Diplomat. Photographer. Detective. Mind reader. These are probably not the first things that come to mind when you think of a job in locations. But for Leo Fialho, they’re all in a day’s work. As Key Assistant Location Manager for “24,” the job is intense, non-stop and leaves zero room for error. “Most people think that our job is all about scouting,” explains Leo, “but in fact finding the location is only about a third of it. It gets much more complex and furious once the production starts shooting.”
As we talk with Leo, our conversation is interrupted by a constant stream of phone calls. Without missing a beat, Leo responds to one question after another: “The walkies are in trailer 3.” “Park in the green zones on the map.” “Yes, he signed the waiver.” The answers come rapid fire. It would be enough to drive most of us crazy.
“I love it,” Leo says with a smile. “My original plan was to write and direct. In high school, I got a job as a host for a Fox Kids Latin America show that was shot here and shown on cable TV in Brazil. I got the acting bug and started college at NYU as an actor. But while I was in school I worked on a feature in Brazil as a PA and loved it. That’s when I realized I wanted a job behind the camera. I moved out to LA, and in a few months got my first gig on an Alec Baldwin feature film.”
About that time, Leo got a phone call from one of his contacts in production who needed some fast help; it was a conversation that would change everything. Leo recalls, “He told me that one of the first departments to start on a production is locations. He said, ‘You know LA, you have a digital camera and a cell phone. Why don’t you go out and find me a mansion? Call the location manager on the production and he’ll guide you.’ And so I was kind of thrown into it.”
That was five years ago. Today, Leo works on one of TV’s most successful shows, and one with some of the biggest and most complex production requirements.
“The minute the script is out,” Leo enthuses, “we’re one of the first to get it and go through it with the producers to pinpoint what locations need to be scouted. But that’s just the beginning. Most of the job is about management. We’re the first ones in and the last to leave. Meanwhile, we pave the way for the entire production – an army of about 120 people, all while handholding the folks who have provided us with the location.”
Leo is affable and easy going, even so, one can feel the weight of his responsibilities. “The toughest part about it is, the production world inside the studio walls works around military precision. If someone wants something, it happens. If it can’t happen with that crew member, they just get another one. But the minute you take that crew out into the real world where there are natural elements of weather, people’s tempers, people who don’t care how much money you offer them to get access to their gate or whatever, stuff that you can’t control … and that’s where a lot of people in my field kind of lose it. You have the entire company looking at you for answers.”
Leo continues, all the while answering an endless stream of urgent calls. “When we move into a location and the production crew arrives in the morning, even if we’ve been prepping that location for two days the first couple of hours are the most challenging. I’m usually alone or with one other guy. We’re the smallest department on the show. Four departments are turning to us for answers all at once, because it’s their first time filming there. It’s all going on at the same time and it’s pretty intense.”
Even though actual scouting is only a small part of his job, Leo still puts about 500 miles a week on his car. Happily, though, he’s got a great ride. “I just got my first new car in July with a loan from First Entertainment. I’ve already put eight thousand miles on it!”
Leo continues, “The loan went great. It was perfect. I got a great rate and a brand new 2010 Prius. It was incredibly quick and easy.” High praise from a man who could use a little simplicity in his life.
Leo’s been a member of First Entertainment since he got his first union job back in 2006. He tells us, “The lady who got me into the union told me, ‘You gotta join First Entertainment … they’re the best thing ever.’ And it’s been my only financial institution since. I love the free online bill pay and being able to see it all on my laptop. Everyone is friendly in a true and honest way. When I do call up and hit zero, I’m talking to a real person. They’re kind and understanding, and I don’t feel like I’m talking to a computer screen.”
Thanks, Leo. We’re pretty proud of the fact that we’re one of your favorite locations.