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Going Hollywood: How To Get Paid By Putting Your House In The Movies

Hollywood scouts are frantically seeking out those quintessential locations that you can only find in Gotham.

By Jeff Vasishta January 26, 2017
Credit: Lauren Mancke

Remember a decade or so ago, when you watched a film that was supposed to be set in New York but clearly wasn’t? Sure, there might be a few yellow cabs and a graffiti strewn wall and maybe a fire escape or two and some New York accents, but if the film makers expected you to believe it was actually the Big Apple they filming in, well, they were sorely mistaken.  That’s because it was once brutally expensive to shoot in NYC and so cities like Toronto were selected by location scouts to double for it. For a while now, those restrictions have been relaxed, and with tax credits now flowing like confetti, New York—the real New York—is once again the star of Tinsel Town.

Related: From Hollywood to Hotels: Directors Turn Designers

Hollywood scouts are frantically seeking out those quintessential locations that you can only find in Gotham. That stunning, Fort Green brownstone, or the apartment with dramatic views of the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty. The good news for homeowners who own such properties is that they need not worry about listing their homes on Airbnb or having to chase up tenants for late rent. Attract a major Hollywood film to your dwelling, even for a few weeks, and their fee will pay your mortgage for an entire year.

The New York Times recently wrote about the Clinton Hill Brownstone that was chosen as the setting for the 2015 Robert De Niro/Anne Hathaway film, The Intern. Its owner, Merele Williams-Adkins was paid six figures, while the production company paid for her family to relocate to a hotel. The house has since been used in print ads for West Elm, New Balance and Best Buy.

Mayor Bill De Blasio, like Mayor Bloomberg before him, is keen to court Hollywood who last year contributed $8.7 billion to the city’s economy and with 100 movies or commercials being shot at any one time in New York, you may well be sitting on Hollywood’s next superstar and don’t even know it.

So what do you do if you want to put your house to work? First, it may be wise to contact a location agent such as Debbie Regan or Andrea Raisfeld. They will help you determine if your house has a shot at a screen test. Word to the wise, if you happen to own brownstone, particularly in Brooklyn, you may well have a chance. Hollywood has fallen head over heels for the hipster haven of late. HBO’s Girls lit the flame first. ABC’s prime-time series Black Box, CBS’ Sins Of The Father, Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, NBC’s The Slap, Comedy Central’s Broad City and HBO’s Master Of None all helped fan the TV flames. Then, of course, there were the big screen outings including the aforementioned The Intern (of course!) and Bridge of Spies and don’t forget the charming Fading Gigolo.

“Manhattan has always told the story of aspiration and wealth,” Laura Berning, a longtime location scout, tells the NY Times. “Now Brooklyn is telling the story of a really upwardly mobile person.”

“For some people, their life is wrapped around the income they can make from their house,” says Nancy Haecker, Vice President of The Location Manager Guild of America According to locationsbub.com, “The industry rate per day is generally your monthly mortage payment. For example, if your monthly mortgage is $2000, then your rental income as a film location is $2,000 per day. Other factors such as production size, how long the film crew needs to be in your house, whether filming occurs outside or inside your home, your property’s ZIP code, etc., may even bump up the earnings for you.”

Also, according to the site, “If the house you’re renting is your personal residence and you rent it for less than two weeks a year, you do not have to pay federal taxes on the additional income. In many states, including California, homeowners don’t have to pay state taxes either.”

Like any industry, once you’re in the mix, there a good chance that your location scout may be able to book your home again and again. It makes perfect sense for homeowners who have already paid off their mortgage and are not sweating the bills every month, so if they go a few months without their house being booked they can enjoy living in it without worrying if they have enough cash to keep the lights on. And for those who don’t own pristine Brooklyn brownstones, there may still be hope. “It doesn’t have to be a pretty baby,” says Barbara Wilson, an associate broker with Halstead Property who works as a liaison with location managers and scouts. “An episode is not always about rich people with huge apartments.”

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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