They want to put my house in the movies
January 21, 2014 10:10 AM   Subscribe

And all it's got to do is act nat'rally. I received a communication from a scouting agent, interested in using our house to shoot a television pilot. My first inclination is to toss said communication, and forget about it. However, I'm wondering if perhaps we should consider it. Snowflakes!

This house, and a few others around it, are rather unique because of age and original features. Period houses are important to the pilot for establishing verisimilitude, I gather from the message.

The reason I might be open to it is we want to sell our house, and "Appeared in XYZ" might be a draw to some folks who are already interested in its unique characteristics.

Financial recompense is offered (who knows how much), but really, could it possibly be enough to make up for the trouble of turning over one's residence to a film crew? Do they pack up and put back neatly? And, of course, what if the pilot is picked up and they want to keep using the house? We'd obviously use a lawyer if we decided to proceed.

So, has anyone ever done this before? Is this a nightmare to be easily avoided?
posted by heigh-hothederryo to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My parents' neighborhood was chosen to be featured in a film about 20 years ago. One house in particular was actually used for shooting. I heard that it was re-decorated for the film with the understanding that the owners could keep it afterward or have it removed, at the cost of the film company.

The actual filming didn't take very long.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 10:13 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Film and TV crews are not known to be gentle. If the original features of your home, and their pristine condition, are important to you, I'd advise caution.

I've done some film production work, and there is no way I'd ever let a crew shoot in my house, but YMMV.

might be a draw to some folks who are already interested in its unique characteristics.

It may also draw looky-loos who want to gawk at your house at 7 am on a Sunday, or 11:30 pm on a Tuesday (or ring you up looking for a guided tour).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:14 AM on January 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

This article should be of interest to you.

My close friend's family home starred in the TV show "Graceland." He wasn't living there at the time, but as far as I know, the whole family got a real kick out of it. I'm sure he'd forward your email address on to his parents so you could get a first-hand account of what it was like - if no one here can offer you a direct perspective, Memail me and I'll put you in touch.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 10:17 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would at least respond with a few questions. It may be that they want to feature the exterior of your house but have no interest in the interior. Years ago when they were filming the Brinks Robbery in Boston, everyone on my block made some money just because they filmed the houses.
posted by InkaLomax at 10:19 AM on January 21, 2014

Response by poster: (Mods, just a few clarifying details.)

Oh, Admiral Haddock, we get those already. I've turned away many nice people with cameras who promise to "just look around very quickly." And we had the house on the market, and did get many curiousity seekers - next time, we'll be more picky.

I googled the producer and the show - producer seems to be quite a big name. If a series needs a particular house, wouldn't they need to continue using it (if, say, a main character lives in said house) throughout the life of the series? How does that work?
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 10:19 AM on January 21, 2014

I received just such a communication from a scouting agent at my last place. I mentioned this not long ago to a friend in the film industry, and she warned me against ever letting my home be used as a location.

Apparently the film crews will trash your place with impunity, and have contracts that protect them from being held accountable.
posted by adamrice at 10:19 AM on January 21, 2014

Film crews will take over your house. It takes a large amount of people to film something, more than you'd imagine... lighting, sound, grips, script people, director, cinematographer, actors... I've been on crew for (low budget) films before.

But since you are planning on selling it, and assuming you could live elsewhere during the filming, then why not? Just get everything lawyer approved.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:20 AM on January 21, 2014

My neighborhood was used for Lorenzo's Oil. You'll get nice owner-only parking for months, along with lots and lots of craft services tables with all the food you'd ever want to eat. I'd say do it, just for the joy of telling the story.
posted by kinsey at 10:21 AM on January 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

I had a commercial filmed in my previous house. Pay was decent. If I recall, I got about $5,000 for 2 or 3 days of filming. They did change a few things and there was wear and tear, but they repainted one hall and had someone come and fix a fixture the following week.

If it is mainly for exterior shots, which I imagine a sitcom would be, then I would take the money in a heartbeat.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

The house will get damaged. There will be scuff marks and scratches at the very least, also tape marks, trampled gardens, pissed off neighbours and dirt everywhere. If you get a good contract where they will clean, repair and return everything to how it was you might be OK as they are usually pretty good at doing that if it's in the contract, if you get star struck and let them do what they want they will. If your home as irreplaceable features I'd be very hesitant.

If it's exterior only, I'd be much more inclined to go for it.
posted by wwax at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2014

Having been on a few low-budget (ranging from indie short to mid-level tv) location crews:
  • The crew WILL be all over the place, completely taking over as much of the property as you let them.
  • There will be "stuff" everywhere.
  • They will be very, very careful of your property, especially if you establish some ground rules.
  • They will spend ages tidying up and making sure your place is spick and span.
Now, I might've just been fortunate to be on some good crews, based on the feedback above at least. So take that as some general anecdata.
posted by Magnakai at 10:30 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's a premium cable network, known for original movies and series, with much attention paid to period and costuming accuracy.

Excerpt from message: "We are looking for homes that retain their period features....To begin the process, we will need to photograph your house; locations are chosen by the director based on the photographs."
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 10:31 AM on January 21, 2014

I would probably start the process - you can always back down if they don't offer you enough money/ask for too much time/won't guarantee the condition of your property in the contract.
posted by Magnakai at 10:32 AM on January 21, 2014 [12 favorites]

My creative agency "hired" a house to film a 30-second ad for our company last year, and I attended the filming. For that 30 second ad, we were in there for a full day, mucking around and displacing the family who lived there.

There's a lot to think about. First, don't imagine that you're just talking about having people in your house filming. There will also be people in your house acting, doing makeup and wardrobe, feeding the cast and crew, cleaning up after the cast and crew, moving furniture to aid in blocking and lighting, hanging lights, moving wall hangings, putting down and pulling up tarps, covering and uncovering windows. They'll set up computers somewhere to view the video, commandeer rooms for actors to use between takes, etc. They will wear whatever shoes they want as they tromp across your hardwood floors and carpets. They will not respect your stuff as much as you do.

There will also be trucks in your driveway and equipment in your yard. There will be a ton of people coming and going. There will be parking issues on your street, because all of the people who need to be there to shoot the pilot will also need to park. Your neighbors may find it interesting at first, but probably not for long. Film crews are not quiet, and they're not careful. Have you ever lived next door to someone doing an extensive home renovation? Maybe a gut rehab, with plumbers and electricians and carpenters and tile layers and cabinet installers and all their crews? Think that, times ten.

One day, for one 30-second ad spot. How long is the pilot? GOOD LUCK.
posted by kythuen at 10:32 AM on January 21, 2014

Years ago when they were filming the Brinks Robbery in Boston, everyone on my block made some money just because they filmed the houses.
posted by InkaLomax at 1:19 PM on January 21 [+] [!]

Rumor has it they paid someone $200.00 to remove a window mounted air conditioner. The next day there were several new AC units on the same apartment building.

Hitchcock tells a tale where he was very pleased to find the perfect apartment for one of his films. He loved the authenticity. The owners were so thrilled that their place was going to be in the movies that they had it painted, thus ruining the look Hitch was looking for.
posted by Gungho at 10:34 AM on January 21, 2014

Best answer: Apparently the film crews will trash your place with impunity, and have contracts that protect them from being held accountable.

Yes, that's my experience (on the trashing side, sorry!).

(if, say, a main character lives in said house) throughout the life of the series? How does that work?

Then they take over your house every season for as long as the show is on, essentially (to the extent they're doing location work--XYZ show below was mostly shot in a studio in NYC). The contract they have you sign will presumably require you to make it available upon their reasonable notice. If you're selling, they may pass you over to ensure they have continued access.

Just as an experiment, google "XYZ house" (where XYZ is a mobster show formerly broadcast on a premium cable network, like yours) and see how much information you can find about the owner in two minutes. It's scary--I'd just as soon keep a lower profile. Again, YMMV.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:36 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just want to second Magnakai. Having worked on some low budget features and commercials in the past, my experience was that the crews were very careful and always respected the owners rights and privacy. If you are not living there I would totally go for it. Even if you are living there I think it is worth considering at least. Yes the crew will be big and there will be equipment but it might be a bit of fun to watch from the best seats in the house.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:50 AM on January 21, 2014

Nthing kythuen. My parents' next door neighbors in LA are incapable of living within their means, constantly lease their place to film crews and the whole block has to suffer for it.
posted by brujita at 10:51 AM on January 21, 2014

Best answer: Hi there! I work in the Locations department of a TV show, but not your TV show.

Things to consider:

Is your life easily uprootable? Could you go to a hotel for a few days on short notice and otherwise live your life normally without having to think about the house at all? Do you have pets that would need to be boarded? Do you have valuable art or priceless personal items that would need special handling that would have to be specially arranged? How inconvenient would this be for you exactly? Would you be financially able to uproot yourselves and be reimbursed later for hotel costs, pet boarding, or any other expenses?

It also might be worth thinking about how inconvenient this is going to make your taxes next year. We had someone whose home we used over the course of about a month, which resulted in a very large sum of money changing hands. Then they got all pissy about the taxes. Ummmmmm, if you didn't want to pay taxes on making what amounts to a quarter of your mortgage, maybe you shouldn't have done this....

How long would they want to use your house? Is this one day, requiring maybe two nights in a hotel and a few minor inconveniences, or are they using your home as a major location for the duration of the shoot? Keep in mind that the longer they use your house, the more there is to go wrong. When a crew settles in at a location, they start to forget that this is someone's home. Cigarette butts get tossed into flowerbeds. Things get screwed directly into the woodwork you explicitly asked not to be touched.

Similarly, you may want to ask whether, if the show is picked up, the crew would need to come back periodically. On the show I work on now, we have a location we use from time to time as the exterior of the family's house. We spend a day or so there every couple months. It is completely random and not under the owners' control at all. If we need to go film, we expect to be able to go film.

How's your neighborhood? Is there a lot of filming there? Are people excited about the prospect of a shoot on your block, or potentially resentful? Are you going to be that asshole who ruined everything? I think this is more an issue if you live in Los Angeles or certain parts of the NYC metro area, but it's something to consider heavily. Film crews can really inconvenience your neighbors and cause a lot of bad blood and burnt bridges. Things bode well if the locations people are even scouting your area to begin with (they usually know where to stay away from), but keep in mind that if something happens to inconvenience your neighbors during the shoot, you are the one who has to go on living there, not the film crew.

You mention that you have a historic home, so I'll speak to that a little. 1. Is your home landmarked? Are there local laws about what kinds of alterations or improvements you can make to the property? When* something is damaged, will you have to hire a specialty contractor to come out and do painstaking historic restoration in order to comply with local landmark ordinances? 2. How invested are you personally in the historic details of your home? Will you be devastated to find out that the original kitchen cabinet pulls broke and got replaced with something modern without you being specifically consulted?

Another thing to consider: will you want to be onsite the entire time? If you do choose to go that route, will it drive you crazy to see people tracking mud onto your kitchen floor, dropping cigarette butts in your driveway, moving your things around, etc? Will it frustrate you to see your walls repainted in different colors, different window treatments installed, fixtures removed, etc? It might be OK for you not to be around, but they might need you there, and if you are there, you'll need to be extremely laid back about the whole thing.

Yes, there is money involved. I can't speak for your particular project, and there are a lot of variables, but the show I work on typically pays homeowners a couple thousand dollars a day for this, as well as reimbursements for various things, and compensation for damages caused. That can sound like a lot of money, but you should really ask yourself whether $2000 is enough to offset any inconvenience that would be caused. You'd be reimbursed separately for housing expenses, necessary repairs, and certain other things, but seriously, just ask yourself, "Is this worth $2000 to me?" If it's not, say no. Don't think about "As Seen On TV" or how exciting it will be (it won't be) or a chance to meet a celebrity or anything like that. Ask yourself, "Would it be worth $2000 for me to be massively inconvenienced for something that ultimately will have no real positive impact on my life?"

Because, that's right, keep in mind that this whole thing may never see the light of day. Especially since it's a pilot. If the pilot isn't picked up, nobody's going to care that your house was "on TV". Even if it is, the scene could be cut, or your house could be completely unrecognizable, or the pilot could not be aired for various reasons. Will you be upset to be so deeply inconvenienced, for "nothing"? You are the LEAST important factor in all of these decisions.

Another thing to consider, because you mention a lawyer in your question, is the fact that you will be expected to sign the production company's boilerplate locations contract. You're welcome to have an attorney look it over, but it's unlikely that the production team would be interested in letting you use your own contract. Even if they did, it would have to be vetted by the studio legal department, and if the studio doesn't like it, they will happily use someone else's house rather than cave to this clause your lawyer thought was so important. Are you willing to go ten rounds with legal over this? Ultimately you are not going to have much control over what the contract stipulates, unless it's to 86 the whole idea. They will tell you "well this is the standard contract that everyone signs", and if you don't like it, they'll find a different house.

*I say when rather than if, because you should assume from the outset that things will be damaged.
posted by Sara C. at 10:59 AM on January 21, 2014 [17 favorites]

everyone on my block made some money just because they filmed the houses.

I wouldn't start getting dollar signs in your eyes over this if I were you. We typically pay in the following cases:

- We need to access or block someone's driveway

- We need to place equipment on someone's property

- We need to have some control over someone's property, like having them turn on their porch lights or board their dog for the day due to noise.

- In the case of a business, we will often pay if our shoot is affecting their business (blocking their door or parking area, for instance), or if we want to feature their proprietary signage/brand identity. This would almost certainly not affect homes in a residential area.

Our presence on your block does not equal money, sorry.
posted by Sara C. at 11:10 AM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Apparently the film crews will trash your place with impunity, and have contracts that protect them from being held accountable.

This is not true.

Yes, things will be damaged. Usually on the order of scuff marks, screw holes in the walls, maybe some landscaping damage, and lots of dirt and garbage.

However, the vast majority of this will be taken care of during the wrap process. (Also often called "strike" or "restore".) Significant damage will be specially compensated and typically overseen by trained professionals. For instance if we ruin your floor, our staff construction team will work with the contractor of your choice to make sure it is fixed properly.

And, yes, of course the contract you sign will hold the production accountable for all damage. To think otherwise is absurd, I'm sorry.

However, will there be damage? Yes. Will there be wear and tear? Yes. Will there be filth? Yes. Will it be inconvenient? Yes.

But, no, the crew isn't going to trash your place and wash their hands of any accountability.
posted by Sara C. at 11:16 AM on January 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, and one more thing -- someone upthread floated the notion that these people might want to use your home as a main location, day in, day out, for the forseeable future. That is unlikely. Most shows that use a particular location that frequently will build a replica on a soundstage.

The show I work on has a family home as the main setting. There is a real house somewhere in the LA area that corresponds to the family home, and we sometimes shoot exterior scenes there. However, the interior of the house is replicated on our stage, and we even have an "outdoor" patio area and front porch.

We only ever have to actually go there if we want to use the whole yard, or if the scene has to be outdoors for some reason (as opposed to us faking it with lighting). We shoot there periodically, but it's only once a month or once every couple of months, for a day here or there.

We do not have a standing contract with the homeowners, as far as I know, as the person in the Locations Department that handles such things. Every time we shoot there, they have to sign a new location contract. There may be some overarching legally binding agreement I don't know about (and they producers would have wanted to make sure they weren't planning to sell), but no, they are not going to make you sign your life away on the off chance that they decide to completely take over your lives.

But you should be aware that they might want to come back, sure. Just don't overthink it.
posted by Sara C. at 11:26 AM on January 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Sara C appreciate you being knowledgeable/helpful but please do not turn it into an AMA about location work?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:30 AM on January 21, 2014

we want to sell our house, and "Appeared in XYZ" might be a draw to some folks who are already interested in its unique characteristics

I live in Albuquerque, where a recent popular TV series was filmed. There are tours that take people around to see the filming locations. For a certain demographic, it might add value that your house was in this series -- but, at the same time you are going to be shrinking your pool of prospective buyers, as there are many people who don't want to live somewhere "well known" that comes with tour groups coming by to take pictures several times a week.

It's also possible that the story line might not be favorable to people viewing your house in a favorable light.

could it possibly be enough to make up for the trouble of turning over one's residence to a film crew?

Usually the compensation is relatively low, as many people see doing this as very glamorous and exciting. You can call back and ask what they will pay.

what if the pilot is picked up and they want to keep using the house?

The contract should cover whether you are bound to provide your house in the future.

You should look very closely at any options for future use they have, as this might interfere with you selling your house.
posted by yohko at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2014

Response by poster: Sounds like it's definitely not for us. We like our privacy and we don't even watch premium channel. Thanks!
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2014

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