Looking for a location in Scotland? With such a variety of mountains, coastlines, wildernesses, cities, villages, historic and modern locations to choose from, you are sure to find the perfect one.
The best place to start is to hire an experienced Location Scout and there is plenty of help out there to assist you in sourcing one. We have a database full of experienced Location Scouts and Managers across Scotland and we can send you a list of available scouts if you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each film commission office also has a list of local location scouts. You can find information on screen commission local offices here: https://www.screen.scot/film-in-scotland/screen-commission/local-offices. Other resources include www.filmbang.com, productionbase.co.uk and www.screen.scot.
Below, we have laid out a useful guide for scouting in Scotland which is taken from our own Location Scout and Director, Tim Maskell.
First, receive the brief and where applicable do a full location breakdown of the script to determine how many locations there are, what types of locations and specific briefs for each location.
Start with what you already know, i.e. municipal buildings, country estates, etc. Use your experience and any relevant previous scouting you may have done that could be relevant to put forward locations that may work, ideally locations that haven’t been used before although repeat ones can also work if they are a specific match to the brief. In the first instance, the idea is to focus the mind and make sure you are on the same page as the director and designer and what they see the location brief as.
Once you have a couple of options and the brief is ‘locked’ in you can expand the search to try to find the perfect location. Ideally at least 2 or 3 really good ones to choose from.
Below are some tips on how to best scout for locations:
Consider where your production is going to be based and how far you are willing to travel. The good news is that Scotland isn’t that big so you can get from a bustling city to the rugged highlands in most cases within a short drive. In Scotland you also tend to get a vast variety of scenery and architecture no matter where you are that can be adapted to fit your desired location.
Once you have determined your search radius, start with the local film commission for that area/areas. There are 20 film commission offices/officers in Scotland who are there to help you find locations in their areas. They all hold a location library full of film friendly locations. Here is the link again: https://www.screen.scot/film-in-scotland/screen-commission/local-offices.
Bounce ideas off other Location Managers and Scouts. Scotland has an excellent, and experienced network of locations crew.
Use an OS map to locate remote locations such as farms, cottages, lochs, rivers, forests etc.
Make use of free online resources such as Rightmove for residential properties. This at the least can help you focus your search in specific areas, i.e. you might not find what you need on Rightmove (and often want to avoid places that are on the market anyway) but you might find a specific style of house or street which you can then explore further to find the right location.
With regards to residential properties, letter drops are generally the way forward when it comes to gauging interest and increasing the number of options available to you.
Other useful contacts depending on your exact location brief include local councils, Historic Scotland, real estate agents, building firms, architects etc etc.
Visit Scotland lists historic and modern locations, particularly tourist attractions. They even include a list of ‘film location tours’ including Harry Potter, Mary Queen of Scots, Outlander and many more.
Large Estates such as Ardgowan, Ardkinglas and Abercairny Estate can have many different types of properties on their estates including hunting lodges, cottages, stables and farms. People who own a lot of land or a lot of properties can be a handy resource.
When searching for a location you must have consideration to how it can be facilitated and its potential to affect other departments. Not only does the crew need to get there, and be able to work safely, but things like noise pollution can be an issue for the sound department or what floor you're filming on could be an issue for lighting.
Once a desirable location has been found you then need to contact the owner to determine if they are open to filming and if they can accommodate the filming schedule. This is why it is always good practice to source as many leads for each location as possible to ensure there are backup options should one not work out.
We hope that this guide gives you a good insight into location scouting in Scotland and assists you in your quest to find your perfect location. Please do get in touch with us if you would like us to help you source a scout or search our location library for some leads.