Name: James Grant
Occupation: Location Manager
Films: Quantum of Solace and Skyfall
Describe your job.
Probably the best way to describe it is that I am the interface between the real world and the make-believe world that we are trying to create.
What advice would you give people starting out in your profession?
Well you can’t do a degree in location managing although you can do several film courses that touch on the job. Essentially it’s about having the gift of the gab and a good eye, plus the desire to get your hands dirty and get the job done.
How did you become a Location Manager?
It’s notoriously difficult to break into; we all start off as runners and if you deliver the goods then one job will lead to the other. My early break was as an Art Department runner, and then I worked my way up onto a low budget feature film, and from there things led to larger scale films. I haven’t done many commercials; my reputation is built on location managing feature films, both in the UK and overseas.
What is your essential equipment list?
There are three or four items you absolutely need and the first is a full driving license, as having a car is pretty fundamental in the location department. You also have to have a mobile phone, a decent laptop and a good digital camera. That said, once you’ve acquired those bits of kit, they don’t really change throughout your career. The items may get updated, but my equipment list has never grown.
Are you always on location, or is there some office work?
My job can be broken down into three phases: scouting, production and actual filming. The scouting begins early. I started on SKYFALL in July 2011 and my job was to go and visit each of the different possible locations that could be used in the film. That process can go on for several months, and during that time you visit the locations with the director and hopefully he agrees with your decisions and decides where they will film the various scenes. At that point you enter the production process, and it’s my job to go and seal the deal; agree with the owners the amount of time you need to be there, how much it’s going to cost and then get the contracts in place and have them signed.
And the third phase?
The third phase is the filming itself. You hand the set to the first Art Director and hopefully, if the Location Manager has done his job properly, then the actual filming day, whilst busy, should be fairly smooth running.
How do you avoid property being damaged?
Bond has a very good reputation worldwide and it’s one that we wish to keep, so we go to enormous lengths and care to preserve property. With very valuable items that can’t be moved, such as tiles, we even go so far as to make full size plaster-casts of the objects and place them over the real ones so they don’t get damaged.
What was the trickiest location shoot for you on SKYFALL?
Vauxhall Bridge in London. It is the major red route going north to south, and we shut almost all of it and positioned cameras across it while the traffic continued to flow. It was a very long and stressful day for me.
Can you still enjoy a good movie now you know where everything is filmed?
Oh yes, I do enjoy a good movie I’m pleased to say. I do recognise a lot of places but even I can switch of and enjoy it for what it is.
And finally, when they film at Pinewood Studios, do you get the day off?
Oh, if only.