Valérie Nouvel, location scout

Valérie Novel, the location scout tells us a little more about her work, at the Production Forum

What does the job of location scout involve ?

We’re really at the beginning of the film project. Of course, at the beginning, there is a screenplay, a director, a producer. But then, two things quickly fall into place : the search for actors who will play the roles and the search for the places that will become the film’s sets. That’s where we come in. The first job for us is really to read the script and to do a study of the sets and the sub-sets because sometimes, for example, in the same apartment in the script, the outside of the building, the hall of the stairwell and the 

apartment itself can be in very different places. Obviously, for practicality and cost, we prefer everything to be in the same place because moving a film crew is a lot of work and money. Then we meet with the director and discuss the sets with him or her again because we were able to get a picture on reading that can be far from what the director had in mind. And then we prioritize a little bit according to what is the most complicated or what will require the most work from the set designers, for example, which has to be found beforehand. And then after that it’s a question of finding the impossible.

How do you find these places ? Do you have a notebook, detectives ? Do people contact you directly?

 Everyone has their own way of working. Each film is a prototype, each time we start over. I have a thousand anecdotes to tell but once on a film with an already well-defined aesthetic, they ask for me in a hurry. They had lost their set and needed a café for the following week. I may have 500, 1000, 2000 cafés, I don’t know anymore but maybe I didn’t have the café the movie needed in my computer. My job is above all to understand what’s good for the film, for this project. And indeed, eight months before, I passed in a small street in Aubervilliers. I had noted the name of the place and taken a few photos without knowing if it would be useful one day. But it turned out that it was perfect for this shoot. You have to think in terms of scenography, travel, direction and obviously the aesthetics of the place. We have to integrate the notions of the length of the shoot, the interventions of the set designers, the number of people involved… Generally speaking, we are on location scouting all the time. Even when we go for a walk with our family!

 The ideal is to already know the region. Personally, I’ve been working particularly in the Paris region for 20 years now and that’s where most of the shooting takes place, so I’m charted territory even if it’s moving and things are changing all the time. The important thing is to make a file, of course, but also to build up a network of merchants and institutions. And if not, the door-to-door remains effective, leaving words in mailboxes or on doors. Some people naturally propose themselves sometimes. Our job is also to warn these people about the constraints that a film shoot entails.

How many of you are in the scouting association ?

In this job, in all, there must be between 60 and 100 location scouts, at least for those who do nothing else because there can also be assistants or location managers who sometimes do location scouting work for a film. In the association, they are only specialized people who can claim at least five experiences on feature films or audiovisual works. It’s a fairly evenly balanced environment, I would even say, without knowing the figures precisely, that there are more women. But it has to be within two or three people.

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