Despite the rising popularity of animated films, over-the-top visual effects, and elaborate green screen productions – real-world physical locations remain a critical component of modern filmmaking. In Los Angeles, on-location productions have increased by 32% over the past ten years with total shoots now exceeding 15,000 per year.
Other cities like New York, Atlanta, New Orleans, Toronto, Vancouver, Nashville, and Albuquerque are also booming. Thanks to generous tax incentives and competitive wages, there are now more major film productions shot in Canada and Georgia than in California.
For homeowners, the rising popularity of on-location shoots represents a major income opportunity. After the cost of talent, locations are typically the second largest production cost on a film shoot, demanding anywhere from 20%-30% of the total budget. In film-friendly cities like Toronto and Atlanta where the annual production economy is over 1 billion dollars, it’s fair to estimate that there are at least a hundred million dollars being spent on film locations each year.
As a property owner, getting a small slice of the pie by renting your home as film shoot location could mean tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of additional income per year.
While you might think your house is nothing special, film producers and location scouts are always on the lookout for a wide variety of spaces from family homes and mansions to warehouses and abandoned lots. Television shows like Atlanta-based Walking Dead or New Mexico-based Breaking Bad help illustrate the need for a diverse mix of locations.
How Much Does It Pay?
If you’re considering hosting film and photo shoots in your home, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is: how much will it pay? This will depend on your home’s location, it’s appearance and features, and how much the production company has to spend.
For film productions with over 15 people, a typical range would be between $1,000 to $4,000 a day. Generally, the price is determined by how much you pay for your monthly mortgage, but other factors can play into determining the rate.
Big city location agencies (think talent agency for houses) typically have rates starting in the $3,000 per day range. If you visit a top-tier website and feel your property stacks up well with inventory, then that rate is an excellent place to start; if your home is more modest, you can use sites like Giggster to get an approximate range of a fair price point. You can also try our price calculator to get a rough estimate.
The average homeowner on Giggster earns $2,027 per booking. The average annual income for homeowners who have hosted at least one shoot is $3,945.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to rent your home as a film location – you should consider keeping the price very low, to help generate awareness and stand out in the low-budget category. Based on the data from our website, very affordable filming locations are among the highest annual earners as they can attract a much larger community of renters.
What Does a Location Contract Look Like?
When it comes to the contract, it may include any number of sections including length of shoot, how many hours in a day, crew size, overtime rate, call times, extra fees, off-limits areas, and insurance and copyright rules. The actual contract you receive from a production company may or may not include these sections, or it may include more. These examples come from the standard Giggster location agreement.
If you have any questions or concerns about what the contract says, talking to an informed third party, such as a lawyer, location agent, or Giggster team-member is a good idea.
What can I expect when renting my home for film shoots?
Renting your home for film shoots is a great way to make money, but you need to be comfortable and understand the process and what is expected of you and the production team while they are using your space. If you’ve never worked around production, hosting your first large shoot can be a startling experience. While professional production companies are respectful, they are not your dinner guests – they will be treating your home as a set, and they are under pressure to work fast.
If you think you might be uncomfortable controlling the situation, you can hire a production professional as a Film Site Representative (usually a few hundred dollars per 12 hour day) to act as a guardian of your property, and make sure everyone on the crew is following your rules. You can either pay the Site Rep out of your pocket or make the film crew cover the cost on your behalf.
How will my house be protected as a filming location?
In addition to the security of Site Representative, there are other measures to take to ensure your property and belongings are protected. The general expectation across the production industry is the crew will leave your house exactly as they found it, and they will need to provide both a security deposit and production insurance to cover any unforeseen damages that occur.
If you work with a traditional location agency or modern online platforms like Giggster, the company will take responsibility for handling payment transactions facilitating a substantial security deposit. However, it is typically the responsibility of the homeowner to ask for a copy of a crew’s production insurance. It is not a mandatory requirement, as some small photoshoots or live events may not need it. However it is something you should at least always ask about and fully understand, before accepting a booking request.
Liability insurance is also something you should consider before opening your home up for commercial purposes. Giggster provides $1,000,000 policy for all of our homeowners to protect them from lawsuits and damage claims from irresponsible renters. If you are arranging the shoot yourself, it’s something you will want to consider carefully. Fortunately, these types of incidents are rare in the production world. From the thousands of bookings we’ve arranged through Giggster, less than 1% have needed to involve insurance.
In addition to protecting your space from damage, you should also ensure that the production company takes “how-they-found-it” photos of every room they are shooting in so that they can put everything back together correctly. If you don’t like the idea of a crew moving your furniture or decorations, you can make that clear, or charge extra for the inconvenience.
If you decide to rent your house for a large film shoot, there may be prep or wrap days, where the production company is in your home getting ready for, or cleaning up after the shoot. This includes rearranging furniture, painting walls, installing shelving or light fixtures, or even landscaping. It’s common practice to charge less money for these set decoration days. However that decision is ultimately up to you.
The Standard Process of Renting a House for Filming
1. Booking Inquiry
Every film shoot starts with a creative vision. While in the past, it was common to receive a phone call or a knock at the door, today most location scouting has moved online. Once your place is ‘discovered’ you should expect to be told the basic outline of the production, and the dates when it is needed.
2. Arranging a Scout
Typically, the person who first discovers your home (usually a production assistant, producer, location manager or location scout) will not be deciding to book your property by themselves. They will involve the creative team and want to make sure it fits the director and photographers vision. Typically, this means arranging an in-person scout, where the stakeholders will tour the property and plan out the logistics. This is an excellent opportunity to ask them about permits, references and production insurance.
3. Booking Coordination
This is the negotiation phase, which will be your opportunity to make demands on the production, and add amendments to any location contract. For example, this is where you should discuss the need to hire a Site Rep or charge extra fees. Generally speaking, if the renter is ready to move forward, you as the homeowner have the stronger negotiating position, and you should take advantage of it. If you’re not using an agency or Giggster, this is where you would arrange payment and shoot schedule.
4. Preparing the Location
As mentioned above, this is the phase of the shoot in which your home will be transformed to be film-friendly; this could involve putting down floor mats, setting up catering, blocking lights and cranes, as well as general interior decoration.
5. The Film Shoot – For motion shoots, you will need to be offsite, or at least out of the way during filming. Live recording is an intensive and high-stress time for everyone involved, and it will be controlled by a director. If you see something you are uncomfortable with mid-shoot, this concern should be addressed to a senior producer, who can then inform the creative team accordingly. Before threatening to shut down the production, be sure you are aware of rules of the location contract as interrupting shoot could result in significant legal costs. Photography shoots are more forgiving than motion filming, and you can usually stay in your house without much hassle.
6. Wrap Out
Once the production is complete the crew will work to ensure your property is returned to pristine condition and all damages are taken care of.
How can I promote my home as a filming location?
If you’re comfortable with everything outlined above the next thing you’re probably wondering: how can I get my first booking?
A Location Scout May Discover It – If you have a home with serious curb appeal, and you live in a popular filmmaking city, there is a small chance you could have a location scout contact you directly about filming. However, this situation is rare, and would only occur as a last resort if none of the thousands of properties already managed by agencies, were a good fit. The good news is that if this does happen, it will usually be from reputable professionals from the Location Managers Guild International.
Reach out to an Agency – As with modeling or acting, usually, a location agency will reach out if they want to work with you, not the other way around. However, if you think your property matches the standards of their existing library, you can contact them, and start the conversation. One way to gain some leverage would be to offer your home as an exclusive, meaning that they would be the sole representative of your property. If you do decide to work with an agency, keep in mind, they will collect 30% of the total booking value, and this arrangement is non-negotiable.
List your property for free on Giggster – Giggster was founded with the idea of streamlining and simplifying the location booking process. In early 2017 we launched the first ever online marketplace specifically designed to connect homeowners with professional production companies. We’ve quickly become one of the fastest growing film-tech startups in the country, with hundreds of new users joining our community every day. Listing on Giggster is free, and like Airbnb, gives you complete control of the booking process.