Could Your Home Be in Movies? How to Market Your Property as a Film Location

row of colorful housesRemember the amazing ultramodern home in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? It was his friend Cameron’s residence, with the elevated glass garage where the infamous Ferrari scene took place. How about the houseboat in Sleepless in Seattle, the Cullen family home in the Twilight series or the incredible Hampton’s beach house in the film Something’s Gotta Give? The one thing all of these iconic settings have in common is that they are actual residences, and not movie sets at all.

When the movie industry first began it was common to have everything self-contained on the back lot. Sets were constructed with rooms, and facades were used for exterior shots to mimic homes or storefronts. As the medium evolved, the demand for realism led to filming at actual locations with real homes and buildings. This practice opened up a whole new world and limitless possibilities. Vince Graziano, who manages the location website, FilmingLocations.com, says that, “85 percent of all film shoots happen on location.”

Shooting on location can be much more economical, but sometimes it’s simply the filmmaker’s preference. Now consider the fact that there are 24 “Right to Work” states, noting that California is not among them. There are also more than 40 states currently offering incentives for local film production. In light of incentives and non-union labor advantages, it should come as no surprise when film crews begin scouting out your neighborhood! If you don’t think your home has “star quality,” don’t worry – the location manager will make that call! If Hollywood has yet to discover your area, remember, your property may be perfect for commercials or still shots.

old, damaged house

Yikes! This house might not be pretty, but what a great place to film a horror movie!

Residences are chosen for a variety of reasons, including, architectural style, landscaping, individual rooms, character, or vantage points from within. Perhaps your place has a spectacular view of nearby landmarks or breathtaking scenery, an Old World study with impressive bookshelves and a stone fireplace or a quaint stable and barn? Got a house that could use some TLC? That’s fine, too. Maybe it’s the ideal spot to recreate a gangster’s hideout or drug dealer’s lair… no offense. The point is, if your home has noteworthy features – even if they aren’t necessarily “pretty” – you could market your home as a filming location. And if you think your home has character, it’s likely that others will too.

Taking the plunge to get your property on the big screen can pay off handsomely. According to Graziano, who manages central location offices in California and Wisconsin, the going industry rate per day is your monthly mortgage payment. Depending on the production, shooting schedule, and other factors, it could be much more. This could certainly help you with your house payments, which would in turn give you more financial freedom to enjoy other things like taking a vacation or saving up for a bigger, better home!

Another benefit is that often, production companies will need to make modifications to a home. This could translate into a new kitchen, fresh landscaping, a room addition or whatever else the director feels would achieve the desired effect. Some homeowners would welcome this prospect; others may cringe at the thought and decide the money is just not worth it. It’s up to each homeowner to decide what they’re willing to change.

Before delving into marketing your home for film jobs, consider if you are ready to have your privacy completely invaded. Some productions pay for homeowners to live elsewhere and some prefer to save the money and work around your schedule or, more likely – have you work around theirs! You would also need to be aware that your home could suffer wear and tear, since a typical film crew may consist of 40 people or more. Things are typically put back to their original state however, cover that base beforehand! Make sure any precious family heirlooms are secured and other valuables are insured.

Then there are your neighbors to consider. Would they take kindly to having heavy equipment trucks rolling through at all hours or gaffers shining floodlights and barking orders to assistants atop lighting trucks at say, 3 am?

See related post, “How to Handle Property Disputes with Your Neighbor.”

So, if you’ve mulled it over and it still sounds attractive, the next step is to get the attention of local filmmakers. Here is a quick checklist to start the process:

  • Find out if your state has a film commission. If it does, obtain the contact information for location scouts working in your state and inquire about their location database and how to get your property included.
  • Be aware that some location-managing firms charge a small fee to put you in their system. It ranges an average of $5 to $10 per month.
  • Ask how many photos you are allowed to submit and what size and format they should be.
  • Consider having a professional home stager and real estate photographer come in. There is a real knack to getting these shots right and high quality photos will amp up your home’s potential.

As you wait for your home to be discovered, contact local firms that produce print and film ads. Remember, lots of stars started honed their skills on the small stages of community theater and summer stock. It’s also a great way to get your home ready for that big break!

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