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  • Film Office

Office of the City Manager

  • Filming Host FAQ's

    The first thing anyone considering hosting filming should do is to visit a film set. See first-hand what it looks like, how many people are involved, the types of trucks and equipment they use, and get a feeling of what to expect. Visit a friend or neighbor who hosts filming or call the Pasadena Film Office and ask us to arrange a visit to a local film shoot. If there’s a shoot on your street, ask for the Location Manager, tell him or her that you’re interested in filming and request a tour of the set. If they’re not too busy, they’ll be happy to show you around and answer questions.

    Browse the Pasadena Film Office website at filmpasadena.com. There you’ll find our city’s filming ordinance, guidelines, film permit application, etc. We also have an online location library featuring photographs of properties interested in filming.

    Scouting

    “Cold Scouting” is when a Location Manager or Scout knocks on your door or leaves you a note asking if you’d be interested in filming (without any prior referrals or introductions.) Typically, they drive around a neighborhood looking for a specific type of property. When they see it, they simply pull over and knock on the door. They generally photograph the location from the street and note the address for reference. If someone is home, they’ll identify themselves with a business card and explain a bit about the project and their filming schedule, and ask to photograph the areas of the property they’d like to present to their Director and/or Producers for consideration. You don’t have to commit to any filming at this point, and neither will they commit to using your property just yet.

    Questions to Ask:

    Name of the Production Company, title and type of project (commercial, feature film, etc.)

    Number of film days (any night filming?) (Prep, strike or hold days?)

    Number of people (cast and crew) and vehicles

    Description of filming activity (interior/exterior dialogue, drive-ups, music playback, nudity??)

    Special effects (explosions, gunfire, stunts?)

    If you don’t recognize the name of the company or would like to verify someone’s identity, you may ask for the Studio’s phone number or call the Pasadena Film Office.

    The Pasadena Film Office Location Library is very popular with Producers, Location Managers, and Scouts from around the world. Pasadena property owners interested in hosting filming submit digital photographs which we post to our website. For information about being included in our Location Library, visit our "Register Your Property" information page.

    Location Services are agents for your property. Location Managers and Producers often call these services, or look on their websites for specific types of properties. The Service will photograph properties, act as liaisons between Property Owners and Location Managers, arrange scouts, negotiate agreements, collect fees and insurance, and usually assign a “Site Rep” to monitor the shoot during prep, filming, and strike. The Service takes a percentage of the fees paid to the Property Owner by the Production Company.

    Some Location Services charge a fee to the Property Owner to have photographs of their property on their website. These services photograph the properties and include them in their online Location Libraries. They give the Owner’s contact information directly to the Location Manager or Producer, and the rest of the details are left between the Production and the Property Owner. Still other Services offer some combination of the above.

    Then What?

    Well, maybe nothing. The Location Manager will present photographs of your property to his Director, Producers, and Art Department, which they will consider along with many other possibilities. If you make it past the first qualifying round, the Location Manager will want to return to your property for a second scout, along with the aforementioned personnel and probably an Assistant Director, so they can get a first-hand look and think about the logistics of filming at your particular property. Several more scouts may be required before a final decision is made.

    You may need to take time off work to meet a scout, or have a housekeeper, employee, or friend meet them for you. Companies do not pay a fee for scouting, and often need to change meeting times, or run late for appointments. This is part of the business. Arranging tight schedules so everyone can drive out to see your property is a major exercise. Your house is like an actor up for a part. It needs to be available when they’re available to see it. Like actors, your property may be in the running right up until the end, then not chosen. Don’t be disappointed. A lot of people have seen your property, and they remember. Maybe next time!

    You’re it!

    Once your property has been selected for filming, the location manager will provide a Location Agreement – a contract detailing the filming dates and times, areas of the property to be filmed, liability, legal ownership of the film itself, etc. Once you’ve agreed on all the details, you’ll each sign the Agreement, or sign two copies – one for you and one for the Production Company. You’ll also need to fill out a W-9 form without which the Company cannot process a check.

    Fees

    Location site rental fees are negotiable. The amount depends up length of time the Company needs to utilize the property, the size of the crew, the specific kinds of scenes they’re filming and the amount of disruption you foresee. Filming outside is less impactful than shooting inside, small crews aren’t as disruptive as large crews, loss of business is obviously considered for retail properties, mansions are more expensive than bungalows, etc. Fees may range from “no charge” to many thousands of dollars, depending on the project and the property.

    Take in to consideration that this is “net” money. This income is tax-free for fourteen days per year. (If you host filming for fifteen days or more, you must declare all filming days, including the first fourteen.)

    Different film projects have different budgets, as well. Small independent features don’t have as much money to spend as huge motion pictures. Television series and TV movies may not pay as well as commercials. Still photography budgets vary by client, and student films may have little or no money at all. Prep and strike fees are generally far lower than actual film day fees. If you’ll need to actually move out of your house for a period of time, hotel costs and a per diem for meals may be in order.

    Generally the Location Manager will offer you what they can reasonably afford for the use of your property, given their budget. If you’re not comfortable with their offer, you may want to try to negotiate for a higher fee, taking into consideration that they may have to pass and move on to another location if your rate is higher than they can afford.

    Insurance

    Before we go any further, you need the Company to provide you with a certificate of insurance naming the property owner (and tenant, if applicable) as an additional insured. $1 million general liability is standard. They should also provide evidence of Worker’s Compensation.

    You may want to ask for a refundable security deposit, which would be returned to the Company once everything is back in order. Do expect some minor damages, a few scrapes here and there. The really small stuff should be chalked off as the cost of hosting a film shoot – like throwing a party. Most Location Agreements stipulate that they’ll return the property to “substantially” the same condition as they found it, “reasonable wear and tear exempted.” The Company should definitely repair (or pay to be repaired) any substantial damages, and they are generally very good about the little things, as well.

    Prep

    The Art Department will probably want to make some adjustments to your property. These may be minimal - changing furniture or curtains and adding flowers or props, or they may be more substantial – painting the interior and/or exterior of the house, erecting temporary structures (building a mock garage), etc. Some of your furniture and belongings will be photographed (so they can replace them properly), packed and stored. It’s general practice for protective “lay-out board” (thick cardboard) to be placed on delicate floors, and even on carpeting in heavy use areas. Point out anything that’s particularly delicate or valuable, so they can take extra care to protect it. Remove any especially valuable or sentimental items.

    Be certain that you understand everything they’re planning to do with your property. If you’re not comfortable with something, do let them know, but be reasonable.

    Often the property owner is so pleased with the makeover that they ask the Company to leave the new paint, or purchase some of the set dressing (which may not be possible if they’re rentals). You may be inspired to incorporate some of their ideas into a new “look” for your old property!

    And We’re… Rolling!

    Ask to see a copy of the Film Permit. The average shoot day is about 15 hours long. Prep and strike days tend to be shorter. Film crews can seem like an invading (very friendly) army. There may be as few as 10 or 15, or as many as 100 or more people in your house or business during the shoot. No parking signs will be posted for large trucks and sometimes huge cranes or “night lights” on the street. Pasadena Police Officers are usually assigned to assist the Production with traffic control and ensure that they’re adhering to the Film Permit. Security guards will be guarding equipment around the clock.

    Inside and out, there may be big lights and “silks” everywhere, cables and ladders, lights hanging from the ceiling beams, tarps over windows or skylights… Don’t be afraid! This is movie-making and southern California film crews are the best in the world and have it down to a science.

    Ask the Location Manager, but you’re usually welcome to invite friends or family over to watch the filming. There may not be enough room though. In some cases, the Company may even ask you to move out of your home, in which case a per diem for hotel and food costs may be in order. It’s generally a good idea for you or a representative to be on site to answer questions, address neighbors’ concerns, and deal with any last minute adjustments and requests. This may be a friend, family member, or a “Site Rep” from a Location Service.

    Quiet on the Set!

    Recording equipment is very sensitive. The Company may need to turn off loud refrigerators, air conditioners, or the ringers on your phones. You’ll need to reschedule gardeners, and other noisy projects.

    Children and Pets

    Kids love filming and if they’re well behaved and quiet they’re usually welcome to watch; however, filming quickly loses it’s glamour and becomes boring. It’s usually in everyone’s best interest to have young children stay with friends or family during filming. It’s difficult to maneuver around all the lights, cables, and other equipment, and could be dangerous for a child or elderly person. Better to bring the kids by to visit the shoot, perhaps have lunch with the crew (ask the Location Manager), and then send them off while it’s all still exciting.

    Consider boarding your pets during filming. They could be a sound problem, and you don’t want to risk them getting out and running away amid all the commotion. If they’re quiet, you might leave them in a secure area off limits to the film crew. Be sure to tell the Location Manager and mark the door with a big sign indicating there’s a pet inside and not to open the door!

    That’s a Wrap!

    They’ve come and gone, and it’s back to business as usual. Once Set Dressing has put everything back in place, double-check for damages, missing or misplaced items, etc.

    Check your property thoroughly once the filming and strike are complete. It’s best to do a final walk-through with the Location Manager, making sure everything has been restored, or arrangements to make any necessary repairs.

    Contact the Company immediately if you notice any damage or things needing repair or require cleaning. You may be asked to sign a release stating that everything is in order, and there is usually language in the Location Agreement indicating a time limit after which damages may not be claimed against the Company.

    When everything’s in order, return the Security Deposit, if you have one, thank your neighbors for their hospitality, and watch for your property on the big screen!