Assistant Location Managers (ALMs) work with Location Managers, Unit Managers and Location Assistants on feature films. On smaller films, the roles of the ALM and the Unit Manager are combined, since many of the responsibilities are interchangeable. The work is logistical, providing back up to the Location Manager, and does not include any negotiations about money or contracts.
During filming, Location Department members work very long hours; they are usually the first on and last off the location each day. ALMs assist with much of the physical work involved in Location Management. They are freelance and usually work with the same Location Managers from film to film. They may be required to spend long periods of time working away from base.
One of the first and most important responsibilities of Assistant Location Managers is the preparation of Movement Orders (directions to locations which are distributed daily with call sheets), which enable crew members to travel quickly, directly and safely from the production office to the unit base, and from the unit base to each location. Because Movement Orders must be as accurate and as easy to read as possible, ALMs drive each route themselves, using a Dictaphone to record all relevant directions and landmarks, subsequently transcribing the tapes, making decisions about how much detail to include or omit, and ensuring that the resulting Movement Orders are well presented.
While Location Managers are responsible for finding most of the big locations on films, ALMs assist with scouting for additional locations. This involves researching where specific locations may be found, making appointments to visit, driving to locations, meeting the owners, residents or caretakers, and taking photographs. ALMs print the photographs and mount or file them on a flip chart so that they can be presented to the Location Manager, Director and Production Designer. If the location is approved, ALMs organise recces for all relevant Heads of Department. During technical recces, ALMs assist Location Managers to collate all information about the requirements of each department, and make arrangements to ensure that the property is not unduly damaged during the shoot and pre- and post-production.
During preproduction, ALMs discuss the daily requirements for parking, traffic control, etc., with local Councils and Police Forces, noting any special dates (e.g., football matches, public holidays), which may disrupt the shooting schedule. ALMs must also draw up the parking plans for the entire shoot, as well as arranging crane and scaffolding permits and temporary traffic restriction orders, and submit them to local Councils for costing. They are also responsible for writing, copying and distributing letters informing local residents of any filming scheduled to take place in their neighbourhood. Many of these responsibilities continue throughout the shoot.
During filming they are on set most of the time, liaising between the crew and the location owners about any special requirements, e.g., if a door needs to be removed, or a light fitting moved, etc., and helping to avoid any misunderstandings. At the end of each shooting day, they help the ALM and Unit Manager to clear any rubbish, and to generally tidy up. More experienced Location Assistants also help with the safe parking of all production vehicles.
ALMs must be experienced and confident drivers, and fully computer literate. Key Skills include:
Excellent communication skills; Tact and resourcefulness; Accurate sense of direction; Ability to troubleshoot; Excellent organisational skills; Extensive knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.
Many ALMs come from a background of managing live events (music, festivals etc), or from working in theatre where they train as Stage or Production Managers. Alternatively, they may have been Floor Runners on a number of feature films, which provides the opportunity to meet Location Managers who may be prepared to take on Location Assistants who can eventually progress to becoming ALMs.
There are no formal qualifications for ALMs. Because the work is extremely practical the best training is acquired on the job. ALMs may begin their careers as Floor Runners, working closely with 1st and 2nd Assistant Directors, learning how film crews work and about the practical requirements of filming on location.
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