I am the location scout for the show Breaking Bad AMA
Hello my name is Alex. I work as an Assistant Location Manager for TV and films that shoot in New Mexico.
I was the location scout for the pilot, season 4 and season 5 of Breaking Bad.
The responsibilies of the location department include: Scouting and finding options for shooting locations; bringing the director and producers to each option and signing up the ones that they like; notifying neighbors, signing up base camps, and obtaining appropriate permits for shooting; arranging street closures and help from local police and fire departments; preparing the sets for shooting and standing by on set to be the liaison for the movie to the property owners; and drawing maps and hanging directional signs to get the crew to set. Also we set up a/c's and heaters for the crew, pick up their trash and clean their shit.
Personally on Breaking Bad, I was primarily the full time scout, usually working in prep for the upcoming episodes.
Here is some proof Hi reddit
Here I am at a set piece that you may have noticed in last night's finale
Finally here is a picture of myself and a friend with Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston dressed like cockroaches
Here is my imdb
...On a side note, I'm also the creator of the wildly unpopular webcomic Tippy and Friends. AMA about that too, if you want.
EDIT: It's getting late so I'm probably going to crash here in a few. I hoped you all found this interesting. It's very cool to work on something that is so loved, and thank you all so much for the kind words.
If you want to follow my futher adventures in the movie world, I twitter @tippyandfriends and I'm on instagram @alekog
FINAL EDIT: I dedicated today's Tippy cartoon to all of you. Thanks again for all your great questions!
Constantly. Every day. Wouldn't you?
Has Google Earth made your job much easier?
Oh my god yes
I work on Game Of Thrones and I've seen how thankless it can be for people working in Locations, so an instant salute to you Sir. First in, last out!
- Is there just one filming unit?
- Have there been locations that you've really had to fight to secure?
- Anything been majorly damaged?
First in last out indeed! Thanks, and I love GoT!
We have only one filming unit. We do splinter stuff for the time lapses and some establishing shots.
The Chicken Farm was in the process of being ripped down when season 4 started. We fought tooth and nail to get them to let us come back. We had to pay the contractor thousands of dollars to rip it down slowly until we finished. The day after we finished shooting the place it was ripped to the ground.
Nothing too major. Out transpo department seems to knock down a lot of poles. We were very worried about Lydia's Condo this season but it turned out ok
As a timelapser I always wondered who does your timelapses, they're usually pretty awesome. :)
A small crew gets hired to do them. Sometimes someone from my department has to take them places and stay up all night with them.
Did you spend 8 hours waiting in line at the Apple store a few years ago? If so, I think I stood in line with you.
I did for the iPhone 4, so probably. haha
It was all real. We found them a privately owned train and track that goes between Santa Fe and Lamy called the Santa Fe Southern Railway. It was also used in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and 3:10 to Yuma.
Wow, that is really cool. Thanks for the response. I'm surprised this AMA has garnered so little attention with how popular BB is especially on reddit. I crossposted it to /r/breakingbad, so hopefully you'll get more interesting questions.
Do you know how much it costs to rent out a train and railroad track? You know, just in case I need to do that someday.
Also, did you by any chance see Aaron Paul's reaction when he found out he had to lay under a moving train for that scene?
I can't really disclose that info, but it wasn't cheap.
...and I didn't see his face, but he probably wasn't too shocked because he didn't really have to do it. It was a special effect (sorry).
Does Hank know?
What's a part of your job that would surprise most people?
We work a minimum of 12 hours per day, sometimes as much as 18-20.
About the desert scenes, do you just pick out a random plot every time, or do you have one(or multiple) favorite location(s)?
We have our production office and studios at the Albuquerque Studios at the south end of town. The studio is literally on top of a giant mesa called Mesa del Sol. We almost always just shoot any desert footage right in our own backyard.
When I passed through Albuquerque last summer I visited a lot of the shooting locations. I just have to say kudos to finding such fantastic spots within such proximity to each other. The White residence, the car wash, Los Pollos Hermano's, and Saul's office all couldn't have been more than two miles apart. Brilliant planning that has probably endlessly helped the budget.
It is always better to find stuff close to other locations. We do it purposefully.
How did you find a house in ABQ with a basement (season 1 or 2 Jessie's old house)
I'm pretty sure that's the only one in town haha!
There is no basement, it was a stage. But movies are always trying to make me find basements and they never believe me when I say that there aren't any.
I'm from the other end of the continent, so... why aren't there basements in New Mexico? Seems like a perfect way to beat the heat.
I don't know. It's baffling, I would love a basement.
How'd you get your job? I'm currently going to school for Media arts and would love to get a job like this for a tv show or movie.
I came in from the bottom. Find a production that is just starting out (maybe from your state or city's film office). Contact them for entry level positions and work your way up from there.
Just warning you, almost everyone who works in the movies turn somewhat insane.
I get hired by the specific movie, and then get laid off after production is over. I get benefits form our local union.
I have free lance scouted for small movies and commercials.
And there are lots of women scouts :)
How is Breaking Bad different than the other shows that you worked on?
It is definitely the most ambitious TV show I've ever worked on. We have 8 days to prep and then 8 days to shoot each episode. All the scripts are typically very location heavy so it is almost always a huge scramble to get them made.
The writers also love to put in things like trains, airplanes, and explosions that are usually very difficult to put together.
So it is one of the most challenging I've ever worked on, but it also is the most rewarding. I usually work on garbage, so it's really satisfying to be part of something that I love.
How often do you make "scout's honor" jokes?
Never... but I definitely should...
I've always wondered how the scene of Skyler flipping a coin on the four corners was done. Is there a time of the day where that monument is dead empty? Or did you have to shut it down for like an hour? If the latter, does it cost a lot of money and/or time to negotiate shutting down a monument like that? Thank you!
Sorry I thought I answered this, maybe it was on the wrong thread.
A small splinter crew went to the 4 corners with a stand in. We did not close it, we just shot around the visiters.
They built part of it on stage for close ups.
The purple carpet at Hank's house is nasty, can you tell the owners I said that?
The owner's hate it as much as you do. It is the result of questionable decisions made by a set decorator in season 1 who doesn't work there anymore.
What are some more memorable things that the neighbors have done when being notified?
Most get excited, but some are jerks.
One of our PAs was greeted by a naked woman this season.
When I was working on a movie called "Hamlet 2" a man with blue skin answered. I have no idea what that was about, but he didn't look healthy.
Unfortunately the most memorable people are the ones that yell at me.
Does Vince ever "Reject" an area after you offer it? He seems like that kinda guy.
Also, were you the one who chose the final scene for S05E07?
That kind of stuff happend all of the time. Vince rejected the director's favorite cook house in 506 at the last minute because it wasn't "run down" enough.
Over time I learned that to please Vince, I just have to find cool looking shit holes..
I can't take credit for the river. It's a piece of private property near Algondones that other shows like Wild Fire and Terminator Salvation have already shot at. But the BB folks loved it immediately, it was the only place we showed them.
Is the Laser-tag arcade coming back?
God I hope not.
Both Aaron and Bryan look like really cool cats, what have been your more memorable encounters with them?
How did you land that sort of job?
What happens when you shoot in really sketchy neighborhoods?
Every year they throw the crew a bowling party. During season 4 it was the night that Bin Laden was killed. So the way I found out that news was when a drunk Bryan Cranston grabbed the mic at the p.a. station and yelled "WE KILLED BIN LADEN!"
I rarely get a chance to talk to them, but they are always very cool.
I was hired as a location's p.a. on a mini-series 7 years ago to help set up a/c units and throw trash. I got more work from there, and Breaking Bad's pilot was actually the first show I ever scouted for.
In sketchy neighborhoods I have to do my job like anywhere else. I just go by the light of day, and hire a lot of cops and security on the day of shooting. But I knock on crack head's doors all the time.
So, the pile of money... $80 million? Give or take?
It was fake money, when you look closely it actually says "movie money" on it. Ironically I'm told that the fake money was really expensive, and I think they rented it.
As far as how much? I don't know, but I remember that I expected a lot more of it from reading the script.
I assumed they got just enough fake money to line the outside of a big box or mattresses or something.
Yeah something like that. Props and the art dept set that up. It was my job to find and set up the storage facility that it was shot in.
Do they give you the script so you can see the context of the location?
Yes I get the first draft. I also get the outlines so I can start scouting for new locations as soon as possible.
I have some friends who live opposite/next to Hank & Marie's house. They said that every time you shoot, you have to change the numbers on their on their apartment. Why didnt Vince just keep the original house numbers? Do you compensate my friends (pretty sure they said not)?
We usually compensate if we do something to their property. I don't remember paying a neighbor for that at hank/marie's house but I wasnt on seasons 1-3 so they may have done it then.
Do neighbours/general public ever get pissed at you when you tell them you are going to be filming?
I suppose if you have notified the local police of the filming and the happenings going on they probably haven't been called on you guys, but have people ever tried to force you to leave an area?
Enjoying the show! Keep it up! (I'm only on season 2 though...I was a little slow on catching this show...)
Yes, some people love to freak out, it's part of my job to make them chill out.
People try to do stuff like honk their horns or blast music to try and ruin the filming. It's also part of my job to deal with those assholes too.
Glad you like it, it's just better and better after that plane crash nonsense ;)
How do you deal with someone blasting music in a neighboring house? I assume if they're doing it to be jerks asking them nicely won't stop them. Do you pay them off?
I'll turn on the charm and do my best to make him stop. I'll see what his major issues are (for instance if a nearby truck is bothering him or something) and I'll try to fix it. I'll offer him a free lunch maybe, but I'll do everything in my power to not give a jerk like that a dime.
If it's gets bad enough I'd have to call the police.
How often are the 'locations' a facade or built set pieces? How much of it is real?
Int White House, Int Jesse's House, Int Car Wash Office, Int Saul's Office, Int Super Lab,
Int/Ext Schrader House, Vamonos, Pollos Hermanos, Ext White/Jesse's/Car Wash/Saul's... and pretty much everything else.
What is the Pollos Hermanos in real life?
Do you make the crew maps for the show? Are they any good or do they suck? Is there anyone you know who makes kick ass maps that are, like, 100x better than yours?
I know for a fact that I make the best location maps in the entire film business. Another show shoots in New Mexico called Longmire and I saw a map from their call sheet, and I just felt really bad for whoever made it. It was just so... average.
Surely, you must be speaking ironically. For I hear that the maps from Longmire are legendary LEGENDARY in their beauty, clarity, and ease of use. This is what I hear. Also, once I saw a bum wipe his nether regions with a Breaking Bad map. True story.
Maybe the assistant location manager on Longmire should do an AMA.
I bet his only questions would be, "What's Longmire?" and "Why do I keep hearing about Longmire's mediocre maps, could they really be that bad?"
Have you tried the crystal meth cooked by Walter White? I hear great things..
I wish ;)
This is one of the best AMA's I have seen in a while! I have always had this in the back of my mind as a dream job. I lived in Thailand for a few years and always thought how cool it would be to be a scout in Southeast Asia, or anywhere for that matter. Do you have a media-related degree? Is your goal to graduate on to other areas of production, or are you happy with your current job? Best part of the job? Worst part of the job? Do you get paid well?
I'm actually a college drop out. I'm happy doing locations but I aspire at screenwriting. Scouting is the best part of the job. Cleaning toilets is the worst. I do ok, but it ain't 6 figures or anything.
I really like the place where mike and walt had that talk at the end S5 E7. Did you find that? Why are aaron and bryan dressed as cockroaches?
The river has been shot before by other movies, so I can't take credit or that one.
Bryan and Aaron dress up for every wrap party. They were roaches because of the whole Vamonos Pest Control thing.
you done a god job on breaking bad so far! well done
How do the talent treat you? (And be honest)
They are honestly the nicest cast I have ever worked with. I don't know them very well because I'm usually working in prep, so I'm rarely on set. But I can safely say that every encounter I've had with all of them has been more than pleasant.
R.J. Mitte was kind enough to act in a film that I made for the 2010 48 hour film fest, and he was very fun and professional through the whole thing.
Do you know how the series ends? I don't want to know the ending, just the fact that someone other than Vince does.
It's all a dream ;)
If the entire series turns out to actually be Walter's dream, I'm gonna be pissed.
It's all baby Holly's dream
With Breaking Bad only having one year left, is there anything else you're working on or will be working on that we should be looking forward to?
I'm currently working on a feature film called "Lone Survivor." It stars Mark Wahlberg and is directed by Peter Berg. I go back to Breaking Bad at the end of November.
Just wanted to say thank you for an awesome AMA. Through this and the show, I can tell you all love your jobs. I will be sad when it is over.
Is it frowned upon to ask for autographs from the cast?
No they love it. Just ask when it's appropriate, never while they're in the middle of a scene.
They are usually happy to sign things and take pictures with location owners and their families.
I'm sure it would be logistically a nightmare but as a former ABQ resident I keep hoping I see Walt grabbing breakfast at the Frontier or some other local landmark like the Owl.
I do appreciate the Blakes fast food wrappers in the various scenes - haven't had one in years and you've got me Jonesin' for one.
Mike liked to eat at Loyola's diner. Vince has a thing for Denny's so that's why we always go over there.
I've never scouted the Frontier, but I've heard that they are not too into filming because they are always way too busy.
I've scouted the Owl Cafe probably 4 times, but it still hasn't got chosen.
Thanks for the AMA. Is there anywhere online I can watch your short featuring RJ Mitte?
I hope you like it! STUMP: http://vimeo.com/25426895
Do you care that people pirate the show?
I mean, I'm on the other side of the world and the only way to get good, enjoyable programming here is to pirate it as soon as it's aired in the states. Do you see that as a problem, or are you just happy that people on the other side of the world enjoy your work enough to want to see it as soon as it is available?
I don't blame you, cable's expensive.
Is Vince Gilligan as much of a perfectionist as people say?
He definitely knows what he wants. But I find him to be very reasonable when things don't turn out perfect for him.
You mentioned having to read the scripts to know what locations to look for. Assuming you're a die-hard fan, does it bother you to see the story unfold in that way? I mean, I would much rather wait a few months for it to air on TV rather than reading a draft.
It takes away some of the magic. But I love knowing stuff before anyone else. It makes me feel special ;)
...and on Breaking Bad the scripts are so well written that it's almost as good as watching it.
BB shoots in some scary locations. Have you been in situations where you didn't feel safe? Ever been robbed, mugged or carjacked?
I'm pretty careful, but I am constantly finding myself walking around scary areas alone with an expensive camera around my neck. But I've never been mugged yet. I usually just say hi to people and tell them that I'm just a movie scout and theyre usually pretty chill.
What scout work are you most proud of on Breaking Bad?
I found the Car wash in the pilot. Probably the coolest thing.
I found some cool Mexico locations in season 4. I really like the windmill in season 4 that I found
How do you find those really, really remote places? And how'd you get a train?
I drive up and down dirt roads and hope that I find something cool and that nobody kills me.
The train is privately owned and the guy was super cool and into it. We didn't have much choice on what it would look like.
What was the hardest location of all the scenes you've scouted for to work in?
Was there alot of work inside peoples houses? Such as scenes where people look out the window onto a street? How much of places like Walter/Hanks places were actually proper backlots vs real housing areas? Any places long term rentals where only you guys had access to? Like Vamanos Pests?
There was a windmill in season 4 that Jesse and Mike found a money bag at. It was in Los Lunas and had one tiny dirt road that got you there. The crew nearly killed me, but the director told me it was her favorite location of the season.
The only house sets are the white house interior and Jesse's house interior. All other houses are on location. The did build a couple of the "cook house" interiors on stage this season as well.
We do have a long rental on Vamanos. It may be the only one, actually. We sign new deals every time that we go to each of the other's.
I'm not sure if it was you, but you guys filmed at my uncle's tow/scrap yard. Pretty cool, and thanks :)
Thank you and your Uncle :)
What's the most difficult location you've ever had to film at?
The winner in Season 5 was the Madrigal Warehouse. We shot it in a working Sysco Food distributing warehouse. It was extremely difficult for everyone on the crew. I was the one that found it and they all were mad at me, but I don't care because it looked great.
But generally any time we have to shut down streets are the most difficult shoots for locations. We shut down half of downtown for a movie called "the Last Stand" for 6 days and I almost lost my mind.
And the jail in 508! That was a huge set up
What was your personal favorite moment/episode in the BB series?
505 was personally pretty great for me. I took Vince and the producers to see the train tracks way before the script was out. Vince explained the whole episode to me, so I knew what was going to happen months before anyone else. It was a great experience, and the episode turned out amazing.
What movie or tv show have you noticed that the locations could of been much better chosen? Like have you ever noticed something and it just jumped out at you as being wrong in this perticular field?
Ever since Dexter started shooting in L.A. I thought it started to look terrible.
I can almost always tell when a show is shooting on a stage or a real location.
Do you base your research of location soley on the script, or do you get an idea from the writer/director as for what specifics are they looking for in a location as well?
Also how long approximately is the process of finding a location, getting it approved by the creative, and setting everything up for shooting?
Also, just how much fun are you having???.
You first read the script or outline, then you usually approach the production designer to see how he pictures it. The executive producers on the show are also very involved. I take all their input and then set off to bring them as many options that I can find (usually 3 or 4 per day).
We get an outline usually a week or two before the script is issued, so I start my search then. The script is due 8 days before the episode is shot. That is also when the director shows up to make decisions. This is called the prep time for the episode. We need everything decided upon usually by day 4, so we can bring in the crew in for a tech scout, and then sign up the location by the end of prep.
It's about as fun as it sounds ;)
Do you know all the cast members personally? And if so, who is your favourite?
I've had conversations with pretty much all of them, mostly at wrap parties or when I'm at the set. Bryan Cranston always makes a point to say hi to me, but I get the impression that he never remembers my name. Betsy Brant is very hilarious. Steve Odenkirk is constantly witty.
My favorite will forever be RJ Mitte because he acted in a short film that I directed, and he's is a awesome guy.
do you mean Bob Odenkirk?
Yeah... sorry haha.
how does the police usually react? are you taken seriously or do they think them being at a movie set is a waste of time?
We are always properly permitted and the police are always notified. It's part of my job to make sure this all happens before we shoot. And the police in abq usually are a great support.
so are you scouting in czech republic now?
No. Everything is shot in NM
What's it like going from a description in a script to finding the actual location, are there certain key words in mind when searching. For example, I liked the cafe where Walt met Lydia in the last episode, were you looking for a cafe with 'large floor to ceiling windows' or are the scripts less specific?
That was scripted as a Starbucks.
Starbucks wasn't into it, so I literally scouted every coffee shop in town. We shot it at a local restaurant called The Grove. Michelle the director of the episode loved the look of it because the window's and the vibe.
The Grove is very busy and we had to prep shoot and wrap it on the only day that they were closed.
What was the hardest location to find? From your earlier comments it doesn't seem like you have much time to scout these locations, how stressful is the job?
The German Madrigal building was a huge scout. In season 4 everything in Mexico was extremely difficult.
The job sometimes is extremely stressful. Especially on set, we are responsible for the location, and it is our job to make sure the crew doesn't trash it. We turn into Moms. It sucks.
The scenes in Mexico were actually filmed in Mexico? Wouldnt it have been easier to find somewhere in NM that looked similar?
No they were all shot near abq. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
why do I have to wait until next summer if its the same season?
It's technically a hiatus. I don't know why they split it, I think it was a way to get more episodes than in a regular 12 episode season.
I just started watching Breaking Bad (still on Season 1) and it's a great show.
Is there a location you'd love to shoot at but haven't had the chance to, yet?
Oh yes. I've found some amazing looking places that have been rejected for one reason or another. In season 5 I was sent to find 'abandoned warehouses' and I found some incredible looking places.
Do you stick around for shooting? Do you deal with the details like furnishings, cars in parking lot scenes, etc.? What has been your favorite location?
Furnishings are the art department. But I work with them closely if they need to move or use the current owners stuff.
Cars in parking lots are set up by extras castings and the AD department, but I get the actual parking lot for them.
My favorite location in BB will forever be the Car Wash, because it was the first location I ever found that made it in a show back on the pilot.
are you planning to move up the movie production chain? and if so what are you ultimately aiming for?
I'm a screenwriter and I would love to do it for a living.
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