of Love. Pic: Jennifer Lane

Much of The Art of Love takes place in East London, with Tower Hamlets and Hackney providing sets. “The interiors of Adam and Eva’s flats were in Limehouse and the staircase outside of Adam’s flat was Shoreditch. The exterior of Adam’s is the building next door to the interior. We had both in the same building initially, but the owners were selling. So, I found a flat in the building next door which had similar architecture, but the exterior wasn’t as good, so we struck two different deals.”

All of Lane’s hard work paid off when she finally got to see the locations she’d chosen in the finished film; “I was very proud of it. It was the first time I had done something like that, and I wanted to be accurate in terms of the architecture of London. I tried to keep us in nearby locations so that people who know London will recognise it and it all fits together.”

With many recent international releases filming in East London, it’s an up-and-coming production hotspot — and Lane can think of plenty of reasons why.

“East London lends itself well to bases since there are a lot of warehouse buildings, which means you can accommodate a crew and because you’re not in the centre, its more logistically easy with vehicles and you have access to wider London,” she says. “There’s also lots of architecture, and you’ve got the canals so that can double as Liverpool or Birmingham if you want London to double as somewhere else.”

“Creatively, East London is very vibrant and recognisable, and you have a contrast between traditional working-class areas and fancier gentrified areas so you can really do a lot within a story.”

Last Autumn, Lane set up her own production company, Winding Lane Pictures, and is currently working on short films, though she stresses that she definitely wants to do more location work in future. “As a producer, I’m really keen to be very much a creative producer involved in those decisions because locations can really make or break something.”

The Art of Love is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime. Find them on Instagram at @the_art_of_love_movie

Read the rest of our series, Lights, Camera, Action! here

Leave a Reply