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Location, location, location: UK Locations’ Lauren York on her campaign for BAFTA Award recognition for location professionals

UK Locations CEO Lauren York has been lobbying BAFTA for two years to create a dedicated award for location professionals. She hasn’t given up yet, but since it took casting directors nine years to get their own BAFTA she’s taken matters into her own hands by creating the Location Excellence Awards (LEAs) in the meantime.

York launched the awards last year, and this year’s winners will be named on Monday morning (May 13), directly after the BAFTA TV Awards on Sunday night.

York has plenty of experience in the field – Leeds-based UK Locations is one of the leading UK location agencies representing exclusive residential and commercial locations for shooting outside of London, and over the last 15 years has built an enviable black book of clients including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, the BBC, ITV, Disney+ and countless worldwide brands. Over 75% of the company’s work is repeat business, so it would appear to know how to deliver.

She began her career at Yorkshire TV, and worked in the location departments of dramas such as Fat Friends, Between the Sheets and A Good Grief. Here, she gained a solid grounding in the mix of creativity and logistics required to make a successful locations pro, and ultimately concluded that BAFTA was missing an award.

In early 2022, York began a petition which collected over 1,000 signatures and won support from the Location Managers Guild International (LMGI).

Despite the strong support for the petition, BAFTA was unmoved, as York explains: “I took the petition and a video I made of location managers giving their reasons for the BAFTA to BAFTA, but they came back to say no. Their reasons were that they do not know how they can watch a piece of TV or film and judge the effectiveness of a location. How can they judge a casting director’s effectiveness?”

Unperturbed, York enlisted the support of Tom Howard, a supervising location manager on movies and shows including The Night Manager and A Monster Calls, and a BAFTA member, and landed a meeting with new BAFTA chair Sara Putt.

“Sara was great and understood our campaign and why we’re doing it,” says York. “She advised that we campaign as a guild.”

Consequently, York is currently in the process of setting up a UK arm of the LMGI, which should be up and running by summer. She will sit on the UK committee and continue to lobby BAFTA through the guild.

Which brings us neatly to next week’s LEAs: “The BAFTA campaign will take many years, so last year I created The Location Excellence Awards, which recognise location excellence in relevant BAFTA nominated and awarded TV and films,” York explains. “I research the names of all the location professionals that worked on each show/film and I reference each one. It takes me many hours, but I am committed and passionate about raising the profile of location professionals and it’s a really important job to do.”

Somehow, York still finds time while meticulously grading the work of BAFTA winners’ casting teams to run UK Locations. There, as well as advocating for the recognition of location pros, she’s a huge cheerleader for filming in the North.

“It’s becoming almost impossible to film in London now due to the costs and traffic,” she says, turning to a topic she recently discussed with The Guardian. “[They] were really interested in the popularity of regional locations, especially Yorkshire, the North West, Midlands and Scotland, and the types of films, dramas and photo campaigns that are being shot there. For example, Manchester is a hive of activity for all types of filming and creative content. It’s brilliant because it can double as New York [as it has many times for Marvel, among others] and it also has huge, empty, period buildings that are encouraging large budget films to come to the North.”

Having already successfully advanced the causes of location workers and Northern shoots alike, it’s admirable that York still has the energy for a quick plug for her company too: “UK Locations is for brands, broadcasters and streamers who want quick and easy access to hard-to-reach locations where they can shoot high-end content without any hassle. Our first-class service comes from years of industry experience, the close relationships we have with all our exclusive location partners (and the ease of access this allows), and a genuine love of the creative process.”

Check back in with Prolific North on Monday for this year’s Location Excellence Awards winners (and maybe a passing mention for the BAFTAS too).

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