How to make money from your home being used as a film location
- Credit: Archant
Fancy seeing your home on TV? Louise Bates has created a business making that happen and Cheshire is high on the list of favoured locations.
Cheshire is, as we know, filled to the brim with beautiful homes. Yet it takes more than elegant aesthetics to make the books of Lifestyle Locations, the company established two years ago by Louise Bates and Clare Armitage.
“Clients who are searching for homes for a photoshoot or film a commercial need lots of space, plenty of parking, the freedom to fill the house with (often) dozens of people and patient, flexible homeowners,” says Louise. “If you aren’t keen on disappearing, or at least hiding away, while your house is filled with strangers and your driveway filled with various technical vehicles, then this isn’t something you should consider.”
It sounds fascinating and I wonder how Louise and her friend Clare came to establish the business in the first place.
“I had worked in the industry before and Clare’s background was in management and logistics, so our blend of skills and experience just works. We’re neighbours with children of a similar age and at a time when neither of us was working, a chance comment of missing working in locations and wondering whether to set up an agency sparked an idea. Over lots of cups of tea we created a business plan and were in the early stages of planning. During this time a former colleague got in touch to see if I knew of any properties that met some quite particular criteria. I did – a friend’s mum’s house was perfect. I introduced them and arranged the photoshoot for them. Clare and I went along on the day of the shoot to watch behind the scenes. It was really useful to see what happened and how the space was used. It was at that moment we decided we should just go for it.”
It’s not that straightforward of course, simply launching a new business, but Louise and Clare took it slowly.
“We spent a full 12 months getting everything sorted, working on a part-time basis as our youngest children were still at home. We had never set up a website before, for example, and we needed to find enough homes to get the ball rolling, at least.”
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This is key, of course. You can’t run a locations agency without locations for clients to select from.
“We launched in January 2018 with 17 properties. They all belonged to friends, or friends of friends. This meant that we had a personal connection with everybody. That approach has proven so valuable and is something we maintain even though now we have more than 100 properties registered with us.
“It has really grown by word of mouth. Usually, once someone registered with us has a commercial shoot or filming done at their house, they tell their friends and then often they will register with us too. It’s so important we build a good relationship with the homeowner. Once people register with us and we have decided the home is suitable for location shoots, I go out and shoot each one. This way I have the opportunity to meet every homeowner and really help them understand both the opportunity and any drawbacks. It also means I can understand what sort of shoot they would be happy with.
“A television commercial or filming for a TV show would require your house being filled with dozens of people, often there from dawn till late. They can have masses of equipment, loads of vehicles and it will feel like they have taken over the house.
“Some will require them moving all of the furniture. On occasion they may even want to redecorate a room completely. Everything is put back perfectly, of course, but it can be a lot to deal with. Some people are relaxed about it all, others just don’t want that degree of hassle. Of course, other shoots are much smaller – just a couple of people there for a few hours.”
Whenever possible Louise and Clare will accompany the clients on any initial recce they want to undertake, and join them on the final shoot, too.
“The more we learn about what clients want the better we can serve everybody’s needs. It’s always interesting. For bigger shoots and filming the location scout will always go out and recce two or three properties. Furniture companies, for example, will measure the width of the drive, doorways and access points – they can’t shoot their lookbook if they can’t get the furniture through the door or their van up the driveway.
“One film crew needed to know all about power sources and what was on what ring – they didn’t want to go blowing any fuses. The homeowner had just renovated the house, so she knew everything they needed to know.”
There are many beautiful Cheshire homes registered on Louise’s site; what experiences have the homeowners had?
“We get a lot of work for this area,” she says. “In Manchester there are a lot of production companies based in and around Media City. There are also lots of clients and photographers based in the area who want to travel within an hour of their location. That opens up quite a reach.
“We have had two shoots with Housing Units in Cheshire for their new ranges – they come in and take out all the furniture in the home and then set up their own. Laithwaites Wine has filmed a TV commercial at a home in Kelsall, OK magazine did a celebrity photoshoot here, United Utilities filmed a celebrity chef showing people how to safely dispose of cooking fat (so we don’t get fatbergs in the sewage system).
“ITV filmed a cookery feature for Lorraine, there’s been a video for Now Music, live filming for Sky Bingo...one of our homes was used for a photoshoot with Liverpool FC’s Mo Salah.”
It sounds like a lot of fun, and with the potential to earn £450 to £1,500 a day, depending upon the style of shoot, I might, like many others who are registered with Lifestyle Locations, even be prepared to allow 30 creative types to descend on my house to experience it for myself.
“I love it. Even watching a scene filmed 20 times doesn’t get boring,” says Louise. “As I try to understand why they choose one over the other 19. Obviously nothing is happening at the moment, while the Covid-19 threat is still high, but when it’s safe again I can’t wait to get back to it.”