Our Experience With Hosting Film Production Companies
New Jersey Home Film Location Rental
by Kirti K.
Opening our home to film producers was one of the best ideas that ever came to our doorway. This all started when a director from India told us that he really liked our house and wanted to shoot a scene for his movie in my (Kirti) pink room. The opportunity literally knocked on our door! Unfortunately, the director was unable to go forward with the idea. Still, I (Kirti) was determined to try again and I really wanted my pink bedroom to become famous so I started looking for ideas. Like any other 21st century child, I turned to the most reliable source of information: Google. I typed out “advertise your house for movie shootings” into Google and the first link that came up was “http://www.filmlocationswanted.com.”
The process to register your home was very easy– I filled out the detailed information and included my best photos. Since I had more photos, I also included a link to my drop-box that I could constantly update as the seasons went on. Additionally, I had my friends review my information and took their advice as to which parts of my house they thought looked the nicest.
Within a few months of posting the advertisement, our first phone call came! A young director named Jay contacted me (Kirti) and asked if it would be possible for him to come by and take a look at the house. He was “scouting” the location, which is just another way of saying that someone from the film production company would take a tour of the house and see if the location fit their needs. Jay explained to me that most of the time, scouts look at several locations, take photos, and will only choose a location after discussing finance, logistics, and preferences with their team. Jay’s production crew was only about 10 people, though he did tell me that it is not uncommon to have 50 people on a production crew. After seeing my location, Jay decided that it would definitely be a good idea to shoot.
There are a couple of things that should be done before the scouting process. First of all, it is important to make sure to ask everyone in the household if they are okay with their bedrooms being used and if they were fine with the common areas being used. This should be done before the advertisement is even placed! Secondly, it is important to make clear which rooms cannot be used and which rooms can be used beforehand. If a room cannot be used for filming, do not post it in the ad! For example, we have a prayer room that is solely used for praying, and we made it clear to every location scout that no one was allowed near that room. Additionally, other ground rules should also be made clear amongst the family members. For example, my brother (Manish) made it clear that no one was allowed to see the room in the morning when he was asleep, and my mother (Maya) made it clear that shoes are not allowed to be worn in the house during scouting and actors can have their shoes during the shots but should not track mud into the house. Finally, it is important to keep every member of the household as informed as possible and as included in everything as much as possible. Make sure every member of the household feels the price is fair, and make sure someone from the household is willing to stay at home during the shooting as well to help out with anything people may need. Communication amongst the family is key, and it will make the experience much more pleasant for everyone.
As for “scouting,” there are a couple of things that should also be kept in mind. First of all, remember that “scouting” does not guarantee that your location will be used. As I mentioned before, production companies are usually looking at several locations at a time so do not get your hopes up just because someone wants to come see your place. However, be respectful- keep in mind that if you happen to have the home that fits their needs, you will be getting a handsome compensation in return. Secondly, be sure to keep time into consideration when giving tours of your house. Location scouts often want to know the basics: how old the house is, how big your property is, what spaces they are allowed to use, where they can park their car, where they can set up food for the cast and crew, what rooms are off-limits, and the times that they are allowed to use the space. Be sure to make all of this information very clear as you are giving a tour of the house. Most importantly when giving the tour, stick to the point and keep your descriptions concise. Location scouts really do not have much time on their hands and they are only really here to come see the place and take photos. If they ask for more information, be sure to give it to them but do not go into unnecessary details that are irrelevant to the shoot. Do be sure to make your “house rules” clear to the person who is scouting your location. Finally, be sure to thank the location scout for the interest in your home. Remember, someone wanting to visit your home is indirectly a compliment to your taste in furniture and design. Be happy that someone appreciates the hard work you put into making your home look so nice and be even more thankful that someone is willing to pay you for having good taste!
After the house tour, be patient in waiting for the directors to call back. If they think your location fits, they will either agree to the price you listed online or attempt to bargain with you. It is up to you to decide how much you are willing to negotiate, but please do make sure that the other household members are informed of your decision. Also be sure to make it clear how payment will be made- either a personal paypal account can be used for credit cards or personal checks can be written to the homeowners. Finally, once the location has been “locked,” it is time to work out the deeper logistics. First and foremost, make sure that the production company has insurance and will be held liable for anything that gets broken. All companies are required to issue a “certificate of insurance” that includes the homeowner’s name, address, and the dates that they will be using the property. It is crucial to make sure you have a copy of the certificate of insurance with you, as you will need it just in case something gets broken! In my experience, our property has not been damaged and the crew made sure to take care of everything so most likely, you will not need to worry. Secondly, my family was very particular on knowing exactly what times each room would be used and for how long. It would be in everyone’s best interest if you could ask for a copy of the filming schedule for the day. This schedule is generally already passed out to everyone on the crew, and it includes the exact times that filming will occur and where. Be sure that you have a written copy, and make it very clear to all of the family members when all of the rooms will be used.
Keep in mind that companies tend to run behind schedule; so do not treat this schedule as an absolute timeframe. Instead, use it as a guide to inform your family members so that everyone can adjust their lifestyle accordingly. For example, the kitchen was going to be used for a shot between 4pm-7pm, so I made sure to tell my mom and she chose to cook dinner beforehand and leave it in the fridge for us to heat up later. In another case, my sister’s (Chetna) bedroom was going to be used for a shot from 8:00am-9:00am on a Saturday. She chose to sleep in the guest bedroom the night before so she wouldn’t get disturbed. Additionally, be sure to co-ordinate with family members and make sure that someone can be home to open the door and someone is there to lock up. It would be best if a family member can stay home the entire time of the shoot, but if that is not possible, be sure to let the production crew know exactly when you will not be home and leave them with a cell phone number so that they can contact you for things. Finally, it is best if one person on the production team is designated as the person of contact between the family and the rest of the crew. Ideally, one family member and one member of the crew should be in charge of making sure all things go smoothly and that both parties are comfortable with each other. This way, any conflicts that may arise can be easily resolved and there is little chance of miscommunication. It is best if that one designated person from the production company is introduced to all of the family members beforehand, and it would be nice if one member of the household is willing to introduce him/herself to everyone on the production team as well.
It is very important to keep away personal items from rooms before the day of the shoot. Remember, the set designers will need to remove all personal pictures and may even need to put up other pieces of their own. Be prepared for this- lock away any expensive jewelry, put special heirlooms in drawers, and anything you do not want touched should be kept away. When the day of our first film shoot came, we were both excited and nervous. My (Kirti) first thought that morning was, “I really hope everyone in the house is okay with the idea and that nothing awkward happens.” My (Kirti) other thought was, “wow, I cannot believe my house is cool enough to be in a music video.” Regardless, that day was a turning point for me because it would be a new adventure for my entire family. My family was given our first $500.00 check an hour before the rest of the crew came to set up. It is really important to make sure that you are paid beforehand and that you receive a copy of the certificate of insurance beforehand. The director also made it clear that everyone would be out of the house at the latest by 8:00pm and he was given my cell phone number in case he needed me while I was out. All members of the cast and crew were very polite; they also made sure to order food for us since we could not use our kitchen. The final video also came out great.
Our second experience was with CDM studios. They also found us through film locations wanted. They were a larger production company, had a larger crew, and were very organized and professional. Everyone- cast and crew- wore booties whenever working in the home (except for on film). Everyone was also very respectful of our belongings and only moved things that needed to be moved. Working with CDM studios was a pleasure: all of the actors hung out in the living room and stayed there the entire time. The designated liaison between the family and the production house was very sweet to everyone in the family! CDM studios actually came for two days and we charged them $1,000.00 per day. They gave us a copy of the certificate of insurance beforehand, and they made sure we got our check before the shoot started. They also told me what days they were using what rooms so the family could plan accordingly.
They were very strict about time: they came in at 8:00am on the dot and left at 7:59pm on the dot! Best of all, they gave me a role for a side character! I got to sit at the dinner table for a scene and I was very clearly in the shot! I (Kirti) can now cross “being on TV” off my bucket list, and it was just a wonderful experience to be included in the episode! At the end of the shoot, I also gave everyone on the set my personal contact information. They told me that if they knew of anyone looking for a location, they would be happy to give them my information.
Overall, hosting different production companies for video shoots has been a pleasant experience. Every experience has taught me something new to love about my house. My tip to all homeowners is to be very open to the idea, but also very clear on what kinds of things are allowed in your home. For example, if your religion does not permit alcohol in the home, you definitely want to make that clear beforehand. Also keep in mind filmlocationswanted charges a very small fee compared to what you will earn if your house is chosen to be included in a project. You also never know what parts of your house production companies will like! I never imagined that the brick wall in my basement would be anything more than just a brick wall, but actually, it was used in the first music video shot in our house! After every shoot, I chose to increase my price slightly. Also note that smaller companies may not be able to compensate you as much as larger companies, so be sure to leave room for negotiation. However, be fair- if a company is paying you less than what you deserve, they should be respectful and only be allowed to shoot at certain times of the day and only for a certain amount of hours. Above all, my biggest advice to all homeowners is to have fun with this.
This is your chance to be an entrepreneur and generate extra income for your family. It’s the ultimate experience of running your own business where you are your own boss. If your family is going through tough financial times, or you really want to raise money to pay off your student loans, marketing your house really is not a bad idea. You never know what can happen, and you don’t lose much either if something does not work out.