LMGA_Mag_Editors_2013_07_27-23LMGA member Stevie Nelson has just won her second COLA award. We sat down with her to gain some insights.

Q: Congratulations on your second COLA award Stevie. Your award is for excellent location work on half hour episodic television. How does half hour comedy episodic differ from hour dramas?

The pace is faster….it’s an episodic pace on steroids. We prep and shoot a show in 5 days instead of an hour show’s usual 8 days. Losing those 3 extra days of prep can really make it challenging at times.

Q: A five day shooting schedule must be grueling and fast paced. You have no choice but to work efficiently. What short cuts do you have for scouting and prepping locations that quickly?

We work with our writers and producers to get script outlines well ahead of time so we can get a head start on scouting. We also work closely with our First AD’s to hopefully schedule our location days to work within our various permit deadlines. The three of us (Dept Head/Location Manager Kim Crabb & KALM Carole Segal) have developed extensive individual scouting libraries over the years so that gives us a lot of “tried and true” locations to pull from as well.

Q: Team work is essential for all location departments but with a five day turn around you must have clear job roles. Tell me how you set up your team to work so quickly.

We are a small department of 3 so its important that we can all pinch hit and handle any role. That said, Location Manager Kim Crabb as the Department Head will scout and generally handles all the creative meetings, director’s scouts & production meetings. She will also handle creating the episode budget although we all weigh in on what we think specific items might cost. Carole Segal and I scout, attend the tech scout & logistics meetings and handle the day to day running of the current episode, along with cleaning up the prior episode. Kim’s primary focus is on continually moving us forward.

Q: Finding great locations for half hour episodic is challenging because the perfect location does not always take precedence over ‘making the day’.  How do you maintain the integrity of good looking locations and make the production schedule?

We know how to scout for what could be as well as the perfect location. If we give our production designer the right ‘bones’ we can make an imperfect location; perfect.

Q: Anyone in half hour episodic must have the talent to look at a backlot loading dock and see how it could be a prison intake yard. It is a specialized way of scouting or of ‘seeing’ can you communicate this skill set?

I think you can intellectually try & communicate this way of seeing but I suspect its best developed with practical experience over time. Working with other location scouts, production designers and directors is a working tutorial in how other people see a location. Over time you incorporate their way of seeing as well as your own.

Q: What do you love about location scouting?

In the almost 25 years I have been doing this, there have been many great experiences. I still love the thrill of the open road and the mystery of finding out whats around the next bend. Seeing new environments and meeting interesting people from different walks of life is still a joy. I love the art of “finding the shot” when I’m scouting – looking at a location that may not seem the obvious choice at a casual glance and finding the right angle to shoot that will reveal its artistic possibilities. I’ve certainly seen many gorgeous sunrises opening a company! I think the best thing though, is the friendships I have found working with my colleagues in the trenches. I have been very blessed to work with some wonderfully funny, creative, tough, clever, big hearted people (like Nancy Haecker) that are extremely generous with their time and knowledge. In production, Locations is not unlike planning a campaign for war. It’s a highly stressful job and if you are marching into battle you want smart, generous, funny people by your side – people that can think out of the box, won’t fold under pressure, will have your back and can make you laugh along the way. In this particular profession, the people who succeed & thrive all seem to share these qualities.

Q:  More and more location professionals are getting credit for their contribution to production.  How did it feel to win another COLA award and how has the perception of locations professionals been altered due to the COLA and LMGA Awards?

It was a lovely surprise to win Location Team of The Year for episodic TV (1/2 hr). It always feels good to have your work recognized by your peers. I think the COLA’s & the LMGA awards industry press coverage certainly help elevate the recognition of our profession among our industry peers. The COLA’s, of course, has been recognizing excellence in California productions for the past 21 years. The LMGA awards, while just 3 years old, meets a real need by celebrating professional excellence worldwide- it speaks to the fact that we truly are a global industry.

Q: Northern California is breathtakingly beautiful and your home. What makes Northern California so special to you?

While born and raised in Los Angeles, I’m very proud to call Humboldt County my home now. It’s simply one of the most spectacularly beautiful parts of California and it’s a great playground for anyone who loves the outdoors, like I do. I live right outside the college town of Arcata (Cal State Humboldt). We have a very active artist enclave along with a growing “foodie” farm to table community while still being rural enough for my country heart.