Location scout, Drew Stanton. Photo by Jessie Casson. 

Drew Stanton, Location Scout


One of the key behind-the-scenes roles in the film and television industry is finding the places that appear on screen. Drew Stanton is a location scout, responsible for seeking out the landscapes, parks, gardens, streets and houses that form the settings for films and the backdrops of television commercials.

After 30 years in the live event industry, Drew now works as a New Zealand location scout. “I do scouting and location management for films, television, commercials and sometimes still photography,” Drew explains.

Some of his television credits include the TVNZ series Kura and an upcoming series with Warner Brothers, The Bishop, however a large portion of his work is TV advertising for major New Zealand and international brands.

“Television commercials and drama series have very different requirements,” Drew explains. “But generally speaking, I will get a creative brief from the director, then work with them to understand what they're looking for and how they want each scene to play out.”

Drew location scout hall INP

Drew Stanton is a New Zealand Location Scout and Location Manager. Photo by Jessie Casson.

Armed with as much information as possible, Drew then begins the sometimes-daunting task of trying to find the perfect location.

“I liken it to chasing the white rabbit,” Drew laughs. “Even if I feel like I’ve found a location that’s exactly what I think they want, I still have to find multiple versions. I might think one spot is perfect, but the director loves a different one."

The process can make find the right locations challenging.  "At no stage do I ever feel that I’ve ever really found it until the potential locations become the selects, and then the selects get whittled down to confirmed.”

As a location manager as well as a scout, Drew’s job also involves ensuring that a location is logistically suitable. “There might be 200 or so people on a shoot, so I have to be able to get them, plus all the vehicles and equipment in there. That’s something I have to be mindful of when scouting – whatever I put forward must work logistically as well as visually.

“Plus, on a drama series or a film you could conceivably have 40 to 50 different locations, so for each of those I’d need to provide a range of four locations to choose from. It can be pretty full-on!”

Drew location scout car INP

Being a location scout means a lot of time spent on the road, or working out of a car. Photo by Jessie Casson.

A recent project Drew worked on was for an American brand looking for a frozen lake to feature in a TV commercial. “We shoot a lot of overseas ads in New Zealand, and this wasn’t for local broadcast,” Drew explains. “The production centred on an American skater being flown out for the filming.

“I spent about five days looking for frozen lakes in the South Island and eventually found a spot near Naseby. However, after all that searching the American insurance people started worrying that the skater could potentially fall through the ice. So, we ended up moving the shoot to the automotive testing ground in the Cardrona Valley. There were concrete pads about the size of a football field that we flooded with 20cm of water, so below the ice was just concrete and the health and safety team were happy for it to proceed.

As you would expect, Drew’s job involves a lot of time spent on the road. “I work out of my car extensively because I have to,” he says. “But New Zealand is a big place. I don’t just jump in my car and hope that I'll find the perfect location. There’s a lot of preparation, research and groundwork that goes into scouting.”

“New Zealand is remarkable. The number of times I’ve got to the end of a day on the road looking for spots, thinking ‘ah, I’ve had enough.’ Then I’ve gone around one more corner and suddenly there’s something that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. Or even if it’s not quite perfect, you’re still surprised by what’s there.

“If you like being in a car a lot it’s a great job! There are so many times when I think ‘wow, this is crazy good!’”

Story by Jo Percival for the Autumn 2024 issue of AA Directions Magazine. Jo Percival is the Digital Editor of AA Directions Magazine.

Explore more from AA Directions magazine while you're here: 

More from AA Directions

Find out more

Martin Van Tiel, Pyrotechnic Expert

Dr Martin Van Tiel is responsible for creating some of New Zealand's biggest and best fireworks displays.  Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Macarena Carrascosa, Roller Skate Coach

Macarena Carrascosa has built a career as a professional roller skating coach in Auckland. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Amanda Milne, Board Game Designer

Amanda Milne is a professional board game designer, who literally gets to play games for a living.  Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Emma Bean, Kiwi Whisperer

Emma Bean is the manager of the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua and gets to work with kiwi chicks. Read the story . . .