Laura Bryant spent a lot of time searching for a satisfying career. It wasn’t for a lack of trying to find her niche. She worked as an autopsy assistant, Kirby vacuum cleaner sales person, yacht assistant, hotel sales person, just to name a few stabs at stability and satisfaction.
“I worked a lot of whacky jobs and always counted down the minutes until my shift was over,” says Laura, a native of Savannah.
And then came a small job that would eventually lead to big opportunity.
A family friend worked at the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce and needed someone to scout locations for a Saks Fifth Avenue photo shoot. Laura didn’t think she was qualified but was encouraged to take the job. She did, and she took to location scouting like a duck to water.
“They wanted a rustic environment with horses and a river,” says Laura. “I know Savannah like the back of my hand. I knew exactly where to get that for them. After working 14 hours a day for 10 days, I couldn’t get enough of it. I knew I found my career path.”
At first, Laura worked on commercials, photo shoots and a small-budget movie. She got her next big break from a connection her sister made renting a car to the location manager for “Forrest Gump.”
Working on “Forrest Gump” was a game-changer for Laura. She kept her mouth shut and her eyes and ears open. On set she learned that everything on a production has a purpose. Twenty-four years later, she still loves location management and feels fortunate to find steady work in the Georgia film industry. In the early 2000s productions slowed down but after the tax credit incentives were introduced, the number of productions skyrocketed. So much so that she now has to turn jobs down.
She’s also preparing the next generation of location managers to fill those jobs, and watches for opportunities to add new talent to her team.
“Location assistant Sara Alread was a God-send. She just got it right off the bat,” says Laura. “She was like me when I started out. She saw what was needed, not just verbally but from their eyes and expression. You can’t teach that.”
Location managers do more than scout the perfect site. With the input of the production designer and producer, they break down the scenes to understand the needs of each. Depending on the logistics of the scene — whether it’s a car crash, rain, or special effects — the location manager ensures the police and fire department are involved, a water hydrant is on location and whatever else is necessary to make the production run smoothly. They take a laundry list of issues into consideration, from noisy trains to leaves falling off trees.
Another aspect of location management that suits Laura well is giving back to the local economy. She connects local businesses to the film industry. She hires vendors of all sorts, from tent companies to bathroom rentals.
While filming “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” Laura hired a local pressure washer to clean nine blocks of sidewalk. When your star is only seven inches tall, a piece of gum looks like a boulder. Laura knew just the guy to hire to clean all of the debris off the sidewalk.
“These local vendors bend over backward for our productions,” says Laura. “We’ve built these wonderful relationships that are mutually beneficial. We’re thankful for each other.”