By Mara Keen
Welcome to NYWIFT, Jillian Fisher! Jillian Fisher began her career as an intern with the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. Three film festivals, various day jobs and a very particular set of skills later, Jillian created a public relations company. When a few movies came knocking on the door of one of her clients (the City of Kingston, New York), Jillian answered. After assisting the productions with locations and negotiations, she turned her attention to scouting locations full time. Over a decade later, Jillian still loves the creative aspects of scouting, but is now also pursuing producing her own projects.
Jillian has proudly served on the Board of Directors of Upstate Women in Film & Television (UPWIFT) almost since its inception.
Jillian spoke to us about her work managing locations in upstate New York, the award-winning feature The Whale, and the women-centered stories she’s excited to work on next.
Describe yourself. Give us your elevator pitch!
Although for decades I had worked with various film festivals, more than a decade ago I created a niche for myself in the entertainment industry that I’ve been able to maintain. This has allowed me to place my daughters as my top priority while utilizing my creative vision, attention to detail and collaborative nature.
What brings you to NYWIFT?
I’ve been on the Board of Directors of UPWIFT (Upstate Women in Film & Television) almost since its inception and I’ve also been fortunate to work on many projects with NYWIFT members. I respect the goals of the organizations and the women in them. I believe in the concept that there’s room for everyone and that when one of us wins, we all win.
How did you get into being a location scout?
Over a decade ago I created a small boutique public relations company and one of my clients was the City of Kingston. I was contacted by a location manager who told me that they were considering filming upstate but most likely would be filming closer to NYC. I asked her to tell me about the movie and I filmed it in my head as she spoke. At the end of her description, I told her that we could make all the locations happen. She and the director came, I took them to all the locations, and — fast forward — they even named the fictitious city in the movie “Kingston.” That film was The Sisterhood of Night and I’m happy to still be in touch with both the director and location manager. I also pre-negotiated their lodging, but that’s another story.
The following summer I did the same location logistics for a movie called Cold in July. After that I decided that I enjoyed this new-to-me thing called “location scouting,” focused on that, and started bringing more and more movies to the Hudson Valley (my specialty). The projects on which I’ve worked — film, television, commercials, and print — have all been by word of mouth.
What has been your favorite project to date and why?
I don’t have an all-out favorite project as there are so many with which I’ve worked that have their own special moments. After I read a script I discuss the nuances, usually with the director, that I see as integral in helping to bring their vision to life.
Details really matter to me and making sure we’re on the same page is paramount. I work during that sweet spot of a movie when it seems everything is possible. I develop great working relationships with directors and producers because quite often we’re together for weeks. My car becomes a safe space where, weather permitting, the windows are down, the sunroof is open, the music is on and almost any conversation can happen. It’s all part of the bigger process and provides many of the memories that I cherish.
What was your favorite moment working on any of your films? And the biggest challenge?
My favorite moment working on any film is when I present a location that far exceeds expectations. Most locations come to me either as I’m reading a script or when it’s being described or when I see a wish image. That’s not to say that there aren’t challenges. One time I drove all over an entire county trying to match a tree for re-shoots on a location that wasn’t mine and where they wouldn’t allow the crew back.
I see you worked as a location scout for the multi-award-winning film The Whale. What can you tell us about that?
Working on The Whale was one of those experiences where I saw the wish photo and knew instantly where the location was. I immediately sent the producer a link to the street view on Google satellite. I remember it was really cold on the day of the director scout. As I left the house in my warm, Upstate NY native, yellow parka, I said to my family that I bet everyone else would be in black. They were.
What’s next for you? Are there any upcoming projects that you’re excited about?
My daughters are grown so I’m excited to actually produce my own work. The majority of my projects feature strong female leads of all ages. I have two scripts in particular that I’m incredibly passionate about bringing to fruition. One features a young teenage girl in a lead STEM role, the other is the pilot episode of a show that follows four women and their friendship from childhood through their fifties (which I believe to be the real time for a coming-of-age narrative). Hit me up for meetings!
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