Q&A: Why work with a location agency?

What better way to highlight the benefits of working with a location agency (okay, yes, we mean us) than by asking some of our clients themselves? Here, two location managers at the top of their game talk about their experiences of working with UK Locations and how our unique offering makes their working lives a whole lot easier…

Before getting down to the nitty gritty, we should point out that we provide locations for all kinds of shoots and clients, from production companies and ad agencies working on campaigns for brands, to the brands themselves. We also work closely with people from the film and TV industry, and that’s the focus of this blog.

Mark O’Hanlon is a supervising location manager predominantly working in the north of England. Over a period of around 10 years, Mark’s used our library to find locations for multiple high-profile TV dramas including Stay Close and The Stranger (both for Netflix), the hugely popular 1990s ITV series Cold Feet, and the upcoming Disney+ series, Wedding Season. Fellow location manager and long-term UK Locations client Lois Williams has also worked with us on the latter and, more recently, the upcoming ITV series, Nolly.

How does working with UK Locations help you in your role?

Mark O’Hanlon (M.H.) They give me fast access to the kind of properties that are not easy to get into. So that could be anything from a stately home to large private houses to offices. Going through UK Locations cuts so much time. Normally, with locations like these – especially the high-end, multi-million-pound houses – we’d do a letter drop and then it’d take two or three weeks to get an answer and start a relationship with the owners. Even then, just because they’ve responded to a letter doesn’t mean they’re going to go ahead with the filming. We might talk and talk and recce and recce, then two, three weeks down the line, they can say, “Actually, this isn’t for us”. When you view a location represented by UK Locations, you know that it’s available and the owners are happy to have you filming there.

Lois Williams (L.W.) They make it easy to whittle down the options in the first place, too. UK Locations offer a 360° video of each property and they have amazing pictures – wides of all the locations – which means we can use them straightaway. It saves us travelling out to take the pictures ourselves. And they also deal with all the contracts and the costings and things like that. So you basically cut out the middleman and get straight to the location – they’re looking after all the other bits for you.

What happens if you have to rearrange a recce or a shoot at one of their locations?

M.H. They understand how the industry works – last-minute schedule changes, changes in what we want to do in a location… The guys are ready to deal with that – they never say, “No, we can’t do that.” It’s always, “Let’s see what we can do” and they adapt to make it work. This kind of thing normally happens when I’m driving around in the car – I get a phone call from a colleague, something’s gone wrong… And I know I can call UK Locations and speak direct to them or that they’ll call me back (because they know I can’t be at a computer writing emails).

Find out which of our  locations  Lois and Mark chose for Disney+ drama series, Wedding Season!

LW: You get 5-star service every day. If I’m sending an email, I know that I’m getting a reply back within half an hour. They’re always on hand to help if I’ve got any questions or need to change something at the last minute – I know that they can organise that for me, often within as little as 24 hours. In our industry, everything’s constantly changing, so it’s good to be able to call them up and for them to react straightaway. That’s what we need – it’s a necessity.

M.H. They make sure the location owners they work with understand how the industry works too, which really helps smooth the way. They’re open and honest and they build relationships with them. Normally, when you find a new location, it takes a long time to get to that point, but with UK Locations, the trust and understanding is already there.

Aside from residential properties, what other types of buildings have you sourced through UK Locations?

M.H. UK Locations have broken into all sorts of commercial spaces, which we’ve used on shows I’ve worked on. Normally, when you approach these kinds of places, you’re dealing with a faceless business – often, you don’t know who owns it, manages it, facilitates it… But the guys at UK Locations have already got that information and because it’s all arranged through them, you’re only dealing with one person and that can save so much time.

L.W. We changed one of UK Locations’ city office spaces into a Chinese restaurant for the Disney+ drama, Wedding Season by putting statues inside the hallway of the reception, adding lights and lots of Oriental themes and so on. It completely changed the look of the office block.

Do you tend to make changes to the residential locations you use as well?

L.W. Generally, yes. Right at the beginning, we take the art department in and they have a vision – mood boards and collections of pictures, etc – and we then ask the homeowner, ‘Can we can we paint that wall pink?’ or ‘Can we paint it green?’ After that, we’ll maybe take all the furniture away and get our own stuff from the prop store and pop that into the house, which obviously makes it look completely different.

Discover what it’s like to be a location owner…

But before all that, the art department goes in and takes a load of pictures so that everything is documented on an iPad. And at the end, they bring back all the items they removed from the owner’s house, repaint the house where necessary, and put it all back to the way it was. Then we do a walk around with the owner to make sure that they they’re happy with the way the property looks.

How do UK Locations help when it comes to making changes to locations?

L.W. For me and my team, it’s really important for us to walk away from a house knowing that they will have us again – it’s something that we pride ourselves on. And the UKL team are really supportive with that. If there’s something the residents aren’t happy with – which, nine times out of ten doesn’t happen – UK Locations will speak to them and we can generally all resolve it together.

M.H. Funny you say that. I first met the MD of UK Locations, Lauren, about 10 years ago. I’d taken over as location manager on a show halfway through filming and we needed to go back to this really big, contemporary house to do some retakes. But something must’ve happened on the first visit because the location owners didn’t want the crew back. So, I met with Lauren and the location owner and basically, through Lauren, it was agreed that we could go back under the proviso that she would be there to watch over the filming. And it went really well and the owner was very, very happy. I really enjoyed working with Lauren and seeing what she did and how she cared. So now if we need to film in offices or big contemporary houses or a whole host of other locations, I often go through UKL.

Would you recommend UK Locations to other location managers?

M.H. Yes, without doubt. Because like I said, they’re honest and they care – traits that are sadly disappearing. For a lot of people, it’s about business. But UK Locations are different; every location matters to them and they create relationships with location owners, and that connection is priceless. So yes, I would 100% offer UK Locations up to other people. There aren’t many companies I’d say that about, but UK Locations are very special.

L.W. I’d definitely recommend UK Locations because the communication is second to none. They’re like an extension of the team. I know that I can rely on them when I need them – that if I call them, they’re going to call me back immediately and help us out with whatever we need.

Think we might be able to help you? Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!

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