Xavier's comments echo conditions on a smaller scale for car sequences filmed in Oregon. Closing down a Portland four lane main street, including light rail, on a Friday night and the first day of spring break, required getting permission from all businesses along a mile long stretch. Well written, informative, appreciated.
TLG talks to Location Manager Xavier Wakefield
Xavier Wakefield began his career in 1987 at a leading television commercial company in London. By the age of 21 he had already worked as 1st Assistant Director and Location Manager for Tony Kaye.
He continued doing both jobs on music videos and TVCs for other celebrated directors and by the mid-90s had also added producing to his repertoire.
In 2006, totally defeated by the British weather and in search of a fresh challenge, Xavier relocated to the French Riviera and joined forces with John Bernard at Jake Productions in Monaco. Here he regularly works as Service Producer on TVCs and Location Manager on movies such as Iron Man 2.
What do you like most about being a Location Manager?
I like the variety, the freedom and the opportunity to challenge my creative talents through scouting, as well as my logistical skills through unit managing. I also like the fact that location managing involves extensive contact with ‘the outside world’. The film industry can otherwise be quite an insular and incestuous place.
What has been your luckiest career break so far and why?
No single job catapulted me toward success. My career progress was gradual. Though I can't deny that Iron Man 2 did a lot for my reputation for making things happen in the south of France.
What type of production do you prefer working on and why?
Action movies. I don't watch them but they're great fun to make. Stunts, car chases, street closures. Love it. Not so keen on explosions though!
Where is your favourite location?
I've been blown away by so many diverse and jaw-dropping landscapes around the world that it's near impossible for me to single one out. Simply driving along the coastal road between Nice and Monaco gets me every time.
I doubled a retail estate in Slough for a small town in Colorado on National Treasure: Book of Secrets. I've also cheated Shoreditch for New York on a Wu-Tang video and a housing estate in Wiltshire for Middle America on a Tori Amos video.
What has been the best cheat location you have worked on?
I've cheated the French Riviera for Texas on [a feature currently called] Monte Carlo (due for release in August) and a retail estate in Slough for a small town in Colorado on National Treasure: Book of Secrets. I've also cheated Shoreditch for New York on a Wu-Tang video and a housing estate in Wiltshire for Middle America on a Tori Amos video.
What Directors have you most enjoyed working with and why?
Working with Michel Gondry because the man is a creative genius. Having access to the inside of his head was an unbelievable privilege. I recently worked with [Family Stone and Monte Carlo Director] Tom Bezucha, which was a very enjoyable experience. The man oozes charm, always wears a smile and has a wonderfully dry sense of humour which is always appreciated by us Brits.
For the Rolls Royce chase in Iron Man 2, we needed to close major chunks of the Monaco F1 circuit over five mornings immediately before and after the F1 Grand Prix. The permitting and licensing process was a vast minefield.
What has been your most challenging location assignment to date?
That would be the Monaco sequence of Iron Man 2, without a doubt. For the Rolls Royce chase, we needed to close major chunks of the Monaco F1 circuit over five mornings immediately before and after the F1 Grand Prix. The permitting and licensing process was a vast minefield. We needed to control Casino Square and the main entrance to the Hotel de Paris on their busiest day of the year, the morning after the F1 race. We needed a watertight safety plan for running cars at very high speeds on the city streets. At the same time, D-Neg (Double Negative) needed to access nearly 30 rooftops so that they could scan the entire 2km track for post work. Monaco was heaving with tourists. Parking a film unit was rocket science. There were hundreds of small elements that could have gone wrong, but thankfully none of them did. The entire shoot was a huge success. Much of that credit goes to my two leaders, Denis L Stewart and John Bernard, whose royal groundwork made my job considerably less impossible!
What is the most film-friendly location you have shot at that actively wants to encourage productions to film with them?
I know that the Metropole Hotel in Monaco is actively encouraging film work and I particularly like the grounds, pontoon and beach at Villa Eilenroc on the Cap d'Antibes, which are also very film friendly, stunningly elegant and cheap as chips.
The cost of a French workforce and the laws relating to working hours can be a real turn-off. However, although hard to quantify when staring at estimates, the French way of working is actually far more productive that you could possibly imagine.
What tips would you give to anyone considering filming for the first time in France?
The cost of a French workforce and the laws relating to working hours can be a real turn-off. However, although hard to quantify when staring at estimates, the French way of working is actually far more productive that you could possibly imagine. A lot gets shot in a single day and there is almost no waiting around and much less stressing. You get back to your hotel with time to eat and prepare for the next day. As for the types of locations you can find here, there is so much great stuff, especially on the French Riviera. It always saddens me when Croatia, Spain or Portugal are used as doubles for the sake of a few bucks. The French Riviera has definitely got that extra je ne sais quoi that I believe is worth paying for.
What would you consider to be the most film friendly hotels you use in France?
Intercontinental are pretty good.
If you hadn’t become a Location Manager what would you have done instead?
My father and grandfather both worked in the film business. I grew up on movie sets and I got started professionally at 17, so I never really considered another industry. So my first answer would be First Assistant Director, the second, well, maybe photo-journalism.
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