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Dispatches From the Set – Location Manager Mike Riley

The Walking Dead’s Season 3 Location Manager Mike Riley chats with about what makes the South well suited for horror and where he’d go if the world ended.

Q: What’s been the most challenging location to secure for The Walking Dead thus far?

A: The problem we’ve run into is our writers are in Los Angeles, and they’re sitting inside a building somewhere making this stuff up, and a lot of what they write may not be physically possible to do in the area of the state that we’re in.

Q: Can you think of a specific example?

A: There was an upcoming script where the writer wanted this river where it was dangerous to ford. Well, that doesn’t exist here.

Q: Does the principal work in reverse, where you find unexpected locations near where you’re filming?

A: During the first season…when [the cast] found themselves at the quarry, you assume they went out of town. Well it just so happens that that quarry was 15 minutes from our stages where we were based for the first season, which was in Atlanta. It was a place I knew about from when I was a kid.

Q: The water looks pretty picturesque. Did you used to swim there?

A: My father had a business that dealt with industrial equipment and I used to work for him in the summers delivering mechanical parts to different customers. That’s how I remembered the quarry. I didn’t go swimming there. We had a swimming hole closer to my house that we used.

Q: You’ve been the location manager for several films set in the South: O, Brother Where Art Thou, Sweet Home Alabama… What does that part of the country offer that’s unique?

A: The South has a mystique about it. It’s sort of a foreign country to a lot of people. [Laughs] They’ve been shooting films here for a long time, going back to Deliverance back in the early ’70s. And a result of that is that they built a very extensive crew base, support, vendors, and all sorts of equipment… But it also has to do with the scripts. I can’t tell you how often I get a call where someone says, “Can I shoot Atlanta for L.A.?” and I go, “No.” [Laughs]

Q: You could maybe shoot the traffic…

A: Yeah, if you need a tight shot of a bunch of people sitting on the freeway.

Q: As someone who finds ideal locations professionally: Where would you go in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

A: I’m kind of with T-Dog and the rest of them when they say let’s go to the coast. I’d rather be down at the beach than in the city, or maybe up in the mountains where you could build a fortress. But a prison sounds like a good a place as any. It seems like you could be pretty secure there.

Click here to read an interview with IronE Singleton, who plays T-Dog on AMC’s The Walking Dead.

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