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Cinematographer: Advice For Location Owners

Thinking of renting out your home for a film or TV production? As exciting as having a film crew in your house may sound, it's important to consider how filming could impact your home. We spoke with Alex Metcalfe, an award-winning cinematographer, to get his insider advice on how best to prepare your property.

Here are 5 key tips:

1.    Managing sunlight.

Controlling natural light from windows is crucial for cinematographers. They may want to black out or tint windows depending on the scenes and time of day. Professional crews will do this with temporary window covers that don't damage the glass or frames.

If the windows are not blacked out, they may ‘balance’ the scene by lighting through the windows which means there are things which may be useful to...

2.    Enable outdoor lighting.

If your home sits on a hill or has a sharply sloped yard, lighting and equipment placement outside can be problematic. A patio or open driveway area gives the crew options for providing a stable platform for lighting rigs. Alternatively, if you’re on a higher floor, a flat roof or balcony can serve the same purpose. Its known that DoP's like to set up lights outside a bedroom window on occasion, and in these cases balconies or flat roofs are often advantageous.

3.    Power provisions.

For a small shoot the power requirements should not be too excessive as many modern professional lighting solutions use low power LEDs. There are, however, multiple parties on a shoot such as hair and makeup, art departments etc. which add to the power needs.

Larger shoots may require substantial electricity. In this case the production crew should be providing their own generators. In this case they may need additional parking and space as these are often separate vehicles that will need to be on or very near to your property.

4.    Offer flexible spaces.

Large, open spaces with high ceilings are preferable for lighting rigs, camera angles, and crew movement. Tiny rooms with low ceilings are more challenging. Also, wide doorways and open floor plans allow easier access for hauling gear.

That being said, Alex has filmed in many restricted spaces. For simple shoots, like cookery programs, or interviews, the space may be necessarily constrained with a less intrusive setup.

Don’t worry about colours or backgrounds or anything like that. It normally isn’t particularly important, although some DoP’s do have preferences. A rule of thumb though is that DoP's usually shooting video will try to avoid white painted walls whilst photographers are quite happy for light to bounce around and have no problem with white walls. For larger shoots they may want some minor change (e.g. change a wall colour) but anything like that will be brought back to good or better, and changes would never be enacted without changes being approved in advance and restoration measures included in a contract.

Having additional, flexible space, and areas for the various crew and staff can be very useful as its usually required. Things like actors rehearsing, crew relaxation, catering, hair & make-up (H&M) etc. are much better facilitated if you can provide additional space on your property, and availability of additional spaces can positively influence a decision to use a property or not.

5.     Most importantly, take care

A professional crew will respect your home and grounds but its recommended that Owners are on-site and available to answer questions and to ensure that their property is respected. Most problems occur when shoots are not set up properly or when crews are largely left to their devices. (Editor: A reputable Agent should advise on the risk factor for each shoot based on their extensive experience, and advise Owners on the best way to manage each shoot.) Alex goes on to say... Property owners often work through a reputable Agent as inexperienced owners can be overwhelmed, and especially with unstructured bookings, their property can often be open to exploitation. An Agent led hire means that the Director of Photography will be pre briefed with what can and can’t be done around the property when setting up shots, increasing the positivity on set.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can make your property as filming friendly as possible. A well-prepared home means an easier time for the crew and a smoother production experience for you as the property owner. Just be sure to communicate clearly with the production team so your unique space can shine on screen!

For more information about hiring your home as a filming location call our experienced team at on 01782 388090 or 01782 388439

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