Davis is a location scout for filmmakers, commercial producers and photographers. She makes it her business to know where to find just what is needed and to make the arrangements to make it happen.
Need a farmhouse? No problem. A golf course? She’s got several in mind. An oil well, a warehouse, a mansion, a lake? Davis has a file that matches her 25 years of experience in this largely individualistic line of work.
“On the surface, location scouting can seem like so much fun,” she explained. “But it’s a lot of detailed hard work. Can I park crew trucks here? Can I get a permit?”
Creating an illusion is part of the magic of movies. Davis’ role is to create a back lot where none exists.
On average, she has to find ways to accommodate a crew of 30 to 50 people, 40 cars, trucks and motor homes, and sometimes extra needs for animals or special equipment.
Davis says there are often obstacles in the way to the goal. When that happens, she has to go “around the rock because a lot of times, you don’t have time to move it.”
While she has traveled the world for location filming, this East Dallas resident does 80 to 90 percent of her work locally year-round.
“We do so many shoots at White Rock Lake. We have such diverse architecture and neighborhoods concentrated in a small area… Munger, Lakewood, Forest Hills. We get people in from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago who see all we have to offer and are stunned,” she said.
Because of our climate, Davis said she can even provide a summer setting during the winter months.
She helped Cirro Energy choose the Arboretum as its location and has lured films like “Pure Country” and “Office Space” to the area. Cable and game shows like “Wheel of Fortune,” Spike TV and G4 Network have filmed here as well.
Corporate videos, reality shows, public service announcements and still photographers have all found East Dallas a rich resource for locations.
When they come, so do their dollars. Davis takes pleasure in knowing that her work helps boost the local economy by filling hotel rooms and restaurants and by keeping dry cleaners, nail salons, and other services busy.
But Davis said she is always hunting and looking for new places, both large and small, to add to her list because “you are only as good as the locations you can provide again.”
Having a low-key personality is a must in her business. Producers often throw last minute changes or requests at her that have to be filled “yesterday.”
“You can’t freak out. I tell them that just because my voice is calm doesn’t mean I don’t share their urgency,” she said.
“They have to have confidence in you because no one wants to give anything to panicked people.”
Shooting in neighborhoods can get interesting. When neighbors find out that one house on the block is getting paid as a location, competition sets in.
“Yeah, I’ve had people come up and invite me to check out their house, too,” she laughed.
Part of her job also includes acting as liaison between the neighbors and the production company. She has found it helpful to put notices in everyone’s mailbox warning them of the impending disruption to their routine so they can re-schedule that birthday party if needed.
When producers need something she doesn’t have, she calls one of her colleagues. Despite being competitors, there are several location scouts in the area who are not only friends, but also collaborate on a project as needed.
“Sometimes I’m not available or am just not a good fit for that producer, so I’ll call one of my buddies and see if they are interested and they do the same with me,” she said.
One of her associates, Francis X. McIntyre, also lives in Lakewood and partners with her on projects.
They welcome location recommendations for any type of property in North Texas because “we never know what we are looking for next.”
If you have any recommendations, e-mail her at ScoutMyCastle@gmail.com.
Davis loves her job and has done it well for a quarter of a century. Sometimes there is too much work, and sometimes not enough. The hours are long and hard, but they can be rewarding.
“It’s a good day when I’ve pulled off the shoot and it appears as if they didn’t really need me,” she said. “Then, it’s a good day two weeks later when I get paid!”