A production scout is the equivalent of a bus full of unruly elementary school children being forced to go on an educational or culturally significant field trip. They squirm and complain because they want the whole thing to be over so they can go to lunch.
The entire purpose of the scout is to find the best place to have lunch and talk shit about the clueless shooting crew. The gathering of information is a byproduct of that quest. The best way to keep the shooting crew clueless is to refrain from sharing what was discussed on the scout or throwing away or “losing” all notes, measurements and photos taken during the scout.
Driver of the Scout Van (silent but deadly):
Says nothing. Hears everything. The driver has an agenda just as all other members of the scout team. His or her agenda is to get you to the location, get you out of the van to get a rest from all the senseless babbling and get a rest from all the gossip. He’d like to be part of the conversation but you keep referring to some weird thing called “script”. He will follow the directions of the person in the “Power Seat” (shotgun) unless he knows a better shortcut (always). Once you and the rest of the entourage have exited to wander around like lost ducklings he can listen to some metallica or country music and chill. He Eats lunch in the van during the scout so he can sleep while the scout eats. Now the whole van smells like leftover Kung pow chicken.
Our first contact and ultimately an ambassador to the public for our industry. Must be well mannered at least on the surface.
Somehow this person is a Teamster. He is just as ashamed of being a Teamster as the Teamsters are for having his wimpy ass in the same union. He has sold a dream to a clueless manager or home owner so he’s hoping the entourage behaves itself until he can get the contract signed. If the price is right and the location has been used in a similar fashion required by the script, he and the UPM will gang up on the production designer and decorator to force a trite looking location down their throats to make them “actually do some work” to make it look like what is required per the script. He takes the first shift in the “power seat” of the van to get the scout to “his” location. If “his” location isn’t chosen he will pout and disappear until it is time for lunch.
Transportation Coordinator (Not Logic, Logistics)
Where am I going to park all my trucks? When am I going to get some sleep?
The transportation coordinator only seems pissed off all the time because he actually IS pissed off ALL the time. The teamsters started off driving teams of horses. Now they have to drive teams of people. Horses only ate and slept and pulled trailers. Now he must manage an army of drivers that also sleep (very little), eat (too much), pull trailers, ask questions, fart, clean equipment and back up trucks when production is rolling. He knows that when he is told during the scout where a safe place for base camp and equipment storage is that it will change three times before the day of shooting. This is why he’s ignoring everything everyone says during the scout. Where’s lunch?
Line Producer/UPM (NO! What’s the question?)
To the line producer it should be an honor and a privilege for all involved to be able to participate in the production. Therefore each penny than he releases should be cherished by the recipient as a bonus. Whichever location will cost the least will do. If it looks bad it’s because the Art Department didn’t do it’s job. If it looks good it is because the Art Department spent too much money. Where’s lunch? Who’s paying?
Production Designer (if you don’t look good, it’s because you didn’t listen to me)
A complete slave to aesthetics the production designer only cares about two things. What makes him look good and what is easiest. Picking the correct location for the story involves more than just “finding” a diner or office building.
She/he Would rather design and build than scout and find an early 18th century cathedral so don’t be surprised that no matter how perfect the location is she/he can make it perfect-ER!
“We’re not just looking for a barn for the bad guys to hide in! I need the visual rural American equivalent of the catacombs of Europe to serve as a haven for the refugees of the blitzkrieg! Don’t you all SEE?”
The look must be in congruence with the mood, tone and intention of the story. This is often when he/she must make concessions due to budget, location availability or practicality. If his or her favored location isn’t chosen he will pout and turn to the decorator to “fix it”.
Construction Coordinator (Abracadabra)
The shooting crew would be shocked to discover that the bank vault that we are shooting in today was actually an ice cream parlor 72 hours ago. That’s because the location manager and the UPM made some sort of deal that saved them money and shifted the challenges to the art department. The Production and Set Designer have decided to keep their jobs and defer to the art of compromise. There is no such thing as a perfect location but the Construction coordinator and carpenters can make anything out of nothing.
The Writer “That’s not what I envisioned” (who invited this weirdo?)
The only reason the writer is on the scout is to see and speak with some real live human beings so he or she can crawl back into the rabbit hole to create a new story based upon his or her experiences that won’t happen until he emerges again. Kind of a catch 22 but if they were able to communicate verbally or had any people skills they’d be directors or at least sober.
Director of Photography (mortal by necessity)
How can you tell who the D.P. is when you see a scout? Look at the shoes as they walk. The shoes that never touch the ground belong to the Director of Photography. He or she is only there to save the rest of the entourage from their own ineptitude. He and the production designer are best friends/enemies depending upon who is making whom look good at the moment. If during the scout the DP arrives at the location and the light is washing into the set at a perfectly golden 45 degree angle he, will note the time of day and stall until that time of day on the day of the shoot and take credit for “Gods Work”.
Gaffer/Best Boy Electric (Really wants to be on the golf course and notes every golf course in route to the location.)
When he arrives at the location he will turn his back on the scout entourage to look for a spot to place the generator. The only reason he acts like smug, under appreciated genius that’s smarter than all of you slugs is because he is. He read the script and realized that too many night scenes cost him manpower days but give him golf time.
Key Grip/best boy grip (Really wants to be surfing and is hoping the scout rolls near some great breaks)
The key grip or best boy position actually came to the movie industry from the circus industry. This legacy continues as they erect this circus and performers and keep us from killing ourselves. On the scout he gets pissed at the Set Decorator who keeps borrowing his tape measure and leaving it on the van or at the location. If you pick a location with no elevator he will make production pay twice what they save in location fees by hiring four extra grips to bring the dolly up and down the stairs.
Art Director (sorcerers apprentice)
Came on the scout to keep the production designer from alienating all of the other department heads because as liaison and traffic cop to the art department he will have to get along with everyone to execute the plans. He always carries two tape measures, two cameras two notebooks because the decorator keeps borrowing his tape measure and note pad and leaving it on the van. He doesn’t speak much if he’s a man and won’t talk to anyone if she’s a woman. Listens well so watch your words. Anything you say can and will be used to tell you what you asked for and not what you wanted.
Set Decorator (May I use your tape measure, please?)
Gonna make you look good in spite of yourself. With no money. With a crew that is more interested in football than design. With a Leadman who can understand the simple phrase ,”I can’t spend that on pickup at Modern Props blue lamps on Wednesday after budget etagere this size tomorrow”.
She’s dressing four sets with two trucks and no sleep while she’s riding in the van. When the scout gets to a residential location and the UPM tells her that we will use the ugly furniture that came with the place, you can read the subtitles beneath her as she says, “That’s fine”. She means,”cheap bastard”.
Leadman (Seargeant of set Dec)
On the scout the Leadman is truly is like a kid being forced to go to church when he’d rather be elsewhere. His phone rings constantly because although he’s given specific instructions to the set dressers while he’s on the scout they refuse to listen or work with each other like siblings claiming, “Daddy left ME in charge while he’s gone!”
So he’s distracted by that crap while taking notes and looking for his tape measure that the decorator left at the restaurant.
Director (captain “on the hook”)
Can’t believe he/she has to helm this ship with this crew. Her or his plans are exactly like the game plan every boxer has until he gets in the ring…
This visionary communicates those plans to the entire entourage that hangs on his every word but changes those words to what they want to hear. He’s building a shot list in his or her head and that’s where it will be safe from the rest of the film crew. The only reason to let it out is to allow nature, scheduling, actors, crew and time destroy it completely. He has read the script thirty times and has a bold clear vision of where the project will go. Unfortunately most productions take on a life of their own once the horses are out of the gate.
First Assistant Director
(why is it that the only time I get silence is when I ask someone about their responsibilies?)
I submit that all 1st A.D.’s are assholes
Q: What do you call an AD with NO sense of humor?
Q: What do you call an AD WITH a sense of humor?
A: I rest my case.
The first AD is going to be blamed for everything that goes wrong. The director will be credited for everything that goes right (but the DP will get the attaboy). He’s actually the only person paying attention to what’s being said because he’s doing all the talking.
With great power comes great responsibility. With great responsibility comes a large staff of AD’s and PAs to throw under the bus for not moving fast enough. The first AD has to figure out what the director wants in addition to what he/she has asked for. He’s constantly thinking of a contingency plan in case of rain or if he hits the lottery.
From time to time the scout will venture into dangerous territory. When that happens we may have to send a PA alone to get a Starbucks order in a neutral zone. If we go into hostile territory such as Beverly Hills or a Hatian voodoo compound the locals may require a human sacrific as a “deposit” to cement the deal. That’s why we bring three and put them in a red t-shirts. When we get back to the office no one notices that we are short one PA. The PA’s on the scout go “round and round” and pick up all the crap that the scout drops so we will be allowed to return to shoot.
If you’re driving and see a passenger van and there’s kid in the window with a “help me” sign, just ignore it. He’s just trying to raise money to buy a meal. He should stop throwing his money away on silly things like rent, gas (that we don’t pay for) and health insurance.
Bruce Bellamy local 44
3rd, 4th or 5th best on-set dresser (depending on wether Mike Horn, Ryan Beyer are available and how much coffe I’ve had) and all around badass.