How I Work: Location manager Eoin Holohan

The location manager talks to CR about his work on Normal People, finding the right venues for film and TV shoots and helping directors bring their vision to life

Eoin Holohan started out in the film industry after studying English and Philosophy at university, and landed his first job in locations in 2000. Since then, he’s worked on everything from sci-fi epics to TV thrillers, including Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, The Fall, Frank and Yorgas Lanthimos’s offbeat black comedy, The Lobster. His latest commission saw him working with directors Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald on Normal People, the TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel, which has become one of the most talked-about shows in lockdown, and led to record-breaking viewing figures for BBC 3.

As location manager, it’s Holohan’s job to find suitable venues for filming and organise the various aspects of a shoot – whether it’s working out schedules or getting permission to film car chases and explosions. His job sees him working closely with filmmakers, DOPs and production designers to help bring their ideas to life, and find locations that reflect the tone of a production as well as the personalities and back stories of characters within it. Here, he talks to CR about the joys and challenges of the job, finding the perfect backdrop, and building positive relationships with directors.

Getting into the industry I sort of fell into working in locations. I loved cinema, so I did a module in film studies for my degree, and then I did a short film course when I came out of college. When you first get into the industry, you start as a trainee and work your way up, so I started as an assistant in the sound department, but I didn’t really like it, and then I became an assistant director and an extras coordinator – and I didn’t really like that either. When I was working on Angela’s Ashes [the film adaptation of Frank McCourt’s novel, which was set in Ireland], I got to know one of the location managers on it, and she suggested I work in locations, so she gave me a job on her next project and that was it. I’ve stuck with it ever since.

The highs and lows of the job There’s a creative element to it, which I like, but my strengths also lie in organising, and with locations, you have to be a bit of a salesperson as well. It’s not just about getting to film in someone’s house – you might be trying to convince a council to let you shut down a street and fly a helicopter in it.

I think it appeals to a certain type of person and it requires a lot of disciplines. It’s one of those jobs where you work on your own a lot at the start, when you’re breaking down a script and scouting locations, but then it very quickly develops into a massive collaborative job, where you’re working with lots of different departments.