They’re young, smart and enthusiastic about what they do. In this new occasional column, LMGI assistant location manager Paul Messana, a Millennial himself, talks with the next generation of location professionals on the rise.
Profile On: Hektor Larios, LMGI
Home Base: Los Angeles, CA
Position: Key assistant location scout
Union: Teamsters Local 399
By Paul Messana
All photos courtesy of Hektor Larios/LMGI, except as noted.
Paul Messana: Where were you born and how did you get started in locations?
Hektor Larios: I was born in Los Angeles and raised in the San Fernando Valley. I was first introduced to location work while working as a security guard for a company that catered to the film industry.
PM: Where did you go to school and what did you study?
HL: After high school, I decided since I had no money for college, I’d take my chances in the workforce and worked a lot of odd jobs. I’ve held jobs that range from working in my dad’s auto upholstery shop, unloading trucks for Fed Ex, sales, warehouse management for a cosmetics line and everything in between.
PM: How long have you been working in locations and what do you primarily work on?
HL: I was trained by location manager Albert Epps and joined the Hollywood Teamsters Local 399 as an assistant location manager in 2014. Since then, I have been working mostly in television. I am currently working Season 2 of Get Shorty (Epix). I’ve also been involved in American Housewife (ABC), Insecure (HBO), Goliath (Amazon), The Last Tycoon (Amazon) and Masters of Sex (Showtime). My one credit in feature films is for Straight Outta Compton (Universal Pictures) in 2014/2015.
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?
HL: I think my work on Straight Outta Compton was very much a labor of love. Having grown up in a working-class neighborhood in Los Angeles in the ’80s, I was very familiar with the music and personas of NWA. For me, to be involved in the telling of their story and to have the opportunity to work with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre was truly the opportunity of a lifetime. It was not an easy movie to work on with ever-changing schedules and logistically very tough locations. I believe the experience from scouting for a location to prepping that same location to working on the shoot day and then to see it come to fruition on the big screen gave me a real satisfaction and really made me realize how much of a character the actual location plays and how important our roles as location managers really are. I have been lucky in my career to work with great location managers, especially Albert Epps, who gave me my first camera and showed how to use it to scout. Steve Woroniecki, Kokayi Ampah, LMGI, Jason Kaplon, LMGI and Alison Taylor, LMGI were also very important mentors.
PM: What is something you are aspiring to do in the Location Department?
HL: I would like to eventually be involved more in the feature film world, to travel and see the world professionally. My wife Sandra and I became parents in our early 20s and I’ve been lucky to be able to work steadily in Los Angeles and be home with the family. Now that we’re three years away from sending our son away to college, I look forward to the possibility of assignments beyond Los Angeles.
PM: What have you found to be the most challenging?
HL: When working in locations, specifically in scripted television, more often than not, the main challenge is almost always time. We don’t always have the script pages with necessary locations available to us with enough time to scout and prep locations. Quite often, we find ourselves tech scouting on a Thursday with the assistant director scheduling locations that following Monday or you have a schedule for a location that films on Friday of that week and they pull it back to film on Tuesday and you find yourself scrambling with permits, street posting, vendors and all the other logistics that go along with location filming.
PM: How did it feel to receive Assistant Location Manager of the Year at the 2015 COLAs? Has it changed your career trajectory?
HL: I won the California On Location Award (COLA) for Assistant Location Manager of the Year in Feature Films for my work on Straight Outta Compton. First of all, I want to thank Alison Taylor for nominating me for the award and FLICS (Film Liaisons in California Statewide) for putting together such a great awards ceremony and recognizing our work as location professionals. I never expected any kind of recognition for doing my job and was very humbled by the entire experience. From getting the initial email letting me know about my nomination to listening to Ed Duffy and Steve Dayan call my name as the winner still seems surreal. To this day, I couldn’t tell you exactly what I said in my acceptance speech. I don’t know if it changed my career trajectory but more people know who I am now.
PM: Do you have any advice for any young scouts just starting out and why?
HL: The one piece of advice I would give new assistants is to listen, learn and absorb as much as you can from the managers and assistants you’re working with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because the only way to grow professionally and become an asset is to learn all the aspects of our job. In Los Angeles, we’re lucky that the Teamsters Local 399 offers weekend classes taught by location professionals that range from scouting photography to architecture. Sign up and take the classes. It’s worth your time.
PM: What’s the best location advice you’ve received?
HL: When I was working as a security guard on the movie Inception, I remember telling Ilt Jones, LMGI I was interested in location work and he told me, “Hektor, just know that it’s not always glamorous. Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug.” I’ve learned to appreciate the days when I’m on set and all is going as planned but I stay prepared in case something should go wrong.
PM: What are your tools of the trade? What car or tech gadget or tool can’t you live without?
HL: I scout using a Canon T5i with an EF-S 18mm-200mm lens which is a great camera and lens combination and works for me for almost all types of scouting. Living in LA, there are times when I’ve found myself scouting in a seedy part of town and instead of drawing too much attention with a big camera, I’ll pull out my Leica C (Typ 112) camera which is a great camera for its size. Los Angeles is so large that the ability to pre-scout in the office using Google Earth and Yelp saves a lot of time and gas as well.
PM: What made you decide to join the LMGI?
HL: I decided to join the LMGI after the push from the Guild to change our titles on IMDb from miscellaneous to Location Management. I would like to thank everybody involved in doing so. This to me is just a first step to helping to elevate and bring recognition to what we do in this industry and I wanted to be a part of the movement bringing forth the change.