Kent is the most filmed county in England, only topped by London. This means there is strong demand for filming locations. You don’t have to own a stately home either, and there are real rewards to be had as we found out from Gabrielle Lindemann from the Kent Film Office, an initiative designed to help businesses and individuals take advantage of these opportunities. Gabrielle takes us through what to expect from filming and how to make maximum revenue with minimum disruption.
What are location scouts looking for?
Location scouts are constantly on the lookout for interesting locations and, while historic properties are popular, it is often the more unusual properties and locations that appeal. Do you have an office building with striking architecture, a disused empty warehouse, open fields with views across the countryside, a converted building with hidden features? These are all of interest to location scouts, directors and production designers searching for the next location for their upcoming TV or feature film production.
It is important to remember that what we rate as outdated, dingy and unappealing could be a treasure for a director. So many TV productions are looking for a ‘retro’ feel with dramas and films set in the 60s, 70s and 80s – think of Call the Midwife (2018), Guerilla (2017) and Yardie (2018).
The other element of filming that is often overlooked is productions often shoot during the night, at dusk or dawn and weekends, i.e. times when your business property and location is closed therefore attracting revenue from empty premises. And, if you are concerned about noise disruption to your neighbours and/or protection of your property, then the Kent Film Office can advise you on how to handle all these issues.
Show me the money
Business owners can typically make between £500 to £5,000 per day depending on the type of shoot and get a fresh lick of paint while they’re at it. The fee will vary depending on whether the shoot is for a photography shoot, music video, TV commercial, drama series or feature film.
The level of disruption to the business and size of crew generally dictate the fee, but the fee is not always in line with the star involved. You may be approached by one of the big Hollywood studios with an A-list actor starring in the production, but the scene may be a B-unit filming 90 seconds for the big screen.
Of course, the bigger the production, the greater experience they bring and disruption is countered by reinstatement measures agreed from the get-go. Though be aware, that some productions are planned with fairly short notice, so expect around a six week lead time at best.
What’s in it for your business?
One consideration for smaller budget productions is the PR value of filming. Some productions will agree, in their contract, for publicity of your location via the Kent Film Office on the release of the film or broadcast of a TV programme. Check out our twitter for some recent promotions such as The Mercy featuring Colin Firth filmed partly at Bewl Water and The Historic Dockyard Chatham.
The first step to attracting production companies to your property or location is to register on the Kent Locations Database. We’re not promising that Benedict Cumberbatch or Kate Winslet will be walking through your door tomorrow, but they certainly won’t unless you register your property or business as a filming location.
What to expect with filming
Film companies are always on the lookout for real locations because it’s cheaper than building a set. The first thing to consider is space. As well as the crew, there is the cast and the equipment, which might fill several trucks. If your property is chosen, a location team will do several recces, taking reference images before a contract is drawn up.
During the filming, you may expect anything from 10 to 1000 people to visit your property, which to novice location owners may be extremely unnerving, especially when large pieces of equipment are carted in and a whole load of strangers dressed in costumes start camping out in your car park or across a beautifully manicured garden.
Panic not! Although it looks like complete chaos and a little overwhelming at first, production companies are usually extremely organised because every minute they spend filming can cost thousands of pounds. The location or unit manager at this time is your best friend and liaison to ensure that the team adheres to the agreements you made in the contracts.
If the odd person does overstep the mark by using out of bounds areas or park in front of the car you wish to escape in, it is most likely because some information hasn’t quite filtered down the ranks and is easily corrected. Speak up!
Once filming is completed, the lighting, design and location teams return to reinstate your property to its former glory. Again, depending on the number of changes and filming done, this can take from an hour to a few weeks. At the very end, you should go through the property with the location manager and make sure all is well, any damages are repaired, and everything is back in its usual place before getting back to normal business once more.
Top 10 Tips for filming:
- Ask the production if they are registered with the Kent Film Office so that you can fall back on our support and experience.
- Agree on a single point of contact with the production company and get contact details, including mobile phone number.
- Try to get an idea of the scale of the project: numbers of crew and cast and dates including prep and reinstatement periods.
- Ask them for a breakdown, ideally in writing, of exactly what changes they will make and where and that they will re-instate these after filming.
- Ask them which other areas of the property they will be using as green-rooms, stores, changing rooms, etc. and make sure you are happy with that.
- Make sure you get a copy of their Public Liability Insurance, every production should have one.
- Also, ask for a contract – the Kent Film Office can supply sample contracts to locations registered in our database.
- Talk to your neighbours and keep them informed.
- Be prepared for some disruption since film crews can be large and noisy. BUT you may negotiate a ‘quiet period’ clause for example for certain times of the day or around a client event such as a wedding ceremony in another area of your estate.
- Flexibility is key. You must be prepared for variable fees, people tramping in and out and moving everything around. Things may also get damaged, so hide your irreplaceable heirlooms, and you may not even recognise your property when it does appear on the telly, BUT if you are flexible you will get a reputation as being a film-friendly location, which is a nice revenue booster!