The creative use of a film location sets the tone of the movies, enriches the character and inspires the narrative. We tend to forget how many amazing people work behind the scenes of the movies we enjoy.
Imre Légmán was a BMX bike racer and worked in a bike shop, he was also an artist at the circus (with a BMX bike parts of course), worked in a foster home and was a journalist before he started working in the film industry. Step by step he worked himself up the ladder in different fields of film production until he became production and location manager. He is a freelancer, although he is working with the biggest production companies in Hungary to deliver the perfect location to commercials, movies and video clips as well.
His job as a location manager has two major parts: one is the logistical and the other is the creative part. He usually supervises a team of other location managers, assistants and coordinators. After receiving and reading the screenplay they gather all the well-thought-out venues and proposes all the locations for the script. They then share it with the production designer and when he gives feedback that the proposal meets his ideas, they meet the producer/director and they go to the site and see how the land lies.
When all is good and filming can start, there are still a lot of permissions and licenses they have to get depending on the script (having a crowd of 300 extra, firing guns, car chasing scenes, bombing, etc.). On the actual shooting there are then the purely logistical requests and everything and everybody has their specific place at all times.
He says that the pandemic has nearly doubled their work with all the precautions, and they treat the locations with extra safety, e.g. checking how many people can be in one place, sanitizing everything before and after the filming. He is the first to arrive and the last to leave.
Budapest Reporter: To do this job you must have an amazing database of locations on your mind. Where do you draw your inspiration from to fulfil the requests?
Imre Légmán: Well, I have learnt it through the job, and I have archived all the projects I did. But what is interesting is that Budapest is constantly changing. For sure there are things which are there for decades, but it is amazing how quickly can some venues (flats, industrial areas and parks, whole cityscapes) turn to something else. Before offering something as a location, I always have to double check if it is still the same as I had it archived.
Bpr: Could you tell us through one of your favorite assignments some interesting moments of your work?
I. L.: I really liked making “The Dept”, which was directed by John Madden. The plot is about three Mossad Agents who cross into East Berlin to capture a notorious Nazi war criminal. The main characters are played by Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington. It was mainly Hungarian locations in the whole film, a very few scenes were filmed in the UK and in Israel.
We were looking for locations to visualize the 1960s and Budapest played East Berlin and Ukraine on two different timelines. To be honest I spent at least two months in a car together with the director and the production designer to put together everything location-wise. There were quite diverse solutions regarding this movie. For example, we built up the Berlin Wall in Mátyás Square in the 8th district of Budapest the opening scene was shot at the Airport of Tököl, perhaps the most interesting location was the train station of Istvántelek, where the shooting lasted for a week and the whole station was under closure, which required quite a lot of organization.
Interestingly, most of the sites which we used for the Ukrainian scenes have unfortunately disappeared by now. We also shot in the METESZ headquarters in Kossuth Square, in the VITUKI building and in the Lipótmező Mental Hospital. Two buildings have already been demolished and the third has been empty for years.
I would also like to mention as a favorite project – “The Eagle” with Channing Tatum in the lead role. It takes place in the Roman times and we were only shooting in forests and had to build different settings there. It was quite a different experience than working in a crowded city.
Bpr: Which was the most challenging task that you had to solve?
I. L.: Perhaps the most difficult tasks location-wise were in the “Strike Back” series, due to the on-site action scenes. Every request had to be done on the spot, nothing really happened on post-production or in a studio. There were times, when a truck was hit by a train, the entrance section of the M3 motorway had to be closed due to a chase and an explosion scene and rollover of cars. I have to mention that in these films, Bea Beliczai worked with me throughout the whole movie.
But there are no impossible requests. We will always try and find the closest idea to the screenplay.
In smaller films, by the way, I think location can be much more creative, it can help the whole production better when the right location is chosen well. Usually in the high-budget productions there is enough money to build the right set or complete the venue. In a low-budget film they expect a much stronger set, a more complete site. A good example of this is the series, called “Maigret”, where our producer, Jeremy Gwuilt worked with us all the way to get the most out of it.
One of the episodes (Night at the crossroads) takes place at an intersection, and we had to find the right one with a gas station nearby, a mansion and at least one house, but the road also had to be completely lockable. I was searching for the perfect location for two weeks, and there was no need to build, just remodel or supplement existing buildings.
Bpr: Could you tell us something about your current job and your plans for the future?
I. L.: I am currently preparing an English mini-series, titled The Fear Index, filming will begin in late April. We will see what the future holds when we finish this project, many productions are preparing to come to Hungary for filming, but of course Covid is a major factor right now and I can feel a bit of an uncertainty.
At the beginning of the year, I also undertook a job as a producer in a Hungarian TV film, I would like to open a little more in that direction in the future.