CAT Digital Photography student Ira Aikman has been busy working with the Okanagan Film Commission as a location scout.
Firstly, what was the production/company/etc you were working for, or was it just general work for the OK Film Commission?
Most recently, I have been doing location scouting for a feature film that is being shot in the Penticton, Naramata, Kamloops region in late June /early July. Camera has been delayed as there are other productions looking to share the same locations, which is great for the film industry in the valley, seeing multiple productions gearing up simultaneously. This scouting work has been done under the OK Film Commission, but at this point, unfortunately, I am not at liberty to discuss the exact details of the production during this pre-production phase.
How did the job come about?
This job came as a referral to the film commissioner who was seeking assistance with photographing locations for upcoming film productions for the area. Through my experience in the past working on large and small productions, both off and on set, and now with my experience with CAT though the photography program, it worked out well.
What exactly is Location Scouting?
Location Scouting is pretty much just that, scouting for locations that producers and directors can have access to for upcoming productions. This entails photographing the location, which can vary greatly, from landscapes, houses, businesses, pretty much anything that could work on a given production, and then creating a database of contacts and information. Other factors also play into a good location other than just aesthetic. Considerations have to be given to several aspects of the production such as access, crew parking, circus parking (the circus is the village of vehicles and production equipment that takes shape during a shoot). Permits and contracts all have to be secured before shooting can take place.
Locations are then uploaded to a database, where perspective productions can view photographs and brief details of the location before planning a site visit.
What was your brief for the job, and what did the work entail?
My brief for this current job in particular was securing residential homes, coffee shops, and various other > commercial properties that would work for the script. I am currently also trying to secure a lockup space in Penticton, which the production will use to store props and set dec as well as vehicles overnight.
Once I find locations that I think will be appropriate, I send them off to the producer to see if he thinks they’ll work. Depending on their feedback, we’ll either secure it, or keep looking.
In this instance, the producer is located in Vancouver, so we make sure there is constant communication, so that when walk-throughs are planned, they know what they’re walking in to, and that it will work for the script.
You’re a photography student, this is film work. Can you tell us a little about the natural cross over between the two disciplines?
I believe there is a natural cross over between the two disciplines of film and photography. Obviously there’s different things to consider when you’re discussing motion or still images, but ultimately, you’re creating images. In both disciplines location, lighting, and creativity all come together to materialize the world you’re trying to portray. Time is something that sets them apart for me. As a photographer, I attempt to tell a story in fractions of a second, whereas film allows more time to develop a deeper narrative that you can unpack through character development, space, and time.
What did you like best about the work?
I enjoy the challenge of trying to find a location that will allow the director to bring to life an idea, which up to that point, they could only visualize. It’s a first step in making the intangible tangible. You also have the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people you most likely wouldn’t have come across if not for the job.
What was the most challenging thing/s about the work?
I think the biggest challenge is simply having access to a given location that is required for a film. Something written in a script may not be available or even possible. Currently, trying to shoot in residential properties during a global pandemic is a challenge. Not many people are comfortable with the idea of opening their homes to a group of strangers for a few days, but that’s only temporary. With the amount of work slated for the region, hopefully this will be resolved moving forward.
What were some of the most interesting (or personal favorite) locations you found?
As far as interesting locations, it’s been pretty standard fair. I’ve shot exteriors of towns, highways and backroads for a road movie, landscapes, and commercial properties, nothing too ground breaking.
Is this something you would consider as a career?
I’ve worked for several years in the past as a set dresser and assistant props master under the umbrella of the Art Department on feature films, television series, and commercials. I was an IATSE union member in the art department, and have often considered a move back into the film world. It’s a fun, creative, and challenging environment to work in. Currently, I am focusing on my photography career, but the fact that I can have a foot in both worlds is something I appreciate and look forward to.
How have your studies at CAT helped to prepare you for working in this type of job/industry?
Obviously having Victor (Poirier) heading up both the photography and film program has been a huge asset in both disciplines. Along with Grant (Robinson) and Harvey (Bremner), both working professionally and leading the photography studies, allows students to understand the expectations and commitment to prepare for the demands of the industry.
In turn, I’ve found that my experience working in the industry has also prepared me for my studies at CAT. I returned to study photography after working in the film industry, and the courses and format offered at the school, do such a great job in allowing the students to be ready to step into these types of careers and succeed.
Interview by Deborah Lampitt-McConnachie
LOCATION SCOUTING | THE PROCESS
These are some photographs from my recent scouting trips. While they are not exciting at all, it shows a brief overview of some of the exterior and interiors I looked at.
When looking for exteriors of interesting restaurants, motels, and stock yards in small towns, the photos just offer a quick pass to allow to see if something will catch the director/producer’s eye.
The interior of the stock yards were cool, untouched for decades, I love the original chairs.
The office is something that looks common place, but when faced with having to reproduce a messy office like that, down to the paper stacks and cork boards, reference photos of real world examples can be invaluable.
The outside was shot really wide so that they could get a sense of where they they could place vehicles for both the crew as well as any hero vehicles they may need for the space.