Tips for allowing filming in your home


RELATED: Homeowners renting properties for productions

Making your home available for filming can mean cash in hand -- and lots of it. But it can also be a headache.

"There's no such thing as a free lunch," Real to Reel Locations vp business and legal affairs Gary Onyshko says. "Hosting film production can be lucrative, and it can be challenging."

Homeowners can go it alone if they choose, but the best way to avoid the potential pitfalls of opening up one's home to production is to pick a professional location agency and listen to that agency's recommendations.

"Pick an agency that you trust, that will protect you," Malibu Locations co-owner Marshall Coben says. "Trust them and don't second-guess them."

A reputable location company will manage the entire process, from handling the paperwork to supervising the activity at the house.

"We alleviate all the concerns that the homeowner would normally have," Cast Locations manager David Hatfield says. "We have an on-site representative who's there to supervise the production to make sure they adhere to all the rules of the contract. We draw up the contract to make sure the house is protected and the homeowners are protected -- physically, with protection like layout board and bubble wrap, but also legally in terms of insurance and the companies taking all the liability when they're there."

After you hand over the reins, you might also want to hand over the keys.

Production can be like "the circus coming to town," Universal Locations owner Mark Siezega says, so "it's usually best (for the homeowner) to be gone for the day. ... It's easier not to be there because there are so many people, and if it's something you don't do on a regular basis, it can be overwhelming for you."

Toni Maier, president of Toni Maier -- On Location, concurs: "I tell (the homeowner) that there's going to be people and equipment and quite a lot of it. ... A lot of them just hand us the key and say, 'Call me when it's over.' That's what we like to do the most, is just handle everything from start to finish for the homeowner."

That's not to say the homeowner shouldn't be actively involved, however, because filming affects the entire neighborhood.

The best policy is simply to be a good neighbor. Common-sense measures, such as personally informing nearby homeowners of filming, can do a lot for positive relations. Angry neighbors have been known to disrupt filming by any means available, from instructing a gardener to rev the leaf blower to complaining to the city.

"Some property owners who have found that they have a desirable location for production who have missed that point and have not attempted to keep their neighbors happy have found themselves being almost prohibited from production, because their neighbors have gone to efforts to limit production in the neighborhood," Onyshko says.

Such a situation could be downright tragic considering the potential profitability of hosting filming.

"People can make anywhere from a couple thousand to as much as $5,000, $10,000 for a single filming day," Hatfield says. "I would say the average is around $3,000 to $5,000 in the homeowner's pocket."

But in order to ensure a home's viability for production, homeowners should avoid being greedy.

"We stress to homeowners to be affordable to the production community, to aim for multiple bookings versus making a killing on any one booking," Onyshko says. "If (homeowners) maintain reasonable expectations and don't try to get an astronomical price right out of the gate, they will be more attractive to the production industry as a prospective location."

And that's a Hollywood ending.   

Location Companies

From castles to bungalows, myriad Los Angeles homes get their 15 minutes of fame with the help of location companies like these.

"I think we're the oldest (agency) in existence of our type," says David Hatfield, manager of Cast Locations, founded in 1980. Like most location firms, Cast primarily lists properties within the traditional 30-mile studio production zone, but it maintains a "really diverse range of locations and areas," Hatfield notes. "While we cover the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley and have houses in Malibu, too, I think we have more of Hancock Park and West Adams and Central L.A. covered than most."
Cast Locations, 536 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90004; 323-469-6616;

Contrary to what its name might suggest, Malibu Locations is "all over the city," co-owner Marshall Coben says. "We represent everything from commercial to Anywhere USA to Hancock Park," he says, noting that the company does handle a lot of high-end homes. Formerly an executive at Paramount, Coben and his partner, a union location manager, bring years of industry experience to the location business. "We're looking at the big picture," he says.
Malibu Locations, 29575 Pacific Coast Highway, Suite E, Malibu, CA 90265;

Founded in 1982 and located in the San Fernando Valley, Real to Reel Locations represents "everything from mansions to your typical low-slung ranch-style," vp business and legal affairs Gary Onyshko says. "Our niche is that we have a little bit of everything."
Real to Reel Locations, 7021 Hayvenhurst Ave., Suite 206, Van Nuys, CA 91406; 818-785-7075;

Toni Maier -- On Location president Toni Maier, a former location manager, founded her company in 1992, working primarily with architectural homes. The company still specializes in architecturals to some degree, but 16 years later, its listings run the gamut. "We have all kinds of architectural styles, down to the most modest home you can think of," she says.
Toni Maier -- On Location, 1680 N. Vine St., Suite 204, Los Angeles, CA 90028; 323-469-9941;

Located in Burbank, Universal Locations was established in 1982 and handles "all types of properties," mostly within the 30-mile production zone, president and owner Mark Siezega says. "We're doing more commercial now, but residential properties are our bread and butter. That's what we're known for."
Universal Locations, 3314 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505; 818-845-4120;

Established in 2004, Madison Locations works with all types of homes, both
within the 30-mile zone and across the country. "Our Web site enables property owners to list their property on our Web site, and within minutes, begin marketing to location scouts, production managers and other decisionmakers looking for locations," locations marketing director Sean Harrington says.
Madison Locations, 107 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, CA 91105; 626-399-6809;