Tips on Making Your Home a Movie Star

A big tourist draw for California is the movie industry. No news there — you all knew that.

But did you know your home can be the “star” in a movie or television show and bring some cash to you?

When we lived in the San Fernando Valley, the Governator filmed “Terminator 2” in our neighborhood. We even got to see the T-1000 bust through a bridge barrier in a big rig trying to chase down John Connor and The Terminator. And we learned that some of our neighbors’ homes had been rented by the production company to be in the film, or to stage meals, or simply for a place for the actors to hang out. While I thought it would be cool to have Arnold Schwarzenegger in my house, it would be even better if I got paid to host him.

Well, many homeowners here in the SCV have gone through that process. CSI, NCIS, and numerous films and television series have used homes for filming. As those people can acknowledge, it’s not always such a great adventure to have Hollywood in your living room.

The production companies start at ungodly morning hours, work through the day, night and then into the next day, they light up your neighborhood like it was daytime, take over all available parking, can wreak havoc in a home, and tear up your landscaping. To add insult to injury, a number of films with blatant nudity and sex have also been staged in sleepy Santa Clarita Valley. These elements often can make you the pariah of the culde-sac. But, still there’s the money. So what should a homeowner do if approached to do filming in her home?

First, make sure it’s a legitimate production company. Many films are made by fly-bynight businesses that are gone soon after filming wraps. Legitimate film companies will have scouts, a decent budget, references, insurance, and a film permit.

Check with your friends and neighbors as well as the city’s film office to see what the going rate is for renting your home. Make sure the production company has insurance to cover any damage done to your home. Require a deposit against any destruction.

Appoint yourself as a “location representative” who needs to be there for the entire rental period. The production company should actually pay you a stipend to do this. Have the company put you up in a nice hotel — don’t try to live there while all of this is going on.  Get a written contract that spells out what they can and cannot do, what payments you should receive, and make sure it’s clear what they are going to do to the home and that they are going to return it to the original condition when filming is over.

Next, check with your neighbors and your Homeowners Association, if you live in an area governed by one. The CC&Rs may prohibit filming or may require that you go through a special permission process to allow the filming to occur. Failure to take this step may mean that the production is ended before it begins or, even worse, stopped before it’s completed.

Make sure your neighbors know what’s going to happen and try to address any animosity or opposition beforehand. I know of one instance where a homeowner rented out his place to a men’s magazine to film a movie with graphic sex scenes. The neighbors called the cops when they saw naked women all over the property. This not only shut down production but resulted in the homeowner being sued by both the HOA and the magazine. Needless to say, he didn’t make any money on this venture.

There are a number of other tips to avoid heartache over renting your home. It can be successful as long as you prepare for it and have reasonable expectations.©

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