Travel Tips from a Hollywood Location Scout

Movie scout Lori Balton, the woman behind some of the most travel-inspiring settings ever seen on film, shares her tricks of the trade. (Rule No. 1: It's OK to get lost!)

By Rachel Mosely, Thursday, Mar 1, 2012, 4:00 AM

Lori Balton scouting for an upcoming Western in Terlingua, Texas.

(Courtesy of Lori Balton)

Q. What's your starting point when you search for a film location?
Lori Balton: I love Google Images, because it's so wonderfully random—you never know where it's going to lead you. I was looking for otherwordly locations for Land of the Lost, and I put "otherworldly locations" in Google Images and went from there. You get these weird trees and rock formations in Eritrea.

Q. Once you've got a location, how do you find the best spots to shoot?
My favorite thing is to just talk to people. And it's also nice to give yourself the freedom to get lost. I find some of the best things by taking a left where I should've taken a right. In fact, you kind of have to do that. On A River Runs Through It, every time Robert Redford came to town I was nervous he would discover something I hadn't found, so I'd get to the end of a road, and say, "Well, I can't stop here." What if around that curve, there's something a little bit better?  

Q. Do you do that on vacation, too?
Oh, absolutely—and I drive everybody crazy! But that's why I love my job, because I'm curious about people, and I'm curious about culture. I don't like to go on a vacation where you just sit and relax.  

Q. Are there places that you feel are played out or too cliché to go to?
I have to say most emphatically no. I hate that people will shy away from locations and say "We've seen that before." You've seen it before because it's a great location. So why are you so afraid of seeing it again? Locations like Monument Valley—sure, you've seen it in a lot of Westerns. But it's such a striking place and the light is so incredible that you can shoot it in a million different ways, and I don't think people will ever get tired of it. So you've got to find an interesting way to shoot it!

Q. You must have perpetual jet-lag. Do you have any advice?
Two things that I can't do without. One is I drink a ton of water. Staying hydrated really helps with the time differences. And the other stuff that I use is saline solution. Use two shots of that in your nose every night and every morning and it really clears everything out, especially when you're traveling on airplanes a lot. People are like, "Ew! You do that?" And it's like, "OK, don't do it. You'll live to regret it!"

The 6 Most Inspiring Travel Films of the Year

The Hangover

In the spirit of Oscar season, we nominated six 2011 flicks that made us want to pack our bags and book a flight. (Plus: the travel deals to get you there!) Click on the image to the left to see stills from the films and photos from the amazing places where the films are set.

The Descendants (Hawaii)
The Way (Spain)
The Hangover Part II (Thailand)
War Horse (England)
Rio (Rio de Janeiro)
Midnight in Paris (Paris)

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