Written by Murray Ashton on Jun 12, 2012. Posted in Interviews

Filming in the State of Nebraska with Location Scout Jamie Vesay

Jamie is from the northeast US and eventually found himself in Los Angeles working with special effects. He enjoyed it but wanted to get into production and not necessarily in Hollywood. A cousin’s invite to slower-paced Nebraska proved a success and it’s been his home for the past 20 years.

He worked as a Location Scout and Production Co-ordinator for a local production company on a regional TV commercial. Over the next ten years he built his commercial experience and also operates across the US.

How did you become involved with locations in the area?

There is that classic saying of never say never. Way back when I was working in effects, one day on set we had to run a muddy fire hose through somebody’s house to get to the other side of a neighbourhood. It made a muddy mess. I thought surely I wouldn’t want to be that Location Manager talking to the homeowner. Years later, living here and working in production on commercials, a friend suggested I do locations too as it’s the first call they make.

Now, I scout locations and often manage them. I supervise production and sometimes, I produce. Depending on the size and scale of the project, I could be doing one specific thing or a variation of all of them. Mostly, I love to scout with a Director or creatives to collaborate on their vision. I also enjoy being the local guide to visitors coming here for a project.

I have been doing locations work full-time for more than 15 years, but have been in and around the film production business for about 23 years.

What can you tell me about the region that you cover?

I am based in Omaha, on the eastern edge of Nebraska. My region is a sixty-mile radius including the neighbouring state of Iowa, but I have scouted and shot throughout the entire state of Nebraska.

Although we are most noted for our agricultural locations - barns, fields, crops and farms - we can also provide the city, urban, industrial, residential, parks and small town looks.

Although we are most noted for our agricultural locations - barns, fields, crops and farms - we can also provide the city, urban, industrial, residential, parks and small town looks.

The State of Nebraska is big. It is broken up into a few different regions with each having their own topographical appearances. Omaha and Lincoln are the largest cities with the most amenities that crews expect and are in the eastern region. There is a central region and then a western region. The more you move west, the more remote it gets.

What kind of filmmaking infrastructure do you have?

Compared to most production centres in the US our infrastructure is small. There are a few lighting and grip trucks, some small studio spaces and a handful of talent agencies. Unique production tools and larger film trucks are usually brought in for large or long-term jobs. Our crew is strong in select areas and limited in others. They are a decent mix of seasoned veterans and next-generation filmmakers.

What locations are most commonly used by film and TV crews when they come and film in the area?

Agricultural locations like farms, crops and fields are popular; classic small-town America. Parks and green space are popular too. Often, production companies will come here because of a specific location that is connected to the client (their warehouse or corporate office or call centre). Our local ad agencies generate much of the local work and will bring in directors or production companies.

What are the more unusual locations in Nebraska that our readers would not necessarily associate with the region?

Many people think the topography of Nebraska is flat. While it is in some areas, most areas are surprisingly hilly. We have no mountains. A section of land in the upper central region called the Sandhills is a vast, rolling collection of hills of sand-soiled grasses; a unique region in Nebraska. Every year in March there is a large crane migration. They stop in central Nebraska for about six weeks to rest on their way north. That deserves to be captured on film. Omaha is a real city with a downtown mix of urban, classic old and modern buildings.

What has been your most difficult location assignment to date and why?

Filming logistics for scenes from the movie Up in the Air in the Old Market of Omaha. The Old Market is a warehouse district filled with restaurants, bars and businesses. It is very popular with tourists and locals. Parking can be a challenge for a car, let along an entire movie company. I was the face of the project leading up to the filming. I had to find the space for the footprint, educate all the affected business owners and divert a public works project. After all that work, the scenes were edited out of the movie.

What types of production do you work on most?

I work mostly on commercials but have worked on movies, filmed concerts, corporate video, still photo shoots and many other diverse projects that involve motion and photography.

Lady Gaga’s music video You and I was shot here last year. National spots include Prilosec with Larry the Cable Guy, Prudential Insurance sunrise project and Plavix. Alexander Payne movies have been filmed here, including About Schmidt and Election. The aforementioned movie Up in the Air, with George Clooney, shot here for a few days.

Are there any tips that you would like to share about filming in Nebraska?

The spring and fall are gorgeous. In the spring and summer the weather can change quickly. Fast-moving thunderstorms can bring high winds, heavy rain and lightning. Have a shelter nearby for crew and cast to take cover if bad weather is threatening. We are in tornado alley. In spring and summer we can be in tornado warnings or tornado watches on certain days. Winters can be very cold.

If filming around farms, please be respectful of farmers’ crops. Beyond asking permission to be in them or around them, be sure to compensate them fair market value for any you plan to destroy.

Which are the best airports to use to film in Nebraska? Any tips on customs clearance or film-friendly freight agents?

Nebraska is served by two primary commercial airports, Omaha and Lincoln. Omaha is the largest and most used. There is a smaller regional airport in Grand Island that services the central region, but only two commercial airlines serve it. There are other small private airstrips throughout the state.

What are the most film-crew-friendly hotels in your region and where is your favourite wrap party venue?

There are a few hotels in downtown Omaha and Lincoln with film-crew hosting experience. I offer those as first choices for crews, but if we are filming far from those or in another part of the state I will do the due diligence to find the best lodging options nearby.

The spring and fall are gorgeous. In the spring and summer the weather can change quickly.

I would love to see a wrap party hosted in an old warehouse space in Omaha or Lincoln. There is a riverboat in Omaha that runs on the Missouri River. If you want a big local cliché, there is a country western bar near Omaha with a classic cowboy saloon that I bet out-of-towners would get a kick out of!

What do you do with your time off and what would you recommend crew and cast do to have fun in Nebraska?

In the summer months there are local festivals and outdoor concerts. In Omaha the Old Market, the zoo and at least one of our entertainment venues are recommended, from a world-class performing arts centre to live music. If you’re a meat-eater, you must have a steak.

Where do you find peace and quiet after a full-on location shoot?

I like to write. Yes, since you asked, I do have a screenplay set in Nebraska. I also like to play golf. We have a few beautiful courses here with scenery you wouldn’t expect for Nebraska. I visit the local library too. There’s a library and a golf course in my neighbourhood.

Thank you

To contact Jamie please click here.


Not Logged in

You must be logged in to post a comment

    There are no comments