Home Movie Using your home for a movie or TV can be lucrative but also disruptive

Using your home for a movie or TV can be lucrative but also disruptive


New Yorker Mary Kay Seery, 60, a real estate broker, remembers people being shocked when she and her husband, Billy Seery, 61, moved in 1998 from the East Village to Prospect Park South, a Brooklyn neighborhood known for its detached Victorian style. Houses. At the time, some of his friends considered it the height of cool.

“They said, ‘Did you pay $ 490,000 for a house in Brooklyn? Are you insane?’ Said Ms. Seery.

Their real estate agent assured them that they would be making hay when the TV and movie scouts arrived. “You are going to make a lot of money,” recalls Ms. Seery.

TV shows like “Girls” and “The Affair” were filmed in this Brooklyn home

Mary Kay Seery’s House has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows over the past 20 years

Mary Kay Seery and her son, Quentin, on the porch of their Brooklyn home, which has featured in numerous movies and TV shows.

Tayler Smith for the Wall Street Journal

1 of 6


Ms Seery was skeptical until Boy Scout flyers started popping up in her mailbox. “I’m sure we’ve made over $ 500,000 so far,” Ms. Seery said, adding that they’ve earned $ 86,000 each on two shows: “Girls” on HBO and “Mysteries of Laura,” an NBC police proceeding. Showtime’s “The Affair Season 3” came next. Their home was a replacement for a New Jersey residence and steamy encounters that didn’t always happen in a bedroom. “Neighbors would come,” Ms. Seery remembers, “and say, ‘Did you watch this show? Have you seen what happened on your kitchen counter? “”

While state film commissions have increasingly negotiated landlord-filmmaker relationships, and scouting agencies will buy your property for a fee, many, if not most, production companies are doing so in-house. ‘Ancient. You can’t find them. They find you.

Rian Akey, 49, who works in risk consulting, and Shaun Kane, 41, who works in marketing, found a leaflet from the production company in the mailbox of their home in the far north of Chicago in June 2019. They met a scout. that month, but heard nothing all summer.

Finally, in September, manager Nick Rafferty chose his home as Smutny’s funeral home in the FX crime drama “Fargo Season 4“. The setting was 1950s Kansas City and the home of Messrs. Akey and Kane – a four-story Queen Anne built in 1885 that they bought for $ 850,000 in 2016 – did the trick.

“We were quite surprised at how quickly they turned our home into a funeral home,” said Mr. Kane. Decorators added wallpaper to most of the rooms and then dyed the wallpaper in tobacco to give it a yellowed look. They installed a swing door between the dining room and the kitchen, Kane said.

There was also a coffin. “The living room has been transformed into a reception and viewing area for the funeral home,” said Mr. Kane. “The coffin sat at one end with an organ on one side. There were rows of folding chairs in the front, flower stands on either side, and sideboards for serving coffee and tea on a visit. We pretty much avoided that area of ​​the house.

The exterior of the Akey / Kane house, which was featured in the FX drama “Fargo Season 4”.


Kevin Serna for The Wall Street Journal

Filming began in October 2019 and was scheduled to last six months. “We stayed there, except on the filming days,” Kane said. “They started very early in the morning and filming continued into the evening or even into the night.”

When Covid hit, production ceased on March 11 with only one or two episodes to film, Mr Kane said. They didn’t return until August 29, and the show didn’t end home production until September 8. Instead of six months, the show was in their home during 9/11.

Shaun Kane in front of his house.


Kevin Serna for The Wall Street Journal

“We had a coffin in our living room for almost a year,” Mr. Akey said. It took another month for the localization team to restore the house to its previous condition, including reinstalling the wrought iron fence that surrounded the property and reseeding the lawn. MM. Akey and Kane said they were happy with their fees. “We certainly didn’t do it just for the experience,” Mr. Kane said. They would not discuss the amount owed to a nondisclosure agreement.

NDAs have become the norm with the proliferation of social media, said Mr. Rafferty, the site’s manager. “Homeowners can overhear confidential conversations or be aware of the plot or script,” he said, especially when the filming scripts are lying around the house. “The last thing the studio wants is some footage from the show on social media while filming. They also don’t want the neighborhood to know what they paid for the shoot.

Site fees are tied to the costs of union labor, from stars to set designers. The size of the production also has an influence. “What parts of the house we use, the extent of the renovation, the length of time to shoot and whether the owners have to stay in a hotel,” are all factors, Mr. Rafferty said.

“I make sure the owners understand that when we close a deal we’re starting a journey and don’t know what things will be like at the end. I start every negotiation with ‘we want it to be worth it’. The producer hires me to understand what it means, ”Mr. Rafferty said.

A scene shot in the kitchen of the house of MM. Kane and Akey, top left, and what it looks like when not in use as a filming location.


Kevin Serna for The Wall Street Journal

Carroll Belser recalls the 2002 filming in South Carolina for “The Notebook,” a romantic drama starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams based on the 1996 novel by Nicholas Sparks. As Ms Belser recalls, she was with her 4-year-old niece who had a crush on Mr Gosling and became enraged during a love scene with Ms McAdams. When their lips met, she shouted “Yeech! “

Another scene was shot on the Sunnyside Plantation in a small guesthouse that in the film served as the home of the character played by Sam Shepard. Located on Edisto Island, a barrier island about 45 miles from Charleston, Sunnyside has been in Mrs. Besler’s family since the early 1800s and consists of several buildings, including the remains of a ginning plant from cotton. Ms. Belser’s great-grandfather built the three-story, 4,000-square-foot main house in 1875.

“My late dad had LL Bean shoots there before I owned the house,” said Ms. Belser, 68. She works with Appleseed, a women’s clothing line that does catalog shoots primarily on the front porch of the main house.

Ms Belser said she was paid $ 2,000 a day for the shoots. “They paid my dog, Gumbeaux, a Labrador Retriever, $ 500 to make the cover with one of the models. He’s always been a handsome devil, ”she said. She was also paid $ 2,500 in May for a one-day shoot for a “Short Term Rental” TV pilot.

Although the animators are well paid, the production company can occupy your house in bewildering ways. Once a deal is made to have only certain parts of a house filmed, some production companies may go to places they’ve said they won’t. For example, after agreeing to use only the kitchen, they may want to turn into a bedroom.

“First make sure they agree to pay extra,” Ms. Seery said. “And make sure you have a good relationship with the site manager.”

Site manager Tom Yeager said if a house is shown, even just for the exterior, owners must sign a site authorization, which usually includes a site fee. Productions will not normally get a release or payment if a house is only incidentally shown in a shot or is in the background.

Cheryl McFeely, Ms. Seery’s neighbor who allowed her house to be used as a production location for 20 years, saw the downsides of filming.

“They’ll usually destroy your floors during a shoot,” she said, adding that foot traffic of people and equipment can wreak havoc.

The front porch of the Sunnyside Plantation guesthouse after filming “The Notebook,” left, and while filming with Rachel McAdams, Sam Shepard and Ryan Gosling.


Kelli Boyd for the Wall Street Journal; Melissa Mosley / New production line

Ms. McFeely, 64, who bought her home in Prospect Park South for $ 335,000 in 1994, started out by hosting commercials. This led to a shoot for the 1998 film “A Price Above Rubies” starring Renée Zellweger and Julianna Margulies. “Half Nelson” starring Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps was also shot dead in her home, she said. During the filming of “The Groomsman” by Edward Burns in 2006, neighboring houses also got roles for which the owners were paid.

Ms. McFeely’s last shoot was “The Great Gilly Hopkins” in 2015 with Kathy Bates playing the part of an eccentric hoarder who adopts a teenage daughter. Mrs. McFeely’s house served as the home of Bates’ character for a few months. This shoot brought in $ 85,000 to Ms. McFeely.

“The money is great,” she said, “but after replacing our floors we decided to stop filming. We didn’t want to damage our new floors.

Ms Seery says she suffered further damage to her home, but said the follow-up repairs got it right in almost all cases.

She also tempered the idea that filmmakers are making their way to your door just because your home is beautiful. “No matter how savvy you are or how beautiful your property is, this has got to be a place that can be a part of history. If it doesn’t work for the show, it won’t work as a venue. ”

Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8