THE time is 7am, and a large lorry is arriving outside an Edwardian terrace house in Kensal Rise. When the children are packed off to school, a dozen people file in, the floor is covered with plastic sheets and boxes of equipment are unloaded.
Then another ‘family’ arrives – the husband, wife, teenage son, grandparents and visiting friends – while giant daylight lamps are rigged up in the garden and over the kitchen skylights to give the impression of a sunny day, despite the rain outside.
This is the world of the location house, an otherwise ordinary family home that today will be the setting for a cream commercial. In today’s tougher economic climate, canny property owners with all sorts of properties are renting their home as a location house.
This property in Kensal Rise is owned by Natasha Courtenay-Smith, a web designer and digital and publicity strategist who works with celebrities and high-profile individuals. Natasha’s house has played host to numerous commercials, editorial and website photoshoots and seen celebrities such as Ricky Hatton and Mary Nightingale as well as stars of the animal world, including ‘acting’ cats and dogs, come through its doors.
For most properties, the extra income from location work will at the very least cover the cost of an annual holiday, for some, it pays the mortgage and more. Editorial shoots pay between £250 and £500 a day, and film crews pay between £750 and £2,000 per day.
‘When it’s a big brand that is a household name filming, you can earn over £1500 per day and more once you add in extras such as parking permits,’ says Natasha.
Ex-journalist Natasha first learned about location houses when she started going to other homes for shoots. She realised it was a great way to earn money – she just needed a suitable house.
‘I always loved shoots and thought it was a brilliant thing for a homeowner to do. It means a bit of extra income, but also you get to meet lots of creative and interesting people. And you only have to watch television or pick up a catalogue to realise how much work there is out there for location houses. You see them on almost every advert that features a family. Brands such as John Lewis and Mothercare routinely use location houses all year round for their catalogue and website shoots.’
How much you make really depends on your contacts,’ says Natasha. ‘Although it’s good to be with location agencies, it’s also really good to have lots of contacts with production companies.’
Natasha and her partner Alastair bought the property last September. It hadn’t been modernised for 40 years and needed a lot of work. ‘It had also been empty for around a year so was freezing cold and very stale,’ she explains.
Because she knew the house had location house potential, she renovated it accordingly.
‘A location house has to stand out and be distinctive whilst, at the same time, not being too loud. So we recovered and restored original features such as wrought iron fireplaces and decorative balustrades. In my mind, I was creating a location house that companies such as Loaf would use to shoot their sofas – although they haven’t booked us yet.’
‘Our kitchen has turned out to be the most popular part of our house. It’s been used in three commercials as well as by food bloggers for their website shoots, and we’ve had interest from publishers working on celebrity cookbooks too.’
When everything was finished it was down to Natasha to have the property professionally photographed and send the photos to reputable agencies. She also set up her own website for the house (www.londonlocationhouse.com).
‘I like the fact that the location house work enables the house to contribute to the family finances in a way that is interesting and social,’ she adds.
Tips for running a successful location house
1) Get connected with production companies. Location House agencies are brilliant at getting work but nothing beats having connections with production companies who will book you direct and reuse your house again and again.
2) The larger and wider the house, the better – mainly because crews bring a tremendous amount of equipment and need space to stand back from the shoot.
3) Be prepared to annoy your neighbours and provide parking – sometimes for up to 30 vehicles. On the day of a big commercial shoot, your road really will be taken over by the crew. It’s only a day though.
4) Your house doesn’t have to be completely modern. Lots of people make money renting houses that fit particular eras, ie 1960s, 70s or 80s style.
5) Most location houses that get booked are in London. That is where the majority of the work is.
Find out more by visiting www.Londonlocationhouse.com