Collaborator to Filmmakers, Photographers, and Creatives within commercial advertising campaigns, movies, and visual projects.

Location Scout | Manager | Producer

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An Open Letter to Young Filmmakers & Photographers

Silouette crewEdited – August, 2020

Dear Young and “New” Filmmakers, Photographers –

A terrible thing happened on a movie set. Somebody died.

Her name was Sarah. She was a Camera Assistant in a Union. She was young but experienced.

As your elder brother and alumni of the old school, I am writing to you—asking, pleading to you — IF you EVER feel UNSAFE on a SET — please SPEAK UP!

Youth and new breeds passionate ambition and naiveté. It is too easy to be blinded by the flame. There are inherent pressures of being the new person on the crew and you want to prove worth. You don’t want to rock the boat or you think you need the job. You certainly want more work another day. Or maybe you just don’t know any better.

In your career you will be asked to work in dangerous places. Some will be glaringly unsafe while others may be not so obvious. A location shoot might be as crazy as setting up on an active railroad line! But more likely it will be near busy traffic, on the top of a building, over deep water, in bad weather, close to explosives, or craziest of all — shooting anything anywhere with a crew that has zero experience doing what they are about to do. Still, the worst are set leaders who simply don’t care… yep, they’re out there.

From the next indy film with three friends to a giant studio movie with a crew of a thousand to shooting french-fry grease for a cooking show — you WILL find yourself in the shadow of risk one day. My plea is not exclusively to moviemakers. I see too many photographers shooting local fashion or a music video, draping models on train tracks or having them swim in a polluted high-current river. Graduation and engagement pictures are snapped on rickety fire escapes or inside abandoned private properties that have weak floors, broken glass, and numerous environmental hazards. While we’re talking trespassing, I disagree emphatically with those who say, “It’s easier to apologize then to ask permission.” There is no amount of sorry that can repair the loss of life. Today’s trespasser is tomorrow’s unsafe set decision-maker.

Now here we are in 2020; a global pandemic thanks to COVID-19. As of this writing (editing of a ’14 post) we’ve been through months of an industry stop, economies being shut down internationally, lockdowns, shelters-in-place, events cancelled, health measures mandated, and guidelines put in place. Why? Basic SAFETY of human beings. Yet production crews are beginning to shoot again—during a pandemic.

This is indeed an extraordinary situation. ALL of us are in it. There are many reasons why people are saying yes to work and I understand most of them. But friends, newbies, “young” in the biz; this is NOT the time to jump on a job out of desperation or excitement. IF you are being offered work, best to accept it with crew you know and trust. Ask THEM about their feelings on working again (especially if you are the hirer). If ANY standard safety guidelines are not addressed PRIOR to booking a job – DO NOT book that job. If all seemed well at booking and you show up to an unsafe set — SAY NO. Walk away if you need to… Again, extraordinary times. It is literally life or death. Sadly, for every production company that is still holding a standards-bar high on all fronts (safety, insurance, permits, process) there are 10,000 who are not.

All of my old-school colleagues can tell you at least one story of being asked to do something UNSAFE. Many have said yes. I have, and I hate that I didn’t say NO.

Sets should be controlled environments where artists in filmmaking and photography can work comfortably and safely. Terms such as owned, permitted, and locked-up should mean, that you as a professional crew member are now safe to proceed to do what we all love. NEVER EVER should you be on any set, in fear of injury or by no means, working and waiting to escape from danger at a second’s notice.

If you ever need to shoot anything in a dangerous environment, SAFETY is always first. Many discussions should be had, permissions need to be granted, safety meetings should be held and those measures need to be applied, experienced professionals MUST be part of the crew, and ALL of your sets need to be CONTROLLED.

Sarah was killed on an uncontrolled set.

To all the Directors, Writers, and Producers with that vision for that shot – STOP!  Does it really have to be in a location that will put the crew in danger? If something is so obvious to your human nature that the shot has probable RISK of injury; THINK HARDER. Be more creative, not less. STOP putting people in harms way!

And frankly, if you are calling yourself a film or photography professional or company and not getting any of this or if you are an admitted unsafe set instigator, LEAVE this business immediately and stop saying you are one of us!

Doing what you’re doing is a privilege and an honor. We work in one of the most fantastic industries on the planet. The work can be dangerous. Please, be equally respectful of the gift and the danger within it. Work with like-minds and speak up — together. Always ask questions. Be smart.

Stay safe. And don’t ever be afraid to say no.

Jamie Vesay
Location Scout, Manager, Producer for commercial Motion Pictures.
Experienced in physical special effects, art department, scriptwriting.
Movies, commercials, documentaries, corporate films, branded content, etc.
Been doing it all for 30+ years.

A Tale of Two Visitor Centers

Includes Feb 2020 Photo EDIT / UPDATE

Yes, the internet has changed how many of us gather our travel intelligence — but this tale is about walking into one of those Welcome to our City buildings; filled with brochures and maps, factoids and gifts, and information dispensed by local human beings. In my opinion, there is nothing like a good visitor center.

Omaha, Nebraska and Natchez, Mississippi are river towns. They are similar and different. The population of Natchez is about 15,000. Omaha’s is approximately 395,000 greater.

First impressions can be affected by a simple greeting, an accessible location, what time of day or year you visit, how long you stay, etc. Imagine you are a visitor unfamiliar with an area and stopped by after exiting the main road. Let the impressions begin…

Natchez receives significant seasonal groups of visitors when riverboats drop tourists at their door. The dock is not far from their visitor center.

Omaha receives seasonal tourists too but spread out over annual events. Why not put your visitor center where those events are held or maybe near a gateway into town like the road from the airport or say closer to the river?  Somewhere, anywhere – more visible.

PARKING is any visitor center’s first – first impression. The Natchez Reception Center has a large lot with free spaces for cars, buses, and RVs.

In Omaha, there is minimal parking—on the street at meters with 15 minute parking signs. Remember, I’m a visitor and just pulled in. I haven’t looked at the website to see your note about “…parking along 10th Street.” I see meters and a sign which says I only have 15 minutes.

RESTROOMS are the most “visited” space at a visitor center. At Natchez, restrooms are conveniently located in the front of the building — separate to the actual visitor center. And incredibly – OPEN 24 hours!

HISTORY is another big attraction to any city. Natchez had 120 years or so start on Omaha and was at the intersection of many historical events. Omaha has history too. Native Americans, pioneers, railroads, jazz, and as a witness to Lewis & Clark. Yes, there are awesome history museums in Omaha – and Nebraska – but tease me about them at your visitor center (alternatively to but augmented by the brochures).

At the Natchez Reception Center, you are forced to walk through rich, historical exhibits – to get to their Gift Shop! The wall of windows is wonderful, offering natural light in and a panoramic view of the river valley out.

At Natchez I was offered free coffee as I chatted with a staff member and complimented her on the visitor center. I work in the film industry and ask a question at every visitor center. “Can you tell me if any movies have been shot here?” Without hesitation, she presented a list. She rattled off recent projects, told me about stars and crew who stayed in town, and pointed out that parts of the series True Blood were shot at an antebellum home nearby. She then segued to how many antebellum homes and B & Bs are there. “Most do tours. Here’s that list.”

Yes, I was impressed by my short visit to the Natchez Reception Center but couldn’t help thinking about the similarities to Omaha – because I live in Omaha. I am one of those locals who utilize the visitor center for family visiting and business associates on their way here. In the past I’ve gathered gift bags for arriving visitors and purchased Omaha gifts to give to my family on the east coast. I worked on the movie Up in the Air and was close to the decision to NOT SHOOT George Clooney at the Omaha Visitors Center. It almost happened.

I returned to Omaha eager to revisit the Omaha Visitors Center. A friend who works for the city had told me, “The administration offices of tourism moved but the visitors center is still open.” Oh. I was more excited. Maybe changes are coming. Is something new happening?

After I paid for parking, I was met by a sign directing me around the corner. I peeked through the window and the front space was – vacant?

Once inside, I was shocked. They’ve made it smaller! By the way – there is no gift shop in the Omaha Visitors Center. The trinkets were removed a few years ago, about the same time the cafe went away.

I was greeted by a cordial volunteer and announced myself as a local but curious about new visitor offerings. I also wanted to learn what the heck was going on with the construction – but I needed to use the restroom. I knew where it is but visitors have to ask, “Restroom?” I was shocked again. Now you need the restroom door to be unlocked by a volunteer with the key! A tad uncomfortable, I was guided by the gentleman far enough that he turned on the Men’s room light. I wondered if a female volunteer is assigned as a Ladies room guide.  Sigh.

I gathered a few brochures and left. Seeing the new Omaha Visitors Center was disheartening, especially after visiting Natchez’s weeks prior.

Omaha is a growing city, often found on those positive lists— Best City for this and Most Popular for that… It certainly feels like Omaha wants to be bigger and attract more visitors. There’s a new grand-scale development project in progress, encompassing two parks and areas along the river. The initial budget is 290 million dollars. Below is an updated photo of the shot above – from November 2019.

Near here, another 100 million is slated for the initial phase of a Conagra campus repurpose. I’m just asking the question: Why not have a bigger, better, more visible Visitor Center — located within these new projects?

I love a good visitor center—and I love my city. I simply want Omaha to have the best one.

Traveling, hosting, or planning a visit is indeed subjective but consider a stop at a local visitor center on your next journey. A good one is friendly, informative, and memorable. Talk to the locals, learn their history, and take their recommendations.

Support your local visitor center too.  Come Visit Omaha   Go Visit Natchez

Thank you for visiting.


UPDATE to Omaha Visitor Center as of 2/2020   RE: First Impressions. A new tenant has taken over the storefront part of the building. The good news is this is not the entrance to the visitor center… but that’s the only good news. Sigh.


I was in Natchez, MS for about two hours in November 2018. Forty minutes were spent at the Visitor Reception Center.

I revisited the Omaha Visitors Center in December 2018  and in January 2019.

The photos of Omaha parks above will become obsolete when construction is complete.

Words and photos copyrighted Jamie Vesay. Permission to reprint in online publications is required. Please ask.

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