Whoosh! Issue 54 - March 2001

By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! edition copyright ©2001 held by Whoosh!
1557 words

Author's note:

It's not all scenic vistas in the life of a location manager. There are property issues and cultural aspects to be considered as well, not to mention accessibility. In November 2000, Sally Sherratt explained.

Location Scouting for the Beginner (01-02)
JACK and CLEO (03-06)
Practicality (07-08)
Visually Striking Places (09-15)
LEGACY and HERC (16-21)
Favorites (22-26)

An Interview with Sally Sherratt (Location Manager)

Found a really big pearl at the beach!

Sally Sherratt in her natural habitat (her office at Pacific Renaissance Pictures) for a rare moment when she's actually in the office.

Location Scouting for the Beginner

I can deduce from the title you scout locations, but I suspect there's much more to it than that. How did you start doing that work and what's involved?

Scouting locations is the major part of it. I got started doing production work, and then I did locations for a film called NEVER SAY DIE (Geoff Murphy, 1988). There was a lot of roadwork, and I quite liked that. I've been doing locations ever since. I also worked on a New Zealand film called THE PIANO (Jane Campion, 1993). I drive around and get lost. Done that many times. But you always find the best things when you get lost. We've been going such a long time on all the shows, HERCULES, XENA, CLEOPATRA 2525, and JACK OF ALL TRADES, that often we tend to return to the same places.


JACK and CLEO seem pretty confined to special sets most of the time, but they have gone away once or twice.

Even in 2525, you shouldn't leave the cooker on

CLEO didn't go outside much, but special care had to be taken when it did.

We didn't go out on CLEO much, but when we did, we had to choose carefully because there were explosions and such. We had to choose properties where it was OK to do that. For JACK we went to public parks. There were manicured areas in the City we could go to for that show. That required getting permission from city councils.

I'm reminded particularly of the JACK OF ALL TRADES episode where there was the big horse race. Where did you shoot that?

19th century triple parking and its consequences

Parks and other nearby areas were sometimes location scenes for JACK OF ALL TRADES

That was at a pony club in West Auckland. We tend to shoot a lot in that area. That was a difficult one. We wanted a racetrack sort of thing, but a modern racetrack wouldn't do. The pony club had some trees in the middle of a circular area we could use for a track. We had extras whom were proper pony club people who were used to horses, so that all worked out.


Apart from getting lost, you also have to make sure you can get to where you have to go and make sure it's practical, right?

Yes. We use a lot of vehicles when we go on location. The places have to be accessible. There have to be places to park, especially in the wintertime. Roads can be difficult then, in the wet. There's also travel time to consider. We try to get away from the city to make things look different and interesting, but we can't always go too far afield.

Visually Striking Places

There's been some particularly striking scenery in both HERC and XENA their last two seasons. Especially for episodes like ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE (69-70/401-402).

Just once I'd like to go to a Land of the Dead that's sunny and warm!

Striking scenery punctuated ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE

We traveled, yes. That's great, because you know you're going to get a very different look, but the conditions were appalling. Auckland doesn't have much in the way of extremes of climate, but you'll get that further away. It can get very hot or very cold.

One of the things I've noticed about New Zealand is the breathtaking scenery. There's such a wealth of it. You can be on a beach, turn a little and there's a forest. Turn a little more and there's a desert.

We think that the city is expanding very quickly, but you really don't have to drive too far to get to the countryside. To the north, the land is very narrow. On one side, you've got cliffs and black sand beaches, which you've seen a lot on HERC and XENA. White sand is on the east coast. You get more wind on the west coast than the east. We used the east more for JACK to get a tropical feel.

How much advance notice do you get when you have to scout locations?

Anything unusual coming up that Rob (Tapert) or Chloe (Smith) have in mind I'll hear about. If it doesn't exist nearby, I'll have to look for it. We do get scripts, go through them, and work it out. The schedule determines a lot of what we can or can't do. We do try to get out and away on location at least one or two days for each episode.

With all the organizing you have to do-vehicles, permission, and so forth-how do you find time to look for new locations?


Watch where you're stepping!  I just had that cleaned!

LEGACY location had a variety of problems to overcome, but it was worth it.

It's a bit of a challenge, really. We go to the same ones more than I'd like to, actually. The site for LEGACY (117/605) was quite a challenge. We don't have any big expanses of white sand nearby, and I knew that was coming up, so I looked around for probably a month before I found it. We found a place that was a conservation area. They like horses, but they don't like people in the area. We had to have meetings with people to arrange things and get permission. That was quite a complex thing to work. We had to get permission from the Maori because part of it was Maori land, and we also had to drive through three different forestry commission areas to get to it. It was on a curve along the coast north of Auckland. It was open to the wind from all directions and bitterly cold and wet. It was far enough away that we had to stay out there for two weeks, with main and second unit. It was about four hours away, and another hour away from the base, so we stayed at local motels. But in the end, it was worth it because it looked so good. That's been my greatest challenge to date.

Of course, the more striking scenery gets obvious attention, but there is some very good subtle scenery as well. I'm thinking of a HERCULES episode during its fifth season. There's an episode that takes place mainly in a vast swamp.

We did a lot of that on a river, by a farm that we use sometimes, and we also shot that episode on another farm we use occasionally. A lot of that was meant to be dark and foreboding. A lot of it was overgrown. It looked pretty horrible. (both laugh)

I remember too on HERCULES a couple of times this beautiful green hillside and in the middle of it, the only thing standing out, was this huge, twisted dead tree. It was very striking.

It's always good to find something of interest within a landscape. The west is more drastic and as you go further south, the slopes get gentler and wider.


What are your favorite locations?

The beaches are always good. I like it down there. I think the LEGACY one is my favorite so far.

Do you get much chance to just go out and see how things are going once the location is chosen?

Not if there's a lot going on elsewhere. It would be really hard to do that if we had two or more shows going at once. Perhaps it's a bit easier now.

For someone whose job it is to go out to all these different places and see all these different things, to be on the road so much, what do you do for a holiday?

(laughs) I go fishing.


Schmoozer Spice Bret Ryan Rudnick
WHOOSH! staff
IAXS Executive Committee
"You can never have too much money or too many Amazons"
When he's not working for a big Science/Engineering company that (amongst other things) designs, builds, launches, and operates exploratory spacecraft, Bret writes fantasy novels and short stories. Bret is a man of many skills, having also previously been an Olympic-qualified archer, a drummer in the Butch Grinder Band, a news reader for Public Television Station KVCR, and a Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino, California. He also collects Japanese swords, armor, and art. He and his dog hunt down stray Bacchae in New England.
Favorite episode: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite line: Xena: "What's this?" Gabrielle: "I'm... an amazon princess?" Xena (rolls eyes): "Great." HOOVES AND HARLOTS, 10/110; Xena after being goosed by Joxer: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206); Joxer: "Ha. Ha." A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222); Autolycus: "I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know, I'm working!" THE QUEST (37/213)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)

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