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Make your home a star: how movie homes are scouted

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | July 13, 2015

Lights! Cameras! Action!

Can you imagine a film production crew choosing your home for a "supporting" role in a movie, TV show, or commercial?

Film locations wordlessly convey where the action takes place and inform viewers about the movie's characters. Does the story unfold by the sea, in the mountains, or on the edge of a creepy forest? Are we going to see a tale about suburban or city folk? Are they well off, trying to keep up appearances, or barely scraping by?

The perfect house to tell the story can exist anywhere as long as it fits the part. It need not be in the actual locale where the story is set, but the home's style and surroundings must convince the viewer that it is. Onlocationvacations.com reveals that the Netflix hit series "House of Cards" shoots Frank and Claire Underwood's stately Washington, D.C. townhouse exterior on a street in Baltimore, Md. The airy beach house Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin's characters grudgingly share in "Grace and Frankie" sits somewhere on Broad Beach Road in Malibu, according to hookedonhouses.com, not in La Jolla, as referred to in the series.

While not every home featured in a film production or commercial needs to be posh, services that list homes for location scouts look for certain characteristics. Does your home have the star quality they seek?

What it takes to make your home a star

According to ScoutSource.com, a website that lists properties, scouts favor historic or period and "Pottery Barn homes," but all types of homes may qualify. They prefer these interior characteristics:

  • Full of light with no heavy window coverings
  • Decorated simply; no rugs
  • Good flow between rooms
  • Kitchen open to a family living space

For interior shoots of no more than a few days duration, all or some of your furniture and decor may need to be temporarily removed and replaced with props. Movies or TV series that shoot the same interior for months or over several seasons may shoot interior scenes in a studio. They might need your home for its curb appeal only.

While filming the outside of your home can be somewhat less intrusive for you as the homeowner, some neighbors may find it disruptive. Film crews can number 80 to 100 people for a large shoot, and they come with a lot of equipment and trucks.

Even if your house could grace the cover of Architectural Digest, inaccessibility such as a steep hill or a lack of parking and space can make your location unsuitable. Scouts -- as well as brokers who list properties -- may disqualify a beautiful home if it's located in a town that does not welcome film crews.

If you still think your home has what it takes, the next question is, do you?

Stardom for your home: pros and cons

Like any Hollywood hopeful courting casting agents, you'll need photos that show your home's outstanding features. These are best done by a professional photographer who understands lighting and composition. However, before you go to the trouble and expense of producing marketing brochures to seduce location scouts and regional film commissions, consider the advantages and disadvantages of stardom for your home.

Pros:

  • Typical compensation amounts to roughly your monthly mortgage payment times the number of days of the shoot.
  • Film crews may make improvements to your home at their expense if they change or damage something.
  • Movie creds are a selling point for those looking to buy a landmark home.
  • If nothing else, it's a great conversation starter.

Cons:

  • Your family life is temporarily disrupted: you may have to move out for the duration.
  • There could be as many as 100 crew members in and around your house for days.
  • Production crews usually redecorate for the shoot but not all of them put things back the way they find them.
  • Curiosity seekers, looky-loos, and disgruntled neighbors may hound you for as long as you live there.

Marketing your home to film makers

In the old days, though rare, you'd hear stories of an agent or producer who "discovered" an unknown talent who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Homeowners have had similar experiences. A location scout or film crew in the neighborhood might knock on your door if you live in a state where a lot of films are shot, like California or North Carolina.

If you live somewhere not on most scouts' radar, you may need to be proactive in luring them to your door by contacting any or all of the following:

Film commissions. You can promote your home through a local, regional or state film commission. To entice film makers, film commissions feature properties that are representative of their area. Your home could get exposure.

Online listing services. Online services such as HomeShootHome.com, ScoutSource.com, or LocationsHub.com list residential properties for scouts to search. Some of these types of services also take all the photos to market your home.

Location agents. Companies that act as agents between you and the location scouts may charge a listing fee and a percentage of the location fee. These "listing agents" may require a real estate broker's license in some states like California. You should make sure when dealing with agents who charge fees that they have the proper credentials.

Your home may not win best supporting role at the Oscars, but you may feel honored none-the-less.

Photo credit to Kevin Irby

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.

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