How to Make Up to $5,000 a Day By Having Your Home Star in a Movie

published Feb 23, 2019
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You’ve probably seen a good amount of Oscar- and Emmy-worthy homes in your lifetime: “Home Alone,” “The Truman Show,” “Father of the Bride,” “Breaking Bad,” and “This Is Us” just being a small handful of them. But did you ever realize that these houses on screen are people’s actual homes?

Many movie-worthy homes are rented out everyday for photoshoots, movies, TV, and music videos by production companies. In exchange, the homeowners usually receive between $1,000 and $5,000 a day.

Think your home might make a good set? Here’s how to get it ready for its close-up:

How to list your home as production-friendly

Start by contacting your state or local government’s film and television office to register your home as production-friendly. (You can usually find a contact e-mail or phone number by Googling your state or city’s name and “film and television office”).

At the beginning of every project, each production company normally scouts filming locations that match the planned look and feel of a TV show or movie, says David Bisson, a current Pennsylvania-based director of production with over a decade of experience in NYC film production. Once a filming area or region has been identified, the location department will usually reach out to the local film and television office for a list of registered homes.

Sometimes location departments also use online databases like LocationsHub, Reel to Reel Locations, or Set Scouter. You can list your home on one of these sites for a small monthly fee. For LocationsHub, it’s $5 a month or $50 a year. The listing process is similar to Airbnb: You give a short description of your homes and its unique features, and provide a gallery of photos.

“Good photos are a must,” says Sarah Le, director of social media with LocationsHub.

But other than staging some nice photos, hold off on doing any major renovations, she says.

“The production company wants your home as it is. If the production wants to change something, it will, and then it will put your home back to the way it was before.”

Sometimes, location scouts will occasionally see unlisted private residences in the area. They’ll reach out to homeowners to see if they’re interested in renting out their homes to the project. Bisson recalls one such private residence was found for the film “The Beaver.”

“We met the homeowner who was more than happy to let her house be featured and it was a main location of the film,” he says.

What it’s like to have your home used as a film set

So let’s say your home has been cast in its film debut: What’s next? Well, don’t expect to get to watch the movie magic unfold. You will most likely be displaced for at least a day as your personal items are moved, removed, and replaced with furniture and decor from the production designers.

Don’t worry about damages—production companies usually have ample insurance for their filming locations and someone will be on set keeping track of all the moving parts, says Bisson.

If something does happen, the location team member will report it to the production company, who would then compensate you for damages. If it’s extensive, they’d file an insurance report and make sure your house is returned to its original form, he says. (If you’re worried about being fairly compensated for damages, make sure you send your contract to an attorney for a second read before signing.)

If your home is only being used briefly for a single scene, you can expect the production crew will be there for a day at most. You might even be able to sleep in your own bed that night.

But if your home is serving as the film’s main location, you’ll most likely need to stay elsewhere while filming. Bisson says in the case of a longer rental situation, homeowners are usually paid an additional relocation fee or are often found temporary accomodations by the production team.

Laura Prebel, of El Cajon, California, rented out her home for three days last summer for the filming of “The Lost Films of Ko Chiaki.” Actors, video cameras, and production members piled in to her backyard, music studio, upstairs bedroom, and even shower to film scenes.

Since it was an independent film with a small budget, the compensation Prebel received was small—but she mostly did it as a favor to a friend. Overall, she thought it was interesting to see the process, but would only offer her home up again if she received a bigger check in return for the inconveniences.

What happens after filming?

Even though the majority of annoyances may end after the director yells “cut,” a certain number of movie homes may become celebrities in their own right. Don’t be surprised if fans start driving past and even staking selfies out in front of it. This happened to the homeowners of the house used as Walter White’s residence in “Breaking Bad.” While they’ve been cordial in letting fans take photos, they eventually had to install a fence to protect their property and their privacy.

Would you let your home be used as a film set?