Film Terms and Phrases

A to Z Guide to Film Terms, 5th Edition

Filming On Location
Filming on location in New Westminster, BC for a Best Buy commmercial. All of the snow was put in by the special effects team and required the use of snow blankets and "faux snow."

Want to get your home in the movies?

How cool would that be to have a movie or TV show filming in your house or on your property? To say that a big famous actor was filming in your house and later see it up on the screen can be very exciting. Not to mention the big bucks you can get for letting the film company use your property.

I have worked as a Location Scout in Vancouver, Canada (aka "Hollywood North") for the last 14 years. It's my job to go out and find homes and other properties that suit the vision and needs of the director and producers. I have compiled some suggestions on how you can have a better chance of your home or business being selected as the next star location.

Here is a checklist to help your home become a star in the movies:

It helps if your house is visible from the street. Curb appeal is a good thing. If there are large hedges covering up the house, I might go to the next house that I can see more clearly.

Open floorplans work best for filming. Knock down a wall or two to open up your main floor so there is more room for the actors, camera and other equipment.

White walls are generally frowned upon by DP's (Directors of Photography). Add some color to your home by painting the walls in a tasteful way.

If you have nice wood floors or wood trim or wood panelling on the walls, don't cover them up with paint or white gyproc. The more character a home has, the better.

Try to minimize chatchka's and knicknacks within your home. Set Decorators usually have to remove some or all of the contents of a home and replace them with items specific to how they want the character to be represented. (Don't worry, they will bring everything back and put it into its rightful place after filming is completed.)

Talk to your local film commissions and get your property photographed, registered and put on file in their digital library.

Keep in mind that some may require a fee, and there is no guarantee your home will be chosen for a shoot.

If you see a movie shooting in your neighbourhood, go and ask for the location manager and tell them about your great place just down the block. Maybe they will take a look. Or maybe they will pay you to rent your lawn or driveway for equipment, crew, or vehicles.

Don't worry if your home is not a mansion. We are always looking for every type of home, no matter how small or large it is. Just like real life, we need to tell our stories and represent many different styles and income levels. 

Be easy to deal with. Home owners who are greedy or difficult to deal with may be avoided for future shoots. News travels fast in the industry. Try to become known as being a "film friendly" property owner.

Be nice to your neighbours. If you have a shoot at your house or business, be sure to share the wealth a lilttle bit. Offer to host a block party after filming is over or donate some of the money to a local charity. Then when the film companies come back to shoot at your place again (now that you are "film friendly"), your neighbours will support the idea.

Always ask for ID or an office number if a location scout shows up at your door. You might even get them to wait atthe door until you call the local film commissioner or film liason in your area to verify their identity. Scouts need to take pictures of your entire home to show to the producers so be sure they are who they say they are. Asking for a business card wouldn't hurt, either.

When you sign the standard location agreement contract, be sure to include things such as hotel and per diem (money given to you for each day out of your home for expenses and meals), and specific dollar amounts for each day of prep, shoot or wrap. The norm for payment is: prep and wrap days are 1/2 of the shoot days. (i.e. if the shoot rate is $1000 per day, prep and wrap would be $500 each day.)
Ask to see the insurance policy and make sure it has a 'hold harmless' clause that says you are not responsible for anything that happens during prep, shoot or wrap.

Be patient and flexible. Filmmakers change their minds a lot and have to adjust their schedules often so please bear with us.

Finally, don't give up. It sometimes takes time and maybe a few location surveys from filmmakers before your home is chosen. If you have a visually interesting, photogenic home or business on a great street in a cool neighbourhood and you follow the steps I have outlined, your place could easily become the next movie or TV location star.

Content copyright 2012  by Tim Moshansky.
May be used with permission or byline with link.