On location

Posted by Bob on April 22, 2000

In Reply to: On location posted by Jame Briggs on April 22, 2000

: : : In advertising an upcoming moive called 'Sahara', our local TV station pronounced that the movie was shot 'on location' in Australia.
: : : Does anybody know or have any insights as to how 'on location' has apparently come to mean not at the actual location, but in this case in fact in an entirely different continent?

: : "...the Seilis Co. filmed the beach scenes for its 'Count of Monte Cristo' on the beach of Santa Moncia, California. Though not the first scenes filmed outdoors 'on location' (a term not recorded until 1914), they were the first filmed in Southern California, whose good year-round weather and variety of scenery made it a perfect place for moviemaking..." From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).

: : I don't know why that particular term was used. I just remember Bette Davis lamenting the fact that most movies are now filmed on location. Ms. Davis thought things were a lot easier when movies were filmed on a set or in the studio backlots.

: Could the word come from the Latin "locus", meaning "place"? In Britain, when one physician stands in for another, he is said to be "doing a locum". Seems possible.

All movie scenes are shot either in studio or on location. Location doesn't mean the authentic place (like the Sahara vs. Australia) but any place out of the sound stage. In fact, I got an interesting brochure a few years ago from the Arizona Film Commission, showing all 50 states, simulated in Arizona locations. A skyscraper in Phoenix standing in for New York, etc. The economics of the business dictate that the less you move, the easier it is on the budget. Far more interesting for Phrase Mongers is the movie term "shooting MOS, meaning a scene shot with no recorded sound because only the picture is needed. The origin is from early Hollywood, when German directors were working. One of them (whose name escapes me) said that the next scenes were to be shot "mit out sound," and the abbreviation MOS has stuck ever since.