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Movie Magic: Make Money by Showing Off Your Luxury Home

Jun 23, 2015

Making a movie in a person's homeWhat happens in your house when you’re not home? If you’re lucky, the answer is movie magic. Filmmakers and photographers are always looking to luxury homes for on-location shoots, and that could mean both extra money and serious bragging rights for you, the luxury homeowner.

Think about the last time you watched a movie or television show. We love TV and film characters for various reasons – because they’re intense, wild, wacky, and different; but they all have one thing in common: they live in a home.

Now, you probably don’t have a castle or dungeon to lend to Game of Thrones, but your luxurious Florida home might make a nice location for a more realistic drama or comedy. Studios don’t use sound stages and backlots as much as they used to. 85% of all film shoots happen on location, according to FilmLocations.com.

You might think lending your home out to a film crew in exchange for a nice sum of money isn’t likely. You might even think it’s rare; but as the demand for video increases (think of all of those Netflix, Yahoo! and Hulu original series that pop up every year, not to mention high-quality YouTube original programming), it’s becoming increasingly common.

According to LocationsHub:

“As the number of distribution channels increase to include more television channels and online video channels, filmmakers continue to search for more locations to film in. The most in-demand locations are private homes. Almost every character in any film or television show lives in a home, so producers are constantly looking for more homes to film in than any other buildings.”

You own a luxury home, so you’re already on your way. It could be a match made in heaven.

Start Small

If you click through to that LocationsHub article, you’ll find stories from people whose homes were used in Argo, Philomena, and Breaking Bad. If your home has never been used for a film shoot before, though, you might want to start small.

Local commercials are a great way to test the waters. ProductionHub, for example, will give you a list of production studios in South Florida, including those who film commercials in the area.

You can also consult Craigslist and Social Media to see if anyone in your area is scouting locations, but please — research the production company first, to see if they’re legit.

Chances are there’s a local (or national) company who would love to shoot on-location at your luxury home.

You can also turn to FilmLocations.com. The website specializes in matching homeowners with studios who need a specific type of home for their film shoot. ShootMyHome.net also offers a detailed guide on the filming process for homeowners.

Starting out with a short commercial shoot might be best because it lets you know what you’re in for with a bigger production. Even if you’re renting your vacation home to a studio, you’ll still want to take the process for a test drive, before committing to a larger project.

Commercials are also a great starting point– if one studio loves your home, that means there’s another studio that will love it just as much.

Be Prepared

Although the studio foots almost all of the work when your home is used for a film shoot, there’s still some necessary preparation work on your part. That might just mean making sure your winter home is immaculate before you head off to your summer home. It also might mean making sure a vacation home is totally prepped for visitors before you leave.

Banks McClintock’s home was used in 12 Years a Slave. McClintock notes:

“[Film Production] is a business, and it takes 30 to 50 to 80 crafts people who don’t all have the same outlook about your house that you do… you’re a prop guy who gets a little more respect than most, and you’ve got to be cool with that. You’ve got to realize you’re providing a service like anyone else.”

Here’s a brief list of what production studios might expect of you, the luxury homeowner:

  • Spacious – By necessity, film shoots require a spacious location. Cameras, lighting, microphones, and other film equipment need lots of room. Actors, directors, and the film crew also need space to move about in. It’s tough to shoot a complex at-home scene in a cramped location.
  • Clean – This should go without saying, but the film industry prefers a clean home. If they require a mess or a distressed look for a certain scene, they’ll adjust your home accordingly and clean up afterwards.
  • Well Maintained – A film crew won’t want anything to do with a home that’s in disrepair. If you have peeling siding or a leaky roof, it’s not going to work out.
  • Lively – Film shoots often include much more than actors and equipment operators. The crew can also include caterers, makeup artists, costume designers, and more. It’s not rare for the crew to set up a tent or two on your lawn so everyone can eat, relax, and look their best.
  • Control – As a homeowner, you must be prepared to lose control of your home for a few days. You’ve put a ton of love and work into your home, but it has to suit the film crew’s needs. They might replace your photographs and artwork with their own, move furniture, or even change the entire look of a room. Altering the exterior is not unheard of, either. You have to be willing to give up some control. Obviously, that’s easier if the film crew is using your vacation home when you’re not there, but this is often the most difficult part for homeowners.

If you’re staying in your home at the time of a shoot, the production will pay for a reasonable hotel (usually of the luxury variety) to accommodate you and your family for the duration of the project.

The production crew will always clean up after themselves and leave your home as clean (or cleaner) as they found it, but during the shoot itself things can get hectic. You have to do your part, both physically and emotionally, to prepare your home for them.

The Perks – Short Term

Now that you’re prepared for the reality of lending your home to a film crew, it’s time to discuss the perks. And there are many.

According to AFR Mortgage:

“Taking the plunge to get your property on the big screen can pay off handsomely… the going industry rate per day is your monthly mortgage payment. Depending on the production, shooting schedule, and other factors, it could be much more.”

Most estimates say you’ll earn between $1,000-$5,000 per day for lending your home to a production crew.

From LocationsHub:

“Grace Verzosa Ambat, owner of a Los Angeles house that caught the attention of Argo‘s location scouts, made over $50,000 when she rented her house to be used as a film location for Argo. The extra income helped pay for her son’s education at a music institute.”

The deal gets sweeter, too. If the filming takes less than 15 days, your income from the project won’t be taxed at the federal level. Some states won’t tax that income, either.

You might also earn some free home improvements. If the film crew decides your house is almost perfect, but it just needs a few tweaks, they might remodel your bathroom or kitchen and foot the bill themselves.

Those are just the short term perks.

The Perks – Long Term

Over the long term, the most obvious perk from renting your home to a film production is the bragging rights. If your home is in an award-winning film like Argo or 12 Years a Slave, it becomes a bona fide piece of cinematic culture.

If your home is featured on a hit TV show (such as the home on Breaking Bad), people will come from miles around just to marvel at the outside of your house. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

You can also use your home for long-term earnings. Once location scouts know about your luxury home, they’ll pass it on to other location scouts. Imagine your vacation home making a steady income for you while you’re not even there!

Best of all, renting your home out for a production boosts the local economy. Film crews eat, shop, and usually even sleep locally.

More from Banks McClintock:

“… there were days (when) there were more than 100 people on site. Makeup, costumes, offices, sets, craft service, tons of locals in jobs. It really does make a positive difference locally and economically.”

Sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?

If you want to get involved, you need to make sure your home is up for the challenge. If you’re interested in lending your home to a film shoot and making some movie magic, but your roofing isn’t up to movie quality par, look into having it done by a professional. We can help.

Integrity, Trust, Pride, and Peace of Mind,

~Frank Istueta

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