First time filming?
Although every production company has its own way of doing things, the following scenario is typical. It makes little difference whether the location is your home, commercial space, or cottage, and whether the shoot is for a film, television series, or movie of the week.
Scouting your location
A scout will have called you, knocked on your door or left a letter in your mailbox. Scouts are freelancers, hired by production companies to find locations. Part of their job is to make sure you, the homeowner, are comfortable with the process from start to finish. If you've received a letter of solicitation from a scout, feel free to call the production company to verify the accuracy of the letter's claims. You can also call City Hall's Toronto Film and Television Office (TFTO) at (416) 338-3456 to check out your scout's background. Don't hesitate to ask the scout for references.
Photographing your location
Once the planning phase of a project begins, the scout will photograph the interior and exterior of your premises. On the initial visit, we prefer to photograph the entire home for our location library, so that we do not have to come back to re-photograph the location for each project. These images are kept in our confidential archive and are not shared with anybody without your consent. We will call you in advance of each production to see if the budget and dates are amenable to you.
Measuring your location
If the director expresses interest in your location, we will schedule an appointment with key production personnel to visit you and take additional photographs and measurements. If your location is chosen, we will send you a locations agreement, insurance papers and a cheque.
Getting ready for the shoot
2-3 days before the shoot, we will pay you a last visit to discuss the technical aspects of the production, what rooms will be used, where equipment and furniture will be stored, and what type of dressing will be required.
Production lengths vary. Most commercials require 1 day of preparations ("prep"), 1-2 shoot days and 1 day for tidying up ("wrap"). The length of prep days varies but they usually start at 8 AM and end at 6 PM. Schedule changes will be brought to your attention at the earliest possible time by the location manager.
Protecting and restoring your location
The first day begins with a 2-4 man prep team that comes into your home to prepare the walls and floors with protective coverings, such as rugs, wall board, and bubble wrap. These coverings prevent damage by heavy production equipment brought to your location. Sometimes, production companies bring their own furniture, props, and dressing. We will ask your permission before we paint your walls or hang pictures on them. Rest assured that your location will be restored to its original condition on the final wrap day. All coverings, rugs and protective materials are removed, a professional cleaner will clean the floors, walls, and bathrooms at our expense, and all furniture is returned to its original position (we have thoroughly photographed your house in advance for this purpose). Any final touch-ups are completed at this point. We are committed to making this a positive experience for you, and we go to great lengths to make certain that you are happy from beginning to end. We want to be welcomed back into your home the next time we need a location, so we make every effort to satisfy you.
Shoot days are the most exciting part of the production process with up to 50 cast and crew members in and out of your location. Up to 15 production vehicles are parked on your street and in your driveway. Your neighbours have been notified in advance through a letter of notification, and have been offered the opportunity to contact the location manager regarding any concerns. Parking for production vehicles has been secured by one of our security personnel the evening before the shoot. We always get permission from the Toronto Film and Television Office (you may ask the location manager to see the permit).
Shoot days tend to be long. In residential neighbourhoods, our permits are valid between 7 AM and 11 PM, but we don't always need this much time. The location manager will confirm the schedule with you in advance.
Staying or leaving?
You are welcome to remain at home for the shoot, but our advice for pets and small children is not to stay, because of the many hot lights, electrical cables and heavy pieces of equipment. Many homeowners would rather not be present either. If you are planning to vacate your home and you feel comfortable with the location manager, you may leave your keys with him.
Shooting in your bedroom or kitchen may make it impossible for you to stay in your home comfortably during the production. We will discuss possible hotel reservations in advance. Alternatively, we may increase your location fee to allow for hotel stays and meals, but request that you make your own arrangements. If this was not discussed during fee negotiations, please talk to the scout or manager.
Treating your space with respect
Although the shoot days are an exercise in "controlled chaos", our team members are always professional and courteous. They are aware that this is your home and that we are your guests. Damage to your home is very rare and if it happens, it's usually minor wall scratches, which we will repair or have removed at our expense by a painter of your choice immediately upon completion of filming.
We recommend that any particularly fragile, valuable or sentimental possessions be stored away safely in advance. Theft is a rarity and you are fully insured against any damages, injuries, and theft from the moment we set foot onto the property until we leave.
Budgets vary, but generally homes fetch $1000-$3000 per shoot day depending on the home and the production's impact. The fee for prep and wrap days is typically half of the fee for a shoot day. If $2000 is agreed to for the shoot day then it follows that an additional $1000 for the prep and $1000 for the wrap will be added to this fee totaling $4000.
A word of caution
If you are very particular about your home and uncomfortable about having 50 strangers descend upon it for 3 days, this is probably not for you.
If, on the other hand, you are relatively easy going and the payment justifies your inconvenience, this can be an easy way of covering your property taxes or paying for a vacation.
Some additional things to know
It is important that you have the authority to grant the production company permission to enter the premises for the purpose of filming. If you are not the property owner, it is imperative that we obtain the written and expressed consent of that person or business in advance.
If you are told that we are scouting "only" for a kitchen and bedroom, always expect that we will be spilling into other parts of your home with equipment, personnel and materials to set up for the shoot. However, if there are one or two rooms that you would prefer we did not enter, please notify the location manager in advance and we will place "no entry" signs where appropriate.
If all filming activity is taking place on the main floor we will probably not need to go upstairs. If we do, we will ask your permission prior to commencement of production.
We try to bring our own bathroom facilities. However, we must always have access to at least one bathroom on the shoot day for use by our clients. We will supply our own toiletries. On the wrap day, our cleaners will clean any bathrooms we used.
We notify your neighbours in writing of the dates and specifics regarding the shoot at least 2 days in advance. We are as concerned about your neighbours's satisfaction as we are about yours. The TFTO allows 2 film shoots per calendar year in a given neighbourhood; subsequently the written consent of at least 51% of neighbours must be obtained prior to shooting for every additional production thereafter. It is not unusual to see more than 2 or 3 shoots at a given house each year, because a house that is attractive to one production may lend itself to other productions as well.
What directors are looking for
Directors prefer simple, clean neutral palettes with little or no clutter and rooms that can easily be redressed, painted or photographed for themes that we typically look for). If your house does not fit this description, it may still be of interest to us for other aspects such as long hallways, big kitchens, basements with high ceilings or retro finishes, large front and backyards, picturesque neighbourhoods or interesting architectural features. We prefer homeowners who are relatively flexible. Production details can change several times and can be frustrating to those uninitiated with the mechanics of location filming.
You may be wondering if we ever film just the exteriors of homes. We do. However, we prefer to scout houses whose owners are willing to let us shoot inside as well. It should be noted that if we are only filming the front or back of your house for a particular production and don't require access to the interior, location fees are reduced.
We take great pride in knowing that homeowners are happy with our performance from start to finish. As the scout and the first member of the production team to enter your home or place of business, I take as much responsiblity for how we treat it as the location manager and the production company. I have handpicked and trained my locations team and as a result of 22 years of busy production experience, we have been able to fine-tune the process to make it as enjoyable and positive as possible for all parties involved. Throughout the entire production process, I check in with homeowners to ensure that they are satisfied.
Contact and references
We are always looking for homes, cottages, offices, schools, lofts, and stores for our productions.
If you are interested in showing us your property, would like to obtain references from home owners, with whom we have worked in the past, or have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Jason Schwartz any time.