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Tuesday, 22 April 2014 17:25

Will Brewster on Montana, Photography and the Art of Location Scouting

Written by  Dyana Carmella
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A great location can open a myriad of imaginative possibilities for any shoot. While location scouting is known as an essential component of filmmaking, it’s also an important part of preproduction for professional photographers.

Photographer/Location Professional Will Brewster’s passion for photography is aided by his skillful eye in lighting, framing and depth of field, and his talents are just as impressive in the film and television industry.  

Montana SFWBrewster grew up surrounded by natural beauty on his family ranch in Springhill Community near Belgrade, Montana, and it was a perfect place for him to learn his craft. “When I used to live on the family ranch, my father was a journalist on the side,” says Brewster. “When I was six years old, I would wander around with him and he would let me play with spare cameras to give me something to do while he worked. [As a professional] I used to shoot 35mm and 2¼ formats. I also love to use panoramic film cameras for scouting. Now I primarily shoot on a Nikon. I never switched. I started with Nikon in the ’70s and have continued to have all Nikon gear. Right now it’s D4 bodies and D800s, and for backups I have D3s and a D2X just for time-lapse kind of shooting.”

WillBrewster SFWWhen first choosing a career, Brewster knew he wanted to travel but he didn’t want to live anywhere else than Montana — so he picked a career path where he could have both. “In 1987, a director named Marcus Stevens was shooting his first commercial gig,” Brewster recalls. “I had met his soon-to-be wife and she introduced me to him. I started doing locations with him and we’ve been working together for 27 years. In the beginning I multitasked and went from propping to art directing commercials.” Brewster has used his experienced eye, scouting savvy and professional lenses on hundreds of commercial and film projects since 1986, including shoots for Toyota, Chevrolet, MGM, Warner Bros., Disney and household names like Michelob, Budweiser, Harley-Davidson, Walmart, Apple and Johnson & Johnson. 

While Brewster still resides in Montana, he’s done scouting work in Arizona, New England, Mexico, Texas, California, New Orleans and Canada. “I like scouting because each location is so unique,” he says. “It’s refreshing when things are culturally different. I can typically get to places no one is able to get to because I’m pretty grounded and people trust me. That’s the key, being able to relate to people.” Of all the places he’s scouted, Brewster still finds Montana to be unlike most places in the world. “In Montana the weather can change so much,” he says. “To me that’s the most fantastic thing. You get unusual shots because of the weather. As a location scout I think that’s one of the greatest things. Montana has a ton of variety. You can shoot the state to look like a lot of different places, and that’s helps us sell it for different projects.”

Montana SFW 2In regards to finding the perfect location, Brewster says one of the most important aspects to his job is understanding the production end of it. “You can’t be selling [locations] to a director that are physically impossible to get crews in and out of, if they don’t already ask for it,” he advises. “What helps me a lot is seeing the whole storyboard and being able to figure out what kind of travel plan can be made; where the flights come in; where do most of the local crew come from, etc. That makes a really big difference for the client and the production company.” For more information on Brewster and his work, visit: more information on filming in Montana, visit

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