By Jill Naumann

Did you know that with over 46,000 attendees last year, the Sundance Film festival is the largest independent film festival in the US?

The Utah Film Commission played a large role in the 1978 inception of the festival first aptly named the Utah/US film festival, and to this day holds a commanding presence as the host state to unprecedented International attention.

This year was no exception. The LMGI was pleased to join with LMGI Business Member the Utah Film Commission in presenting a panel of location experts, for two of this year’s Utah based cinematic entries, Damsel, and Hereditary both showcased in the 2018 lineup. The panel, made up of Stevie Nelson/ Location Manager LMGI, Scott E Chester/ Production Manager, Andrew K Hodge/ Location Manager LMGI (for both these films) and former LMGI President Nancy Haecker/ Location Manager, serving as primary moderator, discussed the locations for these films, to standing room only in the Utah Film Commission loungeon Main Street in Park City Utah.

The audience was a filmmaker’s United Nations brought together by their passion for cinema. With Film Commissioners representing terrain from Poland to Humboldt, first time filmmaker teams from the UK, LMGI Business Member Director Guild Canada, B.C. and location professionals from across the US, rubbing shoulders here meant something more than a warm up break from hiking the snowy sidewalks of Park City. In a relaxed atmosphere, Scott Chester, (Production Manager for Damsel and Hereditary) led the way by giving deeper insight to the importance in a location team that can align a creative vision with a budget, and spoke of elaborate rigs necessary in prep to control seemingly simple shots in an uncontrollable force of nature; the River. A discussion of navigating the treacherous waters of multiple governing municipalities when dealing with natural terrain continued as we all discovered together, that rivers in particular, were uniquely challenging and seemed to be in high demand lately. Nancy Haecker Location Manager both for Academy award nominated film Wild and Into the Wild describes the need to be well prepared for this unpredictable location while scouting. “Any scene scripted in water should be a red flag to production whether it is a bathtub scene or a river rapids scene – working in water is time consuming and each situation brings with it numerous challenges”

Andrew Hodge, (Location Manager Damsel) discussed some of the challenges in scouting massive amounts of wild terrain, months in advance of any shoot day. “It was a full team collaboration to help the Director to find his vision, in a production-friendly setting. Even though he didn’t initially see the seven locations the script initially called for, after several directors scouts, we were able to integrate one major property for all those locations needed in a way that organically made sense aesthetically and logistically. Being that the seasons change, as our movie matured, so did the landscape. We eventually filmed in late summer when it had become a perfect match to what was scripted.”

Questions from the audience opened a discussion of the growing importance of “drone scouting” in wilderness areas, with a resounding agreement from several in attendance that drone use as a “hobbyist” while scouting still seemed a safe standard with proper permitting channels for commercial production use.

Generous hospitality from Utah’s film office included an after panel reception where we enjoyed networking and fellowship; meeting new friends and re-connecting with old friends. A special thanks to Virginia Pierce, Director Utah Film Office, Marketing and Creative Executive Ricardo Flores and their staff for hosting this event with us. We look forward to returning to Sundance next year!

From all of us at LMGI “Scout Safely” and Watch for the ‘Scouters Guide to Surviving the Sun-Dance’ a full info pass for first timers, sometime next fall in Compass magazine.

Jill Naumann is a regular contributor to LMGI and Compass Magazine. A native of California serving the Motion Picture Industry as a Location Manager since 1991.