7 April 2015
Be a star
If you can’t be a film star, why not have your house or your estate in a starring role. Weddings and film locations are a common diversification of income but in practice, neither is as straightforward as one might think. Film locations, unlike weddings do not require a vast amount of setup cost, but the potential income is unpredictable and difficult to budget.
Where are film crews looking?
Most film and television productions have a dedicated location team who’s job it is to search for the various locations for a film and manage the filming process on those locations. They will have regular contacts who can provide a particular feature, such as a railway station, a river or a typical Cotswold village. Alternatively, there are also location agents who represent estates, houses and other entities to promote locations for use. The hub of British filming is London although larger cities such as Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol will also have numerous media companies. Moving film crews, cast, caterers and all of the associated equipment is extremely expensive, so there will be a preference to be close to the production base, typically within an hour.
What do they need?
There is an endless list of what a location manager will be looking for, whether a very specific requirement or general open space. The compromise between a real-life location and a set will be dictated by the budget, time restraints and the ability to recreate a scene artificially. With a film production come a lot people and equipment. The cast and crew on-site for a site can number hundreds. With them comes accommodation, caterers, offices, power supplies, filming equipment, much of which arrives in large lorries which need to be situated close to the set. Although the set itself can be quite small, the ‘base’ location can be vast and can cause widespread disturbance. The ability to film without aeroplanes flying overhead or members of the public walking across a scene on a right of way is vital and so a more secluded location can be attractive as secrecy is often a requirement on set.
What’s in it for the owner?
Film location fees can be substantial but very much depend on the type of production and the facilities being used. Typical fees can be between £1,000 and £2,000 per day for the use of a house but larger scale use can attract far higher fees for each day of filming, with a set-up and break down rate either side. These are usually negotiated at an early stage. Film locations are usually credited and being known as helpful and accommodating to production crews can help to generate interest and attract further fee income. Using a location agent is a useful way to promote your house or estate, but they will charge for this service, either as a percentage of any fee, or a flat rate. Most film location managers will conduct a search themselves using their own contacts to avoid the need for agents fees and additional parties with whom to negotiate.
Is it worth it?
Using a property for film locations can be lucrative. Houses such as Blenheim, Highclere and Hatfield House are commonly used for film locations and the income will be a significant contribution to the running costs, but not all properties attract the same level of fees. For houses open to the public there may be less concern about loss of privacy which can be unattractive for private and secluded family houses. There will be interruption – especially for internal filming, with frequent crew meetings and ‘recces’ in the period prior to filming. A film production comes with a lot people and a buzz of activity. It can be exciting and lucrative but not everyone wants to be a film star.
Philip Eddell is a Director at Savills Country House Consultancy.