On Location: How to Get Hollywood Interested in Filming at Your Business

Date: May 23, 2013

Film CrewIs your business ready for its close-up? Follow these steps if you want a movie, TV show or commercial shot on your property.

Seeing your business in a movie or on a TV show sounds glamorous and exciting. More importantly, that kind of exposure can boost your bottom line. But how does your business get the attention of a Hollywood location scout, and what can you do to ensure that the experience is a positive one for your company?

Getting Cast

Like an actor or actress, the first thing you need to do is get noticed. States, and big cities such as New York, have film commissions which keep libraries of potential locations, and these are often first stops for producers and location scouts.

"We would not recommend that business owners contact freelance scouts directly, as location scouts are typically only searching for the locations needed by their current projects," says Craig Dominey, senior film location specialist with the Georgia Department of Film, Music & Digital Entertainment. "The scouts will eventually request photographs from us as well.” In Georgia’s case, photos can even be submitted online.

To increase your chance of being selected, be sure to submit realty-quality photographs of your business and its surroundings, as if presenting the property for sale or rent, says Chris Mills, an independent film producer based in Atlanta. "A panoramic view is not a bad idea," he adds. If you make a product, include a photo of that, too, and a restaurant may want to submit a menu.

However, many businesses become locations more through serendipity than intent. A film company location scout for the Clint Eastwood-starring "The Trouble with the Curve” just showed up one day at the Amicolola Lodge, a scenic 18-room hotel in Dawsonville, Georgia, says owner Pravin Patel. "I thought I won the lottery," he adds.

Decimal Place Farm, an organic goat dairy farm in Conley, Georgia, had already served as a location for two advertising shoots before the make-up artist on one of those mentioned it to a producer of "Santa’s Boot Camp," starring Eric Roberts, says owner Mary Rigdon.

RELATED: Your Farm and Agritourism: How to Make it Work

Key Steps to Getting Your
Business in the Movies

  • Find your closest film commission
  • Submit to film location libraries
  • Take realty-quality photos of your business
  • Get a fair agreement
  • Review the production’s insurance coverage
  • Adjust your business schedule during shooting
  • Leverage your publicity

Before You Take the Part

When negotiating with a location manager, the first rule is don’t get star struck. Consider it a two-way audition. "Owners should have a clear understanding, based on conversations with the location manager, of the impact a specific shoot will have and what can be expected," Dominey says.

A professional production will pay you a location fee, though the amount may vary dramatically depending on the size of the production, ease of use of your property, and the expense of recreating a similar environment in a studio, Mills says. For Rigdon, the location fee was more important than publicity because she needed extra cash for a down payment to purchase additional property for her farm.

You also want to have your lawyer carefully review the production’s insurance certificate, Mills says. "Make sure it’s an umbrella policy with yourself listed as the loss payee and co-insured for any claim," he adds. Time limits should extend beyond the time the crew anticipates being at your location in case the shoot takes longer. And just to be on the safe side, Mills advises "removing anything unique, precious, or irreplaceable before the production gets there."

And don’t forget to ask what the movie is about, Mills says. "You don’t want to be a toy store that has a slasher movie in it," he suggests.

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Lights, Camera...What’s That Noise?

If you’ve never been on set before, here are a few more things to consider before making a deal.

Even slight sound can ruin recording. Film crews will expect you to turn off a humming refrigeration or ventilation system. "The first time the crew called quiet on the set, the rooster crowed," Rigdon recalls. "They asked 'can we stop that?' So the rooster spent the day in the bathroom in my house."

Weak power should not be a deal breaker. In Patel’s case, because the production rented the hotel for nearly two months and also used it as a production office, they paid to upgrade electrical and plumbing systems at his hotel.

Movie shoots are long days, often starting early and running late. Rigdon moved her morning milking earlier but negotiated that filming be done by dark so as not to fully disrupt her animals’ schedule.

Anticipate parking for multiple cars, trailers, and 18-wheeler trucks.

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Leveraging Your Screen Time

Working with cast and crew was a pleasant experience, both Patel and Rigdon say. "Clint Eastwood was very nice and he liked my place," Patel adds.

Customers regularly say they chose to stay at the Amicolola Lodge because of its appearance in "Trouble with the Curve," and ask specifically for rooms 12 and 14, he adds. He is able to charge more for those rooms, and to emphasize the inn’s starring role in the film, he has hung a poster signed by stars Eastwood and Amy Adams in the lobby and decorated his office with autographed pictures and photos of him, his wife Jyotibala, and his son Nirav on the set.

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