That house on the telly - it's mine!

Renting your home to a film-maker can provide you with hard cash as well as reflected glory. Richard Phillips investigates
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The Independent Online
The pounds 92m handout to the British film industry from the National Lottery, isn't just good news for directors and actors. It's also a boost for homeowners who have properties that can be used for film shoots.

If your home has features which are attractive to film-makers, the rewards can be fantastic. Starting at around pounds 1,000 a day for TV work and advertising shoots, the price can reach pounds 3,000 per day for a house used in a full- length feature film - especially if it is a Hollywood production set over here - although these top prices tend to be commanded in the main by mansions and small stately homes.

The amount your home will earn will depend on how much of it is used - exterior and interior or just one or the other; how many days the house is used, and the size of the crew.

Anna Sugden, who runs the film location arm of estate agent Strutt & Parker, says: "We are seeing more and more business in this area, and more and more enquiries from clients." Strutt & Parker charges its clients between 10 and 20 per cent of the fee as a commission.

A remake of Tom Jones is due to start filming in June in a location supplied by Strutt & Parker, while the recent surge in costume dramas - Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility - has boosted demand for period homes in the country.

But even if you live in a more modest property, if it has unusual features or is conveniently located it can still appeal to directors. And it is not just the glamorous world of feature films that can supplement your income. Interested homeowners can benefit from several other commercial demands for interesting properties.

As well as TV advertising, there is also stills photography, usually for advertising, pop promotion videos, and public information films.

The Location Company in London specialises in advertising work for TV and print (tel: 0171-637 7766). Its preference is for houses within the M25 although good flats can be just as attractive, says the company's Margaret Bloomer. The aspirational nature of advertising, means that design features such as clean wooden floors are among the points the company looks out for. They also have a constant demand for homes with swimming pools.

Photographic work can pay between pounds 600 and pounds 800 per day, sometimes more. Even council homes are not ruled out, but demand for these is limited, so don't expect much response from agencies if you send in details.

So if you believe your house has the right features, how do you go about marketing it to the right people?

First a word of warning: avoid companies that suggest you can get your home into a Hollywood production but request an upfront fee to market the property. Sadly the money, in some cases as much as pounds 1,000, is likely to disappear. You may never hear from the company again.

Most film crews, especially American ones, want locations as close to London as possible. However, there is now a well-established route to tap into local demand for film and TV locations. Granada films many of its productions in the northwest, and there will also be some demand for properties in the regions, from local advertising agencies, for film and stills work.

To tap into this local demand, contact your local film commission. There are now 23 of these, covering every region in the British Isles. Their job is to promote the local region to film-makers. Telephone the British Film Commission, (BFC) for the phone number of your local commission (tel: 0171-224 5000). If you believe your property may be suitable for an overseas production, it is best to contact the BFC directly. They can advise you on the necessary steps.

As well as Strutt & Parker, estate agent Knight Frank, through its Hungerford office, and Smiths Gore, both market suitable properties to film-makers. Strutt & Parker provides clients with its own contractual service, which includes checking the insurance indemnity of the film producer.

While accidents are rare, they do happen. Ms Sugden says she recalls only one, when the leg of a chaise longue was damaged in filming. The company paid for the restoration itself. On the contrary, home-owners are as likely to find their property left in better condition than before - they may get a room decorated for free for example (although the company will always restore any changes if required).

There can be other drawbacks, however. You will have no advance notice of when a company may want to use your property which means you have to be completely flexible. In some cases filming may disrupt your life for weeks. You may even want to consider moving out temporarily. The film crew has a job to do, and once initial arrangements have been agreed, it may be best just to keep out of their way. Children and pets can prove disruptive to them and they may prove disruptive to you and yours. One home-owner found a crew of 60 descending on his home for the three weeks of filming with a converted double decker bus serving as a mobile canteen parked just around the corner.

So is it worth it? Can renting out your property make you a fortune? Not usually, is the answer. Curiously, film-makers are not keen on finding new properties for every production and are just as likely to use the same house over and over again. Ms Sugden notes that out of the thousand- plus properties on her books, less than half are used on a regular basis. At the Location Companies, only 50 are used frequently.

For some home-owners this can mean substantial sums of money, every year. One house on Strutt and Parker's books, set close to London, earned its owners pounds 60,000 last year. But many properties have not been used since the service was launched five years ago.

For those of you who want to give it a try, it costs nothing to have your house included on a database of a location agency or film commission.

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