5 December 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
Making The Cut…Career Advice From Locations Manager Grant Bobbett
28 Feb 2013 : By Dylan Newe
Ciaran Hinds stars in 'The Sea', a film Grant worked on
The Irish locations used when shooting both homegrown and international films are often praised for bringing the raw beauty of our country to millions; enticing tourists to visit, and showcasing the jaw-dropping scenery that exist on these shores.

However while they’re rarely credited properly, it’s the locations managers on these films who are responsible for making Ireland shine on the big screen. Grant Bobbett is one of the country’s finest location scouts and has worked with directors such as Steven Soderbergh on ‘Haywire’ and Rodrigo Garcia on ‘Albert Nobbs, in selecting suitable settings for their international productions here.

His other credits include upcoming feature release ‘Earthbound’ as well as RTÉ series ‘Trivia’. However it is Bobbett’s most recent work on the film adaptation of John Banville’s ‘The Sea’, due for release later this year, that will surely have our tourism boards readying their Cranberries-soundtracking montages.

Starring Ciarán Hinds and Ruth Bradley, the film will was shot almost fully on location along the Wexford coast. Here in another IFTN exclusive, Bobbett tells us how he got started in the job, why locations managers are a close-knit bunch, and about the thrill of finding great places to shoot.

The most common misconception about being a location manager is that it’s the most unique and glamorous job you can have! "

Generally, working as a locations manager on a production that’s shooting the day usually begins... in the eye of the storm. The first thing you do at about 6am is check that security have got your location blocked, whether it be a street or a road or a Georgian Square. Security supervisor Noeley Meade is the locations team right-hand man for this and worth his weight in gold, who’s been spending the previous night getting the location ready and cordoning off, so you just make sure that nothing has happened overnight and there’s space for the location trucks to park.

Next to set are usually the production designer and anyone involved with props around 7am, sometimes they want to add some last-minute props or just check the set before the shooting crew come in. Anyone on early call would usually be there as well like the electricians, camera grips, the crew building lighting towers etc. Everyone comes to set around 8am and once everyone is up and running that’s sort of my morning over.

Shooting in a city street or even a town that’s got busy traffic, you’ve got Gardaí there to make sure actors can cross the road who are holding traffic to make sure everything is done safely and these are actually some of the more enjoyable days. There are three people that make up a locations team (locations manager, assistant and a trainee) and you’re all out together, of course it gets more intense but it’s also often more fun.

The most common misconception people have about being a location manager... is that it’s the most unique and glamorous job you can have! At the start of the job you’re driving around with the director, producer and production designer who if they’re from overseas will come over here for a pre-scout before they go to shoot properly. That’s a very full-on role, you’re directly showing them location ideas and coming up with ideas that would suit their script. And as the job goes on you’re finding the locations to shoot at and you’re very hands on with the key personnel for the design team. The production designer comes up with the look of the film and will basically go through all the things you are showing him and see which will work best for the director.
Glenn Close starred in ‘Albert Nobbs’

The key tips I would give to somebody who wants to break into the film and TV industry in a locations role... is to contact every location manager that’s working in Ireland (which is only about twenty of them) and harass them until one gives you a daily job, work on the dailies and then take it from there. There are many roles in the industry and many ways to break into working in the industry, so you have to decide what department you want to work in so if you have a college background you’ll have a better understanding.

I suppose knowing that you want to work in locations is not the first thing that people put their hand up to do, it’s not the common thing to do. I did a Higher Diploma in Film in Ballyfermot and then I think ‘Braveheart’ was shooting that summer so I got a trainee locations position on some long six-day weeks on the shoot. I called up the location manager, they had five or six different sites and they wanted people to help out on set, and that was my way in the door. I got other experience too, I actually spent three seasons after working with the Dublin Film Festival as a print transport manager, organising the film prints to Dublin and back out to other festivals.

The turning points in my career which helped me get to where I am today… I suppose was firstly working with the Dublin film festival because it gave a lot of exposure to people within the industry. There’s always people who once you work with them will work with you again. It’s important to have a good name in the industry. And then I guess the other was making the jump from assistant to being a location manager which was another turning point, it’s a huge step up and equally it’s a lot more responsibility.

The best thing about being a working in Film and TV is... your exposure to talented people, whether it be internationally or those who are shooting in Ireland for six months. It’s the opportunity to meet some very powerful directors, and to literally be their liaison and be dealing with them, not for the whole film but for a portion of it. They look to you for some pictures, you get to chat with them about ideas you have, I think that is definitely the biggest plus.

About two weeks ago I got to spend a few days driving around with Gabriele Salvatores [Italian Academy-Award winning director, Mediterraneo] who’s going to hopefully shoot something here later in the year and I was an assistant on a film with Steven Soderbergh a few years ago ‘Haywire’. It’s not every day you get to be in the room working with someone like that! So that part of it is the most interesting. And it’s not all roses either but the most talented are usually the easiest to work with and the best communicators.

Just reading the script you find yourself already coming up with ideas and that’s how you generally start off "

The process in which to get ideas to find locations... is quite organic, when you read a script you immediately start to think of places that will fit. Just reading the script you find yourself already coming up with ideas and that’s how you generally start off. I also use a website called www.irishfilmlocations.com which is great for finding locations and there’s a book called ‘The Guide to Irish Houses’ by Mark Bence-Jones that we’ll use a lot.

We commonly use each other’s knowledge as well so one location manager will commonly ring another and ask if they know of something or know of certain houses. So everyone in locations uses each other for information as things change and evolve so much, each individual will have their database so you’ll get to use that too. There’s an Irish Guild of Location Managers and Assistants now set up as well which we’re all part of, we’re all quite close-knit and we’ve all practically either worked with or met eachother. And we’ll communicate about things within the Irish film industry that we’re happy or not happy with, whether it be rates or working conditions and it’s a good forum for us to have.

A recent film I worked on which I really enjoyed was ‘The Sea’ with Ciaran Hinds and Ruth Bradley and directed by an English director Stephen Brown... Stephen is an interesting guy. He optioned the rights for the book from John Banville and after he was able to get some key cast behind that, people like Charlotte Rampling he moved forward to get some financing from Independent [Films in UK]. He was a natural director and did it very successfully. The great thing about Stephen was he really trusted you to find what he was looking for. The more you know about what a director is looking for the easier it is for you to come up with it because you’ve got an idea of what they’re after, and that’s an essential part of the relationship.

Where we decided to shoot it couldn’t have been more perfect, all the landscapes were close to where our main location was which is the Cedars Guesthouse in the book and screenplay. It was shot in Wexford obviously, in Gorey, Courtown, Ballygarrett and not too far from where Saving Private Ryan was shot. There’s not been too many other features there recently and they were very hospitable, within reason Wexford County Council gave the production the keys to the county which is extremely helpful.

I had never personally worked in Wexford before and I was really taken away by the locations we found, there were places that we were using where there was the sea, the beach, a river and a forest all within 50 yards of eachother. If you saw it on another film you’d think it was somewhere on the other side of the world. I remember tapping the director on the shoulder going “I can’t believe I’ve just seen this, it’s an amazing place to film”. It’s discovering the geography of the landscape, out scouting and finding places like that which can be quite a nice part of the job.

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