Location Scout

It’s Lori Balton’s job to take in the scenery and bring it to the big screen

Photograph by Christina Gandolfo

➻“I used to work as a location manager, which is an extremely demanding job—you have to be available 24/7. Then I got pregnant. I decided I would just scout in town so I could be with my daughter. I got to be known in the industry as someone who knows the city really well because that’s all I do—drive the streets of L.A.”

➻According to Balton, the difference between a location manager and a location scout is a matter of logistics. Managers oversee the production process, from securing film permits to ensuring crew safety. Scouts research places to shoot.

➻The Brooklyn native’s 25-year track record in Hollywood includes such films as Seabiscuit, There Will Be Blood, and Inception.

➻“Inception was a weird movie to scout for because the locations were in Christopher Nolan’s head. It was a little vague.”

➻The time it takes to scout feature films varies. For the upcoming Saving Mr. Banks, the process took four weeks. For Michael Mann’s 1995 L.A. heist drama Heat, finding locations consumed one year, from preproduction up to the last day of filming.

➻ “I have my favorite spots: There’s a great brick courtyard on Olvera Street that looks like New Orleans—you don’t feel like you’re in L.A. The architecture of City Hall is incredible, and there are so many different ways you can shoot it.”

➻The first mention of a location scout in the Los Angeles Times was for a 1924 Universal production called Hook and Ladder.

➻“We’re the redheaded stepchildren of the industry—nobody stops to think about the locations.”

➻Scouts are not eligible for Oscar consideration. To gain recognition, Balton cofounded the Location Managers Guild of America, for which she serves as president.

➻“When I’m driving, my husband tells me to keep my eyes on the road because I’m like, ‘When did that go up?’ ”


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