Scout the Set

We have a talented bunch of people working here at Black Tomato. Prior to joining The Black Tomato Agency, David was a Set Location Manager for a number of adverts, music videos, TV shows and films. Predominantly scouting for sets around London, he was the creative brains behind locations for Cadbury adverts, White Feathers (starring Heath Ledger) and the Golden Globe winning series Band of Brothers – to name just a few.

David has many tricks of the trade for choosing an inspired but also suitable backdrop. What with our recent obsession of all things set location based, we were intrigued to learn more about his previous line of work, along with an insight into his travel bucket list…

Q1. Where would have been your dream film location?

I would have loved the chance to work in Jordan. A fantastic reason to explore and discover all the adventure the country has to offer in the rugged, sprawling desert landscapes and the incredible, ancient ruins.

Q2. What TV show or film would you have loved to be the set location manager for?

It would have been an unbelievable experience taking over the Cambodian temples of Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple and Ta Prohom for the filming of ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’. A completely unique opportunity to witness the elegant, splendour of the temples without any fellow tourists.

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Q3. What is your favorite example of a location being completely transformed?

Curracloe Beach in Ireland was completely unrecognisable as Omaha Beach, Normandy in ‘Saving Private Ryan’. The calm and serene beach, normally only attracting a few competitive bird watchers, was expertly transformed into D-Day for some of the most powerful, action-packed minutes of cinema.

Q4. Which TV show or film do you think displays the best of a location and its unique style?

‘Life of Pi’ wonderfully shows India’s enchanting beauty. The mesmerising scenes shot in Puducherry show the bright, bustling vibrant colors of the market place alongside the calm, serene charm and allure of the Botanical Gardens. A gorgeous snapshot of India.

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Q5. Which TV show or film has given you real wanderlust and inspiration to take a vacation to the location?

Every time I watch Game of Thrones, it gives me itchy feet to visit both the fascinating, terracotta Mediterranean beauty of Croatia and the wild, isolated lands of Iceland’s volcanoes and glaciers

Q6) What does the role of Set Location Manager involve?

You have to make sure the chosen venue answers the director’s creative vision as well as being suitable for the planned filming with absolutely no obstacles occurring on the day. It is quite similar to running an event, in the respect that every possibility needs to be thought of and prepared for to ensure the filming can run smoothly.

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Q7) What do you need from a set for things to run smoothly?

While you may have found the perfect claustrophobic, dank cellar for the story’s hero and villain to have their final dramatic confrontation, if there is no room to house the crew and backup services then it is of no use. Without a spare room for the make-up artists, hairdressers and closet to work their magic or enough space for the sound and lighting crew to assemble their equipment, then the location will have to be reconsidered. For this reason large, empty car parks and quiet streets are ideal.

Q8) Travelling to fantastic destinations, all in the name of work, sounds like a pretty cool job to us. What would you say is the most restricting element to consider when finding an overseas destination?

When scouting for exotic, awe-inspiring scenery, an important thing to assess are the tax regulations of the country; boring but very necessary when working within the tight budgets of the studio. Turkey, Morocco, Croatia and Namibia all have low tax regulations combined with cheap labour, making them an excellent choice.

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Q9) What would you consider your favorite location, the one you go back to time and time again?

London, definitely. As a diverse, cosmopolitan city, it is used for a huge range of films and TV, from the popular set choice of The Maritime Museum in Greenwich used in the beautiful romance ‘Sense and Sensibility’ to Crouch End being transformed into a zombie war zone in the unique rom-zom-com ‘Shaun of the Dead’.

Not only is London’s charming historical character fantastic for period drama, it is also home to the industry famous Pinewood Studios. Situated just outside the capital, it is a cheap and efficient option for films, similar to Ardmoor in Ireland. Pinewood has seen it all, from huge blockbusters such as ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy, Oscar winners like ‘Les Miserables’ and superhero adventures including ‘X:Men: The First Class’.

If you are as fascinated and intrigued with set locations as we are, why not take a look at our new Set Jetting series…

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