Make Your House a Movie Star

According to Vince Graziano of location website, 85 percent of all film shoots happen on location. This doesn't take into account commercials, magazine shoots and others, which also need locations. So why not your home?

With over 40 states offering incentives for local film production, it's not only Los Angeles and New York properties that get rented for big money. This home at left was used in a Bud Light commercial, for example.

In these economic times you can have your home work for you. We tell you how the pros suggest you do it and just how much you can make. (Hint: There are three zeros in the per-day amount.)
Lesley Isiordia has worked at Los Angeles location company Universal Locations for 14 years. They only handle properties in a 30-mile range of Los Angeles and she says the sign-up process is easy. "We ask what city they are in and if they are in, say, Studio City, we ask for pictures and then we take a look. If it's amazing I would call you back right away and send the photographer out free of charge. If I'm not certain, we will send out a photographer and we will charge the client. It's a $175 fee, but if you film once you will make that money back. The price includes taking pictures and cleaning them up, and also uploading to our site. Then they are up forever and we don't have a yearly charge."

How much green you stand to make for your home depends on whether it makes it into a movie, commercial or still-shoot. According to Isiordia, "it could be $3,000 up to $15,000 a day. It depends on the house and the project, but $3,000 to $5,000 is the norm."

Not a bad daily rate for your house that sits there all day long.

And while Universal Locations does take a percentage of the rate (usually a 70/30 split, with the majority going to the homeowner), she says it's negotiable.

Of the 5,000 properties they have listed, Isiordia says, "some are used all the time and some are always the bridesmaid and never the brides. We don't know why some places don't get used." She suggests that style consistency can be a factor, so be aware of your furnishings. "If you have a great Spanish house on the outside, but French furniture inside, it won't work. If you have a modern house you need modern furniture. It's rare that production will take the furniture out. If they chose your house it's also because they like your furnishings."

This modern home at left was used in the movie "Swordfish" and an episode of "Gossip Girl" and is listed at

And don't think you have to have a mansion or something completely castle-like. They need all kinds of houses and styles, even barns, alleys, etc. as locations.

If you are in a city outside of Southern California or in small town you're not necessarily out of luck. "Michigan had over 50 movies filmed there last year," according to Vince Graziano of, based in California and Wisconsin. "So you can live anywhere and have your house used." Did you know "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" were filmed in Alabama?, which has properties from coast to coast, as well as in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico, has a database of 7,000 properties. "We are an online interface so you click to sign up. After the property is listed we notify the 3,500 scouts that use the site on a monthly basis. We charge a small fee of $3.95 a month to list your home and you can upload five pictures. If you want 20 pictures it's $9.95 a month. And we don't take a commission when the properties are used, which can be good for your negotiation."

To give an idea of how much people can expect to make on their property, Graziano says the industry standard payment is usually your monthly mortgage payment per day. "That's a great negotiating starting point. But that means if they really want your house they will pay more, up to $15,000 a day. Remember, it's cheaper to use an establishment that's already built than one they have to make."

While you can pay to register with these companies or others, there are also local government offices that keep property listings. "The film commissions want productions to come to their state, so what I always say is go to your local government film office's website and tell them to put your property up. Each state has a film office and, depending on the market, they will do it."

Graziano reminds people that houses can be rented out for events as well; corporate parties, weddings, and even as places for celebrities to stay on vacation. "Brad and Angelina rented a house in Tahoe for a vacation."

Homeowners often ask Graziano about the chances of their home being used in movies if it's listed and he says the same thing every time: "Better than not being listed." he says.

"I live outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and they used my neighbor's house for Johnny Depp's movie 'Public Enemies,' " he said. "Two days of shooting in Wisconsin and he made $11,000."

And who couldn't use an extra $11K?
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