Your house is the star
PUBLISHED: 10:34 03 February 2015 | UPDATED: 16:07 12 February 2015
Renting your house out as a film location: the imagination versus the reality!
When you watch Downton Abbey and see the sweeping lawns, exquisite interiors and cut-away shots of that vast exterior, you probably think that having Hugh Bonneville relaxing on your sofa would only be something that happened to a stately house incumbent.
Not so! Registering your home as a film location is not restricted to mansion owners: from terraced houses to detached mansions, country cottages to commercial estates, modern loft conversions to period properties, fields to farms – location search companies need diversity. Properties are used for films, television drama, photo shoots, events and commercials. Commercials usually turn around very quickly – and quite often they will have a bigger budget per day than a prime time drama.
As you can imagine, it is not all glamour, excitement and making new friends amongst the stars of stage and screen! Anyone masterminding a film shoot at any location will have to be dealing with you - the property owner, as well as government bodies, councils, health & safety issues, their crews, the logisitics… the stars! There won’t be cosy chats in the background as the shots are set and it’s pretty unlikely that a Hollywood high budget movie will be your first experience of renting out your home as the next must-have location.
I spoke to the team at Creative England, who run a great free database for properties that can be registered as potential film/shoot locations in the North West (www.creativeengland.co.uk/production-services/filming-locations). From locations to facilities and crew, they help to ensure a smooth shoot. Their searchable database has over 6,000 locations available in the English regions. Recently, they’ve been involved in Fox Pictures’ The Monuments Men, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass (due out 2016), Warner Bros.’ Jupiter Ascending, DNA Films’ Far from the Madding Crowd, and the BBC’s The Casual Vacancy. Crewing support includes Origin Pictures’ Jamaica Inn, Kudos’ Utopia (second series), and the BBC’s Peaky Blinders, Detectorists, The Village and Our Zoo. They have experience, advice and insight into the reality of your home being used a location.
Just like a star auditioning for a job, there may be several recces before shooting - and then powers-that-be decide to go with somewhere else:
assume nothing is set in stone until the contract is signed. Remember – take confidentiality seriously – before, during and after a shoot - as there can be serious legal implications if you fall foul of any such clauses.
Be aware that larger productions will have a very large crew – the potential for knocks and bumps and general accidents is multiplied with each person. Make sure you make location manager your very best friend! If you have any specific concerns (e.g. priceless vases), talk to them beforehand about specific steps that might be taken to limit potential for issues to arise. For most productions, the location manager will be your point of contact – it is their job to make sure that your property (and everything in it) is properly cared for, and they should address any questions and concerns you may have. Don’t be afraid to stipulate what is acceptable or not to you. You may want to watch the filming unfold before you - but be aware that you may not always be allowed to, even in your own home.
Film projects have happened at Arley Hall for over 30 years. Chatting with the owner was truly enlightening. His earliest memory is of Dickens “Hard Times” taking place in the 1970’s; earlier this year, Disney filmed “Evermoor” at the house (a series now being broadcast in 160 countries) for which Arley had its own credit. A true star!
Arley’s owner had some excellent tips for contractual information: make sure you have the contract in advance and that adequate public liability insurance is part of the contract; make sure you are clear on the charges for setting up days, filming days – and run-on days; check whether or not generators are going to be brought in. If you need help with contracts and negotiation (and a cushion against rogue companies), you can seek advice from your land management agents, or an organisation such as the Historic Houses Association. You may find they have a contract covering “standard” productions for film, television and photo shoots and will help you negotiate your way through the paper minefield.
A tie-in emerged between Arley and Creative England when I was researching this article. The BBC’s “The Zoo” was partly filmed at Arley, and Creative England provided technical support on the production. Arley’s owners found themselves with their most unusual stars to date: large lions in the park and (on discovering an enormous litter tray in the front hall) confusion reigned - until a fully-grown camel appeared through their front door!
Though technology through the decades has changed how film-making is done quite dramatically, Arley’s owner believes one thing has not changed from when he first had his property used in 1970s: film crews still drink a lot of tea and coffee…
Strutt & Parker, 37 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS 01244 354888
Creative England Production Services team