NOT many jobs involve finding a white tiger and a deer and then putting them together in the same room.
Or tracking down a wolf or a painted sheep, or finding out if it’s acceptable to fire a gun in Princes Street.
But it’s all in a day’s work for Location Scotland, set up to seek out venues and track down anything that may be needed for a fashion or advertising photo-shoot.
Scottish locations are becoming increasingly popular and feature in a number of campaigns appearing in glossy magazines such as GQ, Marie Claire and Tatler. Location Scotland did a photo-shoot for Chanel before Christmas at Gosford House, East Lothian, with German fashion designer and photographer Karl Lagerfeld.
The company, set up by former air hostess Marie Owen in 2006, is preparing for a big international push from next month, promoting itself and Scotland at trade shows in Berlin, Paris and New York attended by brand managers, creative directors and other key contacts.
Later this year, the company will be joining a Scottish Development International trade mission to Japan.
“We had our best January and February, and we want to build on that growth,” said Owen. “This will be the first time we have done a series of shows.”
Owen, 37, set up the business following her photographer husband’s advice that she take advantage of Scotland’s varied locations.
She had given birth to twins and was looking to get back into the working environment. Armed only with a computer, she compiled lists of people who could make it work.
She now operates from a former steelworks in Leith which she uses as her studio, and has built a database of 1,300 contacts from animal handlers to catering suppliers who can be drawn upon when the fashion and advertising clients arrive. By necessity, she has become an ambassador for Scotland and distributes Scottish produce as part of her promotional activity.
“It’s just a question of getting them to think about Scotland when they are looking around the world for locations,” she said. “I’ve not had one who has been and said they hated it.”
The business has been self-funded and has grown organically. Revenues are on course to break through the £1 million mark this year, rising from £870,000 last year. Such growth has given Owen the confidence to push the company’s ambitions.
Scottish Enterprise introduced her to former HBOS banker Stuart Gibson as a mentor and he now sits on the board as a non-executive director. Owen, chairman and managing director, owns all the equity apart from 10 per cent held by Michelle Methven, one of four producers.
Locations such as Glencoe are among the more popular choices, but the Scottish weather, of course, has proved unpredictable – once because the expected rain stayed away. A rain machine had to be ordered for models who were sheltering under umbrellas in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square.
Owen is producing a video to show what goes on behind the scenes at shoots, what they have to do and equipment that has to be provided, from water bottles to a motor home.
A wolf was commissioned by a Polish computer games company, so a domesticated animal was tracked down. A farmer was willing to have his sheep painted so long as they weren’t harmed.
Sourcing a sea plane was among the more challenging requests, but the white tiger and the deer – which were supposed to be photographed together with a model – was one that got away.
“We could get them, but I thought the tiger might eat the deer,” she said.