LOCATION MANAGER X LOCATION MANAGER: JOHN RAKICH & MARTY DEJCZAK

DGC Ontario Locations Caucus Rep and LMGI President, John Rakich, sits down with veteran Location Manager Marty Dejczak to swap set stories and chat about the special blend of creativity and logistics that makes a great Location Manager.

Marty has spent the last 25 years as a Location Manager on such legendary Ontario productions as Good Will Hunting, Chicago, Dawn of the Dead, Kick-Ass, and the upcoming feature film Slumberland, dropping November 18th on Netflix.

John Rakich: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you become a Location Manager? What attracted you to this job initially?

Marty Dejczak: I kind of fell into it. I started as an Office PA, not knowing at all what that meant. I had a friend that was working as a Production Secretary, and her PA had to take a few days off, so I filled in. I was really interested in what the Location Manager, Keith Large, was doing. He was with the production but not with the production. I thought it was cool that he went out scouting and got to liaise with everyone on the show. That’s how I ended up getting into Locations at first.

John Rakich: I started as an Office PA too, and it was Richard Hughes who dragged me into it. He was in the office across from my desk, and he sounded like he was having a lot of fun. It’s interesting that you and I both started from the office, whereas a lot of people started on the floor.

Marty Dejczak: I think it was a real benefit to start in the office. I ended up being a Production Secretary and then a Production Coordinator. I worked as an Assistant Production Manager, then Production Manager too….so I got a really good idea of what everything was all about.

John Rakich: You get a sense of how the office works and the politics of what’s happening on the other end of the phone, which the people on the floor usually don’t get.

Marty Dejczak: And the skills you really need, because I think if you start just as a Locations PA, you don’t really get the full picture.

“I’ve been really fortunate to work with the same team often, so we have a shorthand, and we respect each other. That’s how we go ahead and get things done. It is a collaboration. You never say no. You try and find the best solution and then try to get everybody on board to understand why this is the best solution.”

Marty Dejczak

John Rakich: You’re absolutely right, and that leads me to my next question. What skills do you think you need to be a good Location Manager these days? And how have the job and workload changed over the years?

Marty Dejczak: I think you have to be really organized. You have to be the kind of person who can think ahead, anticipate what could go wrong and have a Plan B. You have to be creative and diplomatic. And the role has changed hugely. For example, when I first started, washrooms were Transport’s responsibility, heat was Special Effects, and tables came from the caterer. The Locations Department now contains a unit department, really, and that’s something the Guild could consider looking at in the future. 

John Rakich: It shocks me when I go down to LA and Locations doesn’t do catering setup. It’s all the caterer’s responsibility.

Marty Dejczak: As it should be! Even AD-wise, they used to share fire-watch duties. They don’t do that anymore.

John Rakich: Yeah, it’s funny how much it’s changed in the last five years. In some aspects, the job’s been made easier by things like going paperless, but even more complicated at the same time. You can’t pick up a phone and call someone at a permit office anymore. It’s all electronic. When you get a new permit officer, for the first three or four weeks, it can be a strained relationship until you get to know and trust one another.

So you and I both know our role in Locations is really a tightrope act between the creative and practical sides of production. Something that has been perceived bias for too long is that we’re all about the bathrooms, the parking…you know, the logistics. Hopefully, that’s changing. Locations is more recognized now… we have our own awards show, and we’re in two Academies. But it’s a long battle. What do you say to those that don’t see what we do as “creative”? And how do we go about changing that bias?

Marty Dejczak: Well, I think through education. The more old-school people are, the more respect you get for the Location Manager’s position because they understand the job better. Newer Producers sometimes don’t see us as creative. I think you have to have a really good relationship with your Production Designer because they, in turn, position you in such a way that the Producers realize the creativity in what we do.

John Rakich: We were really lucky on See that our Designer on Season Two, Caroline Hanania, was completely collaborative.

Marty Dejczak: I must say that I’ve been very fortunate in my career to work with Designers that treat you as an artistic person and not just a logistics person. We’re involved in absolutely every aspect.

John Rakich: When we [the LMGI] tried to get into the Television Academy, we were not let in for our artistic side. We were accepted into the Academy through the Producer’s branch because they see us as fundamental to their success on a production. 

Marty Dejczak: And we don’t always deal with people who are used to working with film crews. We sometimes have to deal with the average Joe out there who doesn’t know anything about our industry.

John Rakich: We are the public face of the production, and without a good, solid person that’s going to show up and make it work, it’s going to be chaos.

We really intersect with every department in production, more than most. What is your collaborative process like with other departments?

“I feel really good once all the locations are found because that’s when I can go ahead and get into the meat of the project, like the scheduling, the logistics, and all of the puzzle pieces we have to put together. My favourite part is putting together the jigsaw.”

Marty Dejczak

Marty Dejczak: I treat everybody as an equal. I think we’re a team, and it’s a team effort. If there’s an issue, I just approach it as, “How do we solve this?” I’ve been really fortunate to work with the same team often, so we have a shorthand, and we respect each other. That’s how we go ahead and get things done. It is a collaboration. You never say no. You try and find the best solution and then try to get everybody on board to understand why this is the best solution.

John Rakich: How does your process change from working on long-format projects versus short-form TV? Which do you prefer to work on?

Marty Dejczak: My process is the same for both. I try and give the production the best option for what they’re asking for. You break down the script in the same way. You try and figure out how to keep it contained, whether it’s a feature film or a TV show. But I prefer features.

John Rakich: It’s funny, I prefer television. Sometimes on the shows I’ve been on, it’s a bit more collaborative because you’re moving so fast. I like both features and television, but for some reason, I’ve just fallen into a groove where I like television. But I’ve also reformatted, department-wise, where it’s not an A & B Locations team. It’s one group.

Marty Dejczak: That’s the way to do it, absolutely.

John Rakich: What’s your favourite stage of production? “Wrap” is not an option. [Laughs]

Marty Dejczak: I feel really good once all the locations are found because that’s when I can go ahead and get into the meat of the project, like the scheduling, the logistics, and all of the puzzle pieces we have to put together. My favourite part is putting together the jigsaw.

John Rakich: Yeah, mine too. I mean, prep is fun, and scouting is creative, but once that master switch goes from creative to logistics, the real brain teaser challenge is to make it all work.

Marty Dejczak: It’s multi-layered. The schedule, and the budgeting, I am anxious about all of that before I find the locations we need. I’m one of those Locations people that needs to find them really quickly so everybody can get on with their jobs and tell me what they need.

“I still can’t sleep the night before we go to a camera on a show. I still have worries, but I know everything’s fine, and it’s gonna be okay. There’s always that worry ingrained in me, but that’s what makes us good at our jobs. We know that we’re prepared for what’s next.”

John Rakich

John Rakich: Do you find things like climate change affecting your ability to work with certain locations? And what issues can you see on the horizon that might affect how we do things?

Marty Dejczak: I can’t think of any specific location where I’ve been affected by climate change. What I would say is that the weather is a lot more unpredictable, and things like rain cover have become way more important than they used to be. I find there are almost two schedules based on what the rain cover is like for wherever we are that day or the next. 

John Rakich: On my last production, we did a lot of underwater work at Ashbridge’s Bay, and rain would just kill us because we were testing the water safety. Every time the rain would hit – and it’s not just regular rain, we’re getting these massive deluges that go on for an hour and overload the storm drains – the E-coli levels are five times over the safety limit the day after rain. And we got the results three hours before call, so having to schedule based on how the rain would affect the days was a new one for us.

Another question I’d love to get your thoughts on. You’re a woman in an industry that’s still male-dominated. Have you noticed a shift towards more gender parity and locations? Are more opportunities available for women?

Marty Dejczak: I haven’t noticed a shift toward gender parity, actually. Not in Locations, at least. There are more women on set now than when I started. Back then, every department was men, men, men. You do see more women in the industry now, but not as many in Locations, and I think it’s because of the demands of the job on set. Like I said earlier, it used to be more creative. But now it’s like, lugging around propane and putting up tents and taking them down. It’s a physically laborious job.

John Rakich: I’ve tried to make it a point on my last few shows to be more gender diverse. As you said, not everyone is cut out to be on set lugging plywood, but that shouldn’t prevent them from learning the other aspects of the job. For the last three shows now, we’ve created a coordinator position for a female PA who didn’t want to be on set, but wants to learn all the paperwork.

Marty Dejczak: I have a coordinator who’s female as well, and I try to hire as many women as possible.

John Rakich: I think, especially in my role as Caucus chair, I have a responsibility to try and bring in more diversity. It can’t just be an old white guys’ club. Studios want diversity, and we should be showing that we can be diverse, especially since we’re more public-facing than most departments. And there are people out there that would be great at this, who have office experience, and have the right temperament for the job. I couldn’t find a scout when I needed one, so we found a PA who shot her own stuff. She needed some guidance, but we promoted her up for a little bit and gave her a chance. She’s really good.

Marty Dejczak: That’s great!

“Orchestrating all of these incredible things is a cool job, but it can be very frustrating, and no one except another Location Manager understands. It’s hard to grasp what we go through and how nerve-racking it can be. I don’t know about you, but I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders to make this happen.”

Marty Djczak

John Rakich: So what are some of your favourite locations from productions that you’ve worked on? What’s made them your favourite?

Marty Dejczak: You know, I don’t have a favourite location. I try not to go back to the same locations repeatedly. If I had to choose one, I like Albion Hills Conservation Park. I’ve used it for many things, and I really liked the people there.

John Rakich : Interesting. It’s funny because I would say for me, it’s Clairville Conservation Area because I’ve worked on some big long-term projects there, and the people have been helpful and great.

Marty Dejczak: Yeah. I’ve worked there as well. But I’ve used Albion Hills a lot for road closure scenes, toboggan hills, and all kinds of things.

John Rakich: It’s a great little untapped gem.

Marty Dejczak: Oh John, now everybody’s gonna go there!

John Rakich: [joking] Yes, there is no Albion Hills. Try the Hearn (Generating Station). [VH1] Most people would think that’s the answer to the “favourite locations” question. Three-quarters of the shows I work on end up in there.

Marty Dejczak: Yeah, I’ve shot there a lot, too. I actually shot there before it was shut down on a show called TekWar, created by William Shatner. Everybody complains about the Hearn, but it’s a great-looking location.

John Rakich: It’s funny how that one building has been used by almost everybody, and we all complain about it, but we all go back. You bring a DP in there, and they just lose themselves trying to figure out how they can make it work. We needed to build an interior cliff with a 40-foot ceiling once. We were like, “well, the Hearn is 105 feet. Let’s build it in there!”

I’m sure you’ve seen it all. You’ve had an incredibly successful career in Locations, and it’s not over yet. Are there any moments from your career you would consider especially memorable or rewarding?

“We’re behind this little pub on the Danforth.This young man came up in his motorized wheelchair, and he couldn’t really talk. I sat there beside Robin [Williams] as he had this whole conversation with this kid. It’s just those moments that make you forget all the stressful situations in Locations.”

Marty Djczak

Marty Dejczak: There are just so many. Sometimes it’s so rewarding, our job. On Pushing Tin, I had a standing permit with Pearson that if there was a snowstorm, we could show up with 12 people, get out on the runways and start shooting! There are just these unbelievable moments, like shutting down Yonge Street on Suicide Squad and standing there in the middle of all these crowds. That was a pretty great moment.

John Rakich: Yeah, you’re standing there orchestrating the chaos.

Marty Dejczak: Oh, yeah. And a Producer came up to me and asked, “Why are all these people here? What can we do about it? Can’t we get rid of them?” We’re at the corner of Yonge and Dundas! I said to him, “Well, this is our Times Square. I don’t know how we could get rid of all these people.” [Laughs]

John Rakich: It’s the seventh-largest city in North America. No one’s gonna notice a purple Lamborghini being chased by a giant black car with flames and guns, right?

Marty Dejczak: It’s amazing. When we were shooting Dawn of the Dead, we were down on Cherry Street when the big Northeast blackout of 2003 hit. We had all these zombies on the street, and now there’s a blackout! But we just kept on going, and that was also during SARS. Another great moment was on Kick-Ass, shutting down University Avenue with rolling stops because we had a helicopter coming low over the road. Orchestrating all of these incredible things is a cool job, but it can be very frustrating, and no one except another Location Manager understands. It’s hard to grasp what we go through and how nerve-racking it can be. I don’t know about you, but I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders to make this happen. And then there are highlights, like working with Robin Williams on Goodwill Hunting. We’re behind this little pub on the Danforth, a bunch of us are standing around, and he was there with us. This young man came up in his motorized wheelchair, and he couldn’t really talk. I sat there beside Robin as he had this whole conversation with this kid. It’s just those moments that make you forget all the stressful situations in Locations.

John Rakich: I still can’t sleep the night before we go to a camera on a show. I still have worries, but I know everything’s fine, and it’s gonna be okay. There’s always that worry ingrained in me, but that’s what makes us good at our jobs. We know that we’re prepared for what’s next.

Marty Dejczak: We anticipate the worst-case scenario, and we roll with it.

John Rakich: Yeah, like, “What if the unit goes down the wrong street and drives into the back of a building? What if something blows up that’s not supposed to? What if the building catches on fire?”

Marty Dejczak: Let’s not go there. [Laughs]

John Rakich: You put Location Managers in a room together, and the stories are very similar, even the crazy ones, and we all nod our heads and get it. We’re the only ones who will ever understand.

Marty Dejczak: Here’s another one – on The Long Kiss Goodnight in Downtown Collingwood, we had to raise all the hydro lines for six blocks so that Geena Davis could be on top of the truck shooting into the cab without hitting the line. The stuff we do!

John Rakich: Right now, if you need a fire truck or a helicopter, you know who to call. It’s bizarre the range of people we encounter on our jobs. From priests to sex workers to a guy who has tanks in Oshawa, you never know who you’re gonna run into. We’ve also seen the city and the province change, sometimes for the better, but aesthetically, not so much. We needed Times Square in 1985, so we had to go to London to do it because Hamilton was just too expensive. But there’s some great period architecture in downtown London. I think we’re getting into that mindset now, where productions are willing to go a little further for the right location. It’s not like 10 years ago when no one ever wanted to go anywhere outside of the GTA.

Marty Dejczak: A 10-person unit you can take anywhere. It’s travelling with, you know, 250 people and all their trucks, that’s the problem.

John Rakich: Yup. This is the business we’ve chosen.

Marty Dejczak: Well, I can’t imagine working at a bank instead. I used to work at Visa!

John Rakich: I was in retail before I got into this, and I don’t think I could ever go back to the register or a super tight nine-to-five job. The opportunities that being in this business has given me…I could have never imagined. And I have to say, it’s gonna sound cheesy, but working with you at different levels of my career really did help me learn. You know, it’s the little things that we sometimes take for granted, but on what other job could we do all of this?


Watch Slumberland on Netflix on November 18th.

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