Open homes: Courting TV for cash

A growing number of people in the UK are offering their homes as location sets for the entertainment industry and boosting their incomes into the bargain…

Ever imagined what it would be like to have Dermot O’Leary sat on your sofa or James Martin rustling up his latest dish in your kitchen? The possibility is not so far-fetched…

Whether your place is a Victorian townhouse, a converted barn or a small cottage by the sea, any kind of abode may catch the eye of a location scout depending on their requirements, and typical daily letting rates can range between £500-£2,500.     

But what really happens when the cameras start filming within your own four walls and your home becomes the star of a popular TV show?

Paul Newrick runs his own aviation leasing company and lives with his partner Eric in a detached two-bedroom house in South London. Their ultra modern property recently won a “What House” award for best development and the couple regularly rent it out to photographers and TV crews.

“Our steel framed timber and glass house was built by the architect HM2 in 2001,” the 45-year-old businessman says. “We fell in love with it as soon as we saw it and bought it from the owner, a developer, a few years later.”

“We first got the idea of location rental through a photographer friend of ours who had paid his mortgage doing it. When we bought such a special house that was much more than we could afford, we decided we would do shoots for the extra money to help pay the bills.” 

“We signed up to a few agencies including one called Shoot Space which specialises in contemporary loft style houses and apartments. They find locations for TV and film production companies, advertising firms and photographers and through them we’ve managed to rent out our home more than 50 times in the last 18 months.”   

Their state of the art 2,097sqft cube property has been used for a variety of projects including music videos for Fame Academy’s Alex Parks and BBC Classical, magazine photo shoots for OK, Elle and Loaded and ad commercials and stills for Debenhams, Waitrose and The Carpet Tile Company.

“On one occasion we had a crew of about 40 people in here,” he recalls. “Our favourites so far have been when the UKTV Food channel came to visit to do their “Good Food Live” programme and Channel 4 who regularly use us as a setting for their Pure T4 show on Saturday mornings. We especially love having them here, as they’re such nice people.

“We have had a couple of hitches, but most of the production crews have appreciated and looked after our property whilst they’re been here filming. I think you can expect a bit of wear and tear doing this, but they are obligated to repair or clean anything that is damaged or very dirty and leave the house as they found it when they first arrived, so it’s ok.”

“Friends and family are often interested and are always spotting our house on TV and in magazines. It’s proved to be fantastic for us as we’ve managed to earn as much as a £1,000 a day.” 

Kate Rowe-Ham is the Managing Director of Lavish Locations, a London-based agency that’s been supplying a wide variety of locations to the entertainment market for more than 20 years and has the likes of Footballers Wives, Harry Potter and Bridget Jones on their credits list.

She agrees that any sort of house may be used if it ties in with the filmmaker’s script and resources: “We’ve got more than 15,000 locations in our library, ranging from grand stately houses to offices and ordinary suburban semis. Over the years I think we’ve used everything to tailor to those in the industry – extravagant, brand new, historic - even derelict buildings have been used in the past.”

“Parking space and access to the building are crucial when choosing a location. If a feature film is being shot at your house you could have vans, generators and porta-loos wanting to be as near as they can to meet the needs of the cast and crew. Other important requirements are good neighbours who aren’t going to interfere with filming and preferably, good sized rooms and lots of space to fit in all the cast and crew without it getting very crammed.”

According to Rowe-Ham, there is much money to be made through the process with up to several thousand pounds being offered by some production companies if your house is used at length.

“If you’re especially lucky your house might be used for a long period of time over several weeks. It could also become involved in a series and the production crew could keep coming back to film new scenes. But as well as earning good money, there’s lots of fun to be had by the home owners too.”

If you are considering the possibility of lending out your property, Paul offers some helpful tips from his experiences below, including what you can expect and ways of safeguarding it: 

• If you want to get noticed, put forward your home as a potential location setting with film studios, TV production companies and agencies, which keep lists of properties available to use for filming.  
 
• You should sign a written contract before filming commences. Find out what the fee is and when you will be paid. 

• It’s a good idea in some cases to vet the production company wishing to shoot footage inside your property and what it is they’re filming, as it could be something you don’t wish to be connected with.

• Remember that while some production crews are shooting, you might have to move out and live somewhere else until they’ve finished.

• Be prepared for some upheaval as your home can be completely encroached upon by cast and crew members in many of the rooms of your house. Adaptability is also required as some set designers may choose to make alterations or shift and remove furnishings before shooting scenes, so ask what provisional changes they plan to make beforehand.
  
• As a rule, the majority of filmmakers take out their own insurance to cover damages and are obliged to return your property and its contents back to its original state. However, check the company’s policy on this before going ahead.

• If you live in a residential area, it’s advisable to notify your neighbours if you are going ahead with the process and the whole area isn’t being used for filming purposes. They could be impeded by disruptive sound levels or limited access because of the parked vehicles needed for the cast, crew and equipment.