In Spring 2019 we decided to sign up our home as a location house to see if it could repay some of the money we’d pumped into the renovation. Although we hadn’t finished all the jobs we wanted to, the main parts of the house were complete. The open plan kitchen/dining/living space, the living room, bathroom and main bedroom/en-suite were fully finished. The children’s bedrooms, spare bedroom and garden were pretty much there and the hallway was underway so we thought why not go for it?
But what is a location house I hear you ask?
Fair question. We didn’t know about location houses until we met somebody who runs a location agency at a networking event in 2018. She told us all about how you can register your home to be a location for photo shoots and filming with an agency like hers.
Large companies and advertising agencies work with location agencies to find the right location for their needs, whether that’s a living room needed for a TV advert, a kitchen needed to shoot a new range of pots and pans or a whole house needed for filming a new TV drama.
A location agency will have a catalogue of locations on their books, so that when a company approaches them, they’ll often have a few locations that will fit the bill. The company or advertising agency will then usually have a recce at the locations that they think will fit the bill.
Once they’ve had a look at all the possible locations, they then decide on the specific location they want to use and book that one for their shoot.
How do you get yourself registered?
There are a number of location agencies that you can register with. We decided to register with UK Locations: they are the largest and longest running agency in the North, they are a family run business and are based in Leeds. So, they were the best match for us. However, if you’re based elsewhere in the UK there may be other agencies that better cover your area.
After reading through their website and having an initial call with one of their client service team we decided that it was something we wanted to go-ahead with. We were then sent a contract which covers all the T’s and C’s and what is required from each party.
UK Locations then sent James, their operations director, to photograph our house for their website. Obviously, we tidied up beforehand, but we didn’t have to ‘style’ or ‘dress’ the house in a particular way. Most companies will dress the house for the specific shoot that is going ahead, so the photos are designed to show off the spaces available and the style of those spaces.
Those photos were then published on the UK Locations website and their client service team started putting our home forward for the relevant shoots that they were tasked with finding locations for.
What happens if a company decides to use your location?
Most companies will draw up a shortlist of locations that are potential options for a particular shoot and they will want to have a recce at each of them to check things like camera shots, logistics on the day etc. If it’s a large-scale shoot then there may be more than once recce before the final location is chosen.
Our home was recently used to film an Aldi TV advert. This involved a recce with the director and location manager in the first instance. This meant one of us needed to be in and show them around and answer any questions they had. They probably spent 30 minutes at the house, mainly focussed on the kitchen area, which was the main space they wanted to use for the shoot, as well as looking at other areas where they could use for hair and make-up.
They then narrowed it down to two possible locations and a larger team of people then came for another recce to make the final decision and make final checks. This involved a team of 15 or so art directors, sound technicians, lighting specialists coming to look at the house and assess the details of how the shoot would operate in the spaces available.
Once we’d been chosen the location manager then came back and had a meeting with us to go through what would happen on the day, talk through how they would ensure that the house was looked after and that our neighbours would be notified of any disruption etc.
As part of the recce process your agency will have let you know what the shoot will involve i.e. which rooms are required in your home, how long the shoot will take and how many people to expect. Depending on the scale of the shoot you will also have agreed the fee that the company will pay for the location. As part of our contract there are standard daily rates depending on the number of people that will be on location that day. But if the request is outside those standard parameters then you would agree the fee with your agency.
How does it work on shoot day?
This is a really difficult question to answer because we’ve only had one shoot at our house so far. And by all accounts it’s quite unusual to have such a large-scale TV ad shoot for a first experience! But essentially it was a full day of people coming in and out of the house. Lots of hustle and bustle, front door permanently open and a hive of activity!
For the first part of the day the main kitchen area was being ‘dressed’ using some of our things as well as props that the team had brought with them. They also brought lots of mats and throws to cover up the flooring and furniture in the parts of the house that weren’t going to be on camera. This meant we were able to keep working in our home office and were on hand to answer any questions as they cropped up.
The lighting team and camera crews started to arrive and set-up mid-afternoon. Not only did this mean cameras and lights in that same main kitchen area, the living room was then taken over by monitors and kit and various people as well as lights set up in the garden etc. The basement was used for hair and make up as well as providing a space for the advertising agency’s team of people involved. In total we probably had around 40 people in the house and about 12 vehicles outside including a large lorry that housed the generator for all the electrical kit.
Filming only probably started at about 5pm by which time we had escaped to a local pub for dinner with the children. Probably for the best given they needed everybody to be quiet and still in the house while they filmed the shots they needed. We got back to the house about 7.30 and were able to get the children changed into their pyjamas upstairs and filming finished just before 9pm.
This is a bit later than they’d expected to be finishing but the filming schedule had been changed at the last minute. The team had therefore had to go out and film at a different location in the morning which resulted in them starting much later than planned at our house. But we’d agreed to a contract with a 9-9 day included so it was all within what had been agreed upfront.
We can only assume that each shoot will be different depending on the company and people involved. But it was incredibly interesting seeing how much time, effort and money is spent on pulling together a few seconds’ worth of footage for an advert. In fact, you can watch the ad here. Blink and you’ll miss our kitchen!
Is it worth it?
It really depends on your own personal situation.
If you work at home like we do and can be available for recce’s and shoot days without it impacting on your ability to work then it could be worth it for you. If you work set hours and can’t be at home at relatively short notice then you might struggle to maximise the number of shoots that you could have at your home.
Don’t expect it to bring lots of income in. Unless you’ve designed your home to be a location house then you can’t rely on it having shoots on a regular basis. Some locations are able to make a large amount of money in a year, but having been on the books for 9 months or so we’ve only had one shoot so far and another should be going ahead in the next month or so. Some of that may be down to our specific home but I don’t think you can expect a monthly income from it.
It’s not something that will make your home famous either. Many of our family and friends have assumed that having our home in an Aldi TV ad would benefit our business. But neither our home nor our business gets credited as part of the shoot. And in many cases, you’ll either blink and miss it, like our TV ad, or it’ll be dressed so differently that it won’t be recognisable as your own home anyway.
We see it as a bit of a fun way of making our home pay us back in a small way for the amount of money we ploughed into the renovation. It’s a bonus, not a way of generating serious income.
If you are thinking about registering your home as a location house or are thinking of making changes in your home and need some help or interior design inspiration, do get in touch with us here. And don't forget to follow us via Instagram, Facebook and our upcoming blogs.
Fresh Start Living is based in Leeds, West Yorkshire and covers surrounding areas as well as offering a remote interior design service.