There are advantages and disadvantages to life in SoCal. In the plus column: There are a lot of TV shows, movies and commercials that need houses in which to shoot "on location." And that means you — if your house meets the criteria — could make some good money off your house.
I recently spoke (in an e-mail kind way) with location scout Pat Parrish, who scans the L.A. area for appropriate houses in which to shoot commercials.
What kinds of properties are you looking for?
I look for all kinds of houses. I work only in TV commercials, so we use lots of houses that look like they could be in any state. Styles vary, but we seldom use Spanish (it screams Los Angeles or Florida). We use lots of what we call "Leave it to Beaver" houses: traditional, large rooms, large kitchens (old and new), not too cluttered. That’s why we like Hancock Park — BIG traditional houses.
But we also use ’60s and ’70s houses, Midcentury Modern (Neutra-like). If we’re using the exterior, we can’t really have any palm trees visible.
In what areas?
Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Hancock Park, Pasadena, Altadena. We don’t often use houses in the hills as it’s very hard to park trucks. I seldom scout in Santa Monica because it is difficult to permit.
How much do homeowners earn for renting out their homes for shoots?
It varies, but direct to the homeowner is from $2,000 to $4,000 a day for an average house, if we use the interior; using just the exterior brings less. “Architectural” houses get more. A "day" can be 14 hours. There are also location services that represent homeowners. They charge more to us, but take a 25% – 30% commission.
How do you ensure that the property and landscaping are not damaged during shooting?
The homeowner is always covered by our insurance. A location contract is signed before we come onto the property stating that we will leave the property in the condition in which we found it. We come in the day before and cover all floors with layout board to protect them from equipment that must be brought in.
What are downsides to having your home used as a set?
Disruption of your life for the period of the filming. There are 20 to 30 people in your house and we generally take over the whole house. There’s inconvenience to your neighbors because of production vehicles parked on the street. Even though union crews are very careful, occasionally there is damage. But I’ve seen very little of it on commercials for a one-day shoot. Another downside is the need to be available when a scout wants to come to shoot pictures of your home. I always call to make an appointment, or the location service calls, but if both people work all day then it’s a problem. And generally I can’t make appointments until the day I’m going to scout. So that makes it inconvenient for people who are not home all day.
Plus, you have to get used to rejection. I may scout 15 houses and only one is used.
(Photo: Courtesy of Dan Gallagher Decorative Painting and Design)