Shooting at Home

Location shooting is always, by definition, shooting at home – someone’s home.

A friend recently called to say a film location scout had been in contact with her about using her house for a shoot. She was told that they “just wanted to use the exterior” and offered a nominal fee. She thought it might be fun but asked me to tell her what might be involved. I sat down and wrote a short list of things that she needed to keep in mind and that she needed ask from the production company. It was interesting to think from the point of view of a property owner in this situation as opposed to the company trying to secure a location. There’s always value in looking at things from the “other side” so here’s my list with some commentary for the production alongside it.

A short list of “things to know about productions shooting in your house”…

1. Access for pre-production, shooting and wrapping up (clean up) – these are really the really important issues – where do they need to go, for how long and when. Some questions to ask:

o   How many days and how many hours each day? It’s important to get down to the actual times of day here or you may find yourself with a crew in your living room at 3am!

o   What changes do they need to make to your property?

o   What parts of your property, specifically, do they need access to? (If there’s an actor opening your front door then they will need access to the interior of the house even if the camera is outside.)

o   Do they need to use your bathroom for cast or crew?

o   Do they need to use any space for make-up/ hair/ wardrobe?

o   Are they using your power or do they have their own generator for lights?

o   What about any re-shoots or other work beyond the original production period?

o   Access needs to be very specific and fees for additional access need to be stated in the agreement.

2. Insurance – the company must have General Liability and Third Party Property Damage and you must be named as “Additional Insured” on their policy. They need to provide a Certificate of Insurance that shows this coverage and indicates that you are named as “Additional Insured”. The significance of this is that if you are an Additional Insured the production insurance will fully protect you. Otherwise, your insurance company will be brought into any potential claim and your insurance rates may go up.

3. From a personal point of view- you need to have someone there, on premises, at all times that the company is present. Who is that person and are they prepared for the time commitment as laid out in Item #1 above?

4. You need to make sure the agreement states the following:

o   You, as property owner, should be “held harmless” from any claims arising out of their work. (You are not responsible, for example, if their truck knocks over your neighbor’s fence or if using your location leads to any other type of claim. )

o   That the property will be restored to the same condition or better that it is now. (For example, what happens if they screw up your lawn? Also, if they are coming inside they should pay for cleaning of the interior because it will get messy.)

o   It is the production’s responsibility to get all necessary permits from the Village or Town to allow for parking and traffic issues. Also, the production needs to obtain any required permissions from you neighbors in addition to notifying them about their presence on the block. No one likes to come home from a long day of work to find trucks and people blocking their driveway or street.

Once you’ve considered all of the above you should decide whether the fee offered is adequate compensation, keeping in mind that it is taxable income (Yes, the production will be asking for your social security number, by having you fill out an IRS Form W-9 and you will receive a Form 1099 at the end of the year that will show the amount of additional income you must report.)

The above is all standard procedure and normal business practice. If any part of this freaks out the production company, then you know they are not the types you would want to allow access to your home!

As a postscript I should say that writing all of this makes me quite wary of having a film crew in my house or apartment. It’s important from the production side that all of these points are thought through before getting caught up in the “wouldn’t it be exciting to have a film shot in your house!” feeling.

As a producer, you should want to be sure all of these things are handled correctly and discussed openly. If they aren’t handled in advance and covered in your location agreement they could arise while you’re shooting and be very costly. Doing things correctly will also help to avoid bad feelings from your location owner which helps to spread positive “word-of-mouth” about you and future productions.

Tell us your worst location nightmare… and how could it have been prevented.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *