They’re young, smart and enthusiastic about what they do. LMGI assistant location manager Paul Messana, a Millennial himself, talks with the next generation of location professionals on the rise.
by Paul Messana
Profile on: Evan Chan, LMGI
Home base: Vancouver, BC
Position: Location Scout
Union: Directors Guild Canada
Photos courtesy of Evan Chan/LMGI
Where are you from and how did you get started in locations?
I was born in Vancouver, BC, and I started in locations as a production assistant doing day calls.
PM: What did you do in school and what did you study?
EC: I studied film production. I attended film camps at the Gulf Island Film & Television School during a couple summers while I was still in high school, and went on to study film in college after I graduated. Film was something I was always interested in. I remember watching documentaries on how movies were made when I was little.
PM: How long have you been working in locations and what do you primarily work on?
EC: I’ve been working in the location department since 2005. At the time, I was still going to college for film studies, so I was only able to work during the summers. After completing my studies, I started working more as a prep production assistant, helping with logistics, readying locations for filming. Eventually, I was trained as a location scout by location manager David Fullerton, and have been working as a scout pretty much full time since 2014. I mainly work in television. My recent credits include the TV series Wayward Pines, The Whispers, Fear the Walking Dead, The Magicians and Legion. Currently, I’m working on season three of Van Helsing with the same team from season one of Fear the Walking Dead. We’ve developed a good shorthand that comes from working together.
PM: Was there a particular scouting moment that made you think about this field as a long-term career worth pursuing? Are there particular people or productions that inspired you to take this current career path?
EC: I remember when I was working as a production assistant, I wanted to be a scout. However, it can be difficult to break into, since traditionally, scouts here have been around the industry longer and have more experience. For a while, I had people telling me I was the youngest scout they had ever met. As soon as I started scouting locations, I quickly realized that you have a creative hand in the production. It was immediately clear to me that this was something I wanted to do long term. I just had to keep pursuing it to make it a full-time career.
While there wasn’t anyone specifically that inspired me to pursue this career field, I greatly appreciate all the location managers who have taken the time to show me the ropes. Scouting is one of those jobs where once you realize your job is to be creative while meeting new people on a daily basis, it encourages you to keep going. When I started, there was no LMGI, so location professionals were not well known outside of their immediate small circle. There wasn’t a LMGI Compass magazine for me to read about other location professionals’ careers. I think it’s great that the LMGI promotes what we do. I always find it interesting to read about scouts and managers who have been around for a while. I think location scout Lori Balton, LMGI set the bar pretty high so it would be cool if I could achieve some of the things she has done.
PM: What have you found to be the most enjoyable part of your job?
EC: The most enjoyable part is the ability to be creative on a daily basis while meeting new people and seeing different places here in the Lower Mainland, the area around and including Vancouver in British Columbia. North Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and Coquitlam are some of the cities that fall within the Lower Mainland. I think most people who live in and around Vancouver feel like a stranger in certain areas. As a scout, it is a privilege to be able to turn over every stone and see all the places you normally wouldn’t get a chance to see because it’s not part of your daily routine. I also love getting access to places not open to the general public.
It’s always a pleasure working with talented teams. When I worked on season one of Marvel’s Legion, I think every department head was nominated for (or won) an Oscar or an Emmy. It was fun to be in such a creative environment. Production designer Michael Wylie and his team did an amazing job. It was fun to walk around the office and the sets to see the things being designed brought to reality.
PM: What have you found to be the most challenging?
EC: Sometimes it is difficult to film in the Lower Mainland because of the volume of filming that happens here. We have a lot of locations that we can’t use at certain times because another production has gone in just before. There’s also a lot of construction sites throughout the city further complicating the process. But we always seem to rise to the challenge.
PM: Presently, Vancouver seems to define your work but do you see yourself taking on new cities or countries? Any plans for traveling the world?
EC: I would love an opportunity to scout other cities and countries. One of my main goals as a scout is to work on big projects that will send me to other places. I had a chance to visit London and explore a little of England in 2016. I fell in love with the country and it is one of the places that is high on my list of cities/countries I want to work in. I think our basic skill set, once developed, can travel very well.
PM: Do you have any advice for any young scouts just starting out and why?
EC: One of the best pieces of advice I got came early on in my career. I was advised to work with and learn from as many location managers as possible. Every location professional has their own style of working and each production has different needs. My early goal was to never turn down work. I welcomed every opportunity to work with someone new; even if it was a production that didn’t pay well. I wanted my skill set to be as well-rounded as possible.
PM: What are your tools of the trade? What tech gadget or tool can’t you live without?
EC: Currently, my main camera is the Sony A6000, however, on rainy days, I’ll use an Olympus TG-4. I like using a camera that shoots good panoramas and stills. Some productions just want to see stills; others want to see lots of panoramas or a mix of both. I also think Google Earth has become a big part of our department, and because we’re in BC, a good-quality waterproof camera is very handy in our wet climate.
PM: What made you decide to join the LMGI?
EC: I decided to join the LMGI last year because of what it has the potential to evolve into—in its global aspect, it is the future of our craft. So for me, it was about what it can eventually be that made me want to support it. I see it as a strong network where professionals from all over the world can reach out and help each other develop best practices. In the past year, more and more people here in BC have joined, which is a positive sign. The LMGI Awards and LMGI Compass have also become cornerstones in our industry, promoting what we do.