How To Make the Most of Your Time While Filming on Location

By Marci Liroff

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When you finally get cast in a project and have to go to on location, your work experience can differ from shooting in your home city.

I talked to two of my actor friends to grab their insight on how to take care of yourself when traveling for work.

Kathleen “Bird” York is an actor, screenwriter, and Oscar nominated singer-songwriter currently starring in the CW series, “In the Dark.”

Willie Garson has been a series regular on “White Collar,” and “Sex and the City.”

What are some of your best tips for being on location?

York: “Start getting up early to suit the time change so your 5 AM call is not a 2AM (Pacific time) call.”

Garson: “Be a citizen of THAT spot. Find the best breakfast, the best thrift stores, and my favorite, vintage record stores. Also, get OUTSIDE—where do people go to hike, and explore?”

What are some of the best ways to take care of yourself while you’re away from home on location? Do you prefer a hotel or to rent an apartment/house?

 York: “Airbnb. It’s nice to feel part of a neighborhood. And a kitchen makes it feel like home.”

Garson: “I prefer a hybrid apartment/hotel (The Sutton in Vancouver comes to mind). That way I can have my own stuff around and if possible, a washing machine (!), but still get cleaning service for the room.”

How do you keep yourself grounded when you’re not sleeping in your own bed – do you think actors have a special affinity to being a kind of “gypsy”?

York: “Actors like novelty. (We have zero job security, obviously same/same isn’t our thing.)

Garson: “Buy food you eat that make you feel good and use the gym. It’s not a vacation (even though a hotel can make it feel like one) it’s a shared experience of working. And definitely try to eat with someone, that’s important. Also, for grounding – return every phone call and email. “I’m on location” is not an excuse to drop out of life – you want that support and closeness when you return. I commuted to NY from Los Angeles for over 15 years for my TV shows, and if I didn’t support those real friendships, I wouldn’t have any.”

Is working on location different than working in your hometown in terms of day-to-day production?

York: “100 percent different. You can inhabit your character more easily when away from your “identity” town. You can live as someone else and truly inhabit how much that environment would shape your character. (If the location used is indeed where the story is set).”

Garson: “Working on location is easier, but often longer hours. But you don’t have the daily encumbrances of children, pets, house chores, mail, etc—-even though you may miss them all, your responsibilities are mainly on the work, which is a relief for sure.”

Do you find that your relationships with others (cast and crew) is different when you’re on location?

York: “Yep. Positive and negative. Cast can get into cliques and if you’re not in that clicque initially it can get lonely. You have to be okay with that and not assume the cast will become your social safety net. Find local friends. Also, the crew is often local on locations. They won’t have the same needs to connect on the weekends as you will. They have their own lives, so you really have to be proactive to create a plan for yourself to stave off feelings of loneliness and isolation if it’s a long shoot. Challenge yourself to find a new interest or set a goal to accomplish something while out of town. (I wrote a 2-hour pilot – for a network, but still, it gave me focus on days not shooting the series).”

Garson: “Location friendships, romances, allegiances, spring up very fast. You’re a traveling circus with a shared experience in the trenches together. It’s important to be who you are, not misrepresent yourself and suddenly become this different person. Some of my closest friendships will never be broken after a deep bonding on location that lasts forever.”


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