ON LOCATION QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
PREPARING FOR FILMING!
Property owners often wonder how they can rent their home or business as a filming location for production companies. They have lots of questions: How disruptive will it be? Do I have to get my neighbors’ permission? How much can I charge?
This guide offers easy-to-read information about the entertainment industry, explains the process of on- location filming, and introduces some of the people you are likely to meet during the process. You’ll also find a checklist of questions to ask location managers who are interested in your property, sample contracts and other helpful information.
We hope this guide will remove some of the mystery about having your property used as a location. If you need further assistance, call us at 082 498 3622 or visit our website at www.joburgfilm.co.za
WHY RENT YOUR PROPERTY TO THE FILM INDUSTRY?
The short answer is that the film industry will pay you for use of your property. Productions create other benefits as well, which we’ve listed below:
Numerous industry regulations govern how production companies treat your property. They are encouraged not only to leave the site in the same condition as when they found it, but often film companies will leave property in better condition. Based on the needs of the production, and with your permission, experienced construction personnel might need to mend cracks in walls, give a room a fresh coat of paint or plant new landscaping. It’s an unexpected way to give you property a fresh look!
From the first use of your property – and your reputation in dealing with the crew – positive word-of-mouth can attract other film, television and commercial producers. Then there’s the promotional or resale value in being able to say "My office building was featured in three episodes of CSI" or "they used my home as the hero’s house" in a major Hollywood hit.
Furthermore, money spent in Johannesburg benefits the entire city economy.
If a company is denied use of a preferred property, it is forced to look somewhere else. Sometimes that means outside of Johannesburg. And when productions leave the city, they take their checkbooks with them. We want to do everything we can to ensure that they stay, reinforcing Johannesburg’s image as a "filmmaker-friendly" city.
WHO IS THE FILM INDUSTRY AND WHY ARE THEY IN SUCH A HURRY?
The film Industry seems glamorous to most people – until a film crew sweeps in and takes over their property. While there’s a great deal of pressure to “get the shot” and move on, there’s also a great deal of waiting around while equipment must be moved and people serviced. The same scene can be shot over and over until the director is satisfied. Days are long and tempers sometimes get short. It’s just like any business, except suddenly it’s in the midst of your home or office. Don’t worry. If you know what to expect, you can minimize the impacts and enjoy the filmmaking process.
Types of Productions, Schedules & Budgets
Locations for all entertainment projects are scouted and secured during the period before filming known as "pre- production." The time allowed for this can be as little as a few days, depending on the production. The main types of production most likely to be interested in your property are feature films, television and commercials.
Feature films typically have a cast and crew size of 85-150 people. Budget range from less than R1 million to over
R100 million, and preparation may begin up to 4 months in advance of the start of principal photography. During this time, budgets are set and locations are chosen. The average shooting schedule for a film is eight weeks, and one location might be utilized for only a day or two, or for the entire production.
Made-for-Television Movies and Mini-Series
The average crew size for a mini-series or made-for-television movie is similar to feature films. The budget per television movie is approximately R1-8 million. Mini-series budgets can easily triple that figure. Pre-production for this format is usually 30 days.
Episodic or Series Television
These are usually one-hour dramatic series that regularly shoot on the streets of Johannesburg and other Gauteng communities. Cast and crew sizes for television shows are slightly smaller than for features. They film an episode in six working days, with four to five days per episode shot on location. Most action series average nine locations per episode. Episodic television and commercials almost always suffer from severe time crunches. Quite often, a series is given an approved script just days prior to production. In addition, episodic television often uses the same locations multiple times, creating a recurring source of revenue for the homeowner.
Commercials have a very short turnaround time. They frequently shoot and edit in one week, and the spot is aired the following week or two. Often, if the advertising agency is from outside of South Africa, final decisions on locations are not made until these executives arrive.
For all types of production, the average filming day lasts twelve hours, sometimes a little longer. The scheduling of each shooting day is critical to keep the production on time and on budget. This includes allowing time for cast and crew to drive from the base to the location; parking trucks, vans and trailers; unloading equipment; setting up lights, sets, props, etc.; incorporating lunch breaks for the cast and crew; and possibly moving the entire production to a secondary or adjacent location. Any deviation from a set schedule can potentially make or break a project.
Regardless of the size or type of production, the key players with whom you’ll be involved will be similar:
Location Scouts are responsible for finding locations to match those in the script. They typically do not negotiate contracts or make final arrangements with the property owner, but instead turn those tasks over to either the location manager or production manager, depending on the type of production. Although the Location Scout, managers the relationship between you and the production company, due to trust, therefor looking after your interests at heart and the production company. The Scout at all times is your friend and looks after your interests at heart. We are usually Professional Ex Location Managers, with vast production and filming experience to guide you through the process.
Location / Unit Manager
This department head is responsible finalizing the locations needed for the script. Location Managers negotiate location contracts, secure JMPD personnel, and oversee all aspects of the shoot while at the location. Since their job is to stay at least one step ahead of the production, they may not be present on the actual day of filming. However, a location assistant or other company representative will be on-site. The location manager and the location scout are often one and the same person. The location manager will also be the one who will most likely deal with you when the company finishes filming on your property; the first to arrive and usually the last to leave!
You may also want to be familiar with the following types of crew members:
Production Manager / Producer
This is the executive in charge of all production arrangements, i.e., location contracts, negotiations and oversees the budget. The location manager reports to the production manager (features and television) or producer (commercials). On some productions, the PM may not be at the location, but can be reached at the production offices.
First Assistant Director (1st AD)
The main job of the first assistant director (1st AD) is to work as an intermediary between the director and the cast and crew and manages the shooting schedule. The 1st AD is: in charge of the set and everything that happens on it; always on-set and one of your most important contacts on the day of filming.
SCOUTING & PREP!
In most cases a location manager or scout will call or visit you to request the use of your property. Your first questions should include:
• What type of production is it (commercial, TV, feature)?
• What is the name of the production company and what is the title of production?
• Who is the contact person at the production company?
• How many shooting days will there be? Will there be nights, days or both?
• What will the hours of shooting be?
• Will there be any set dressing/prep days?
• Can you please provide a description of activity?
• How many people and vehicles will there be?
• Are there any SFX or stunts?
If you do not recognize the production company’s name, there are several ways to determine its credibility:
• Ask for the producer’s or director’s list of credits
• Check free Websites such as www.imdb.com for producer’s credits.(Feature Films & Series)
• Ask for Production Companies details or website information.
• Ask for proof of insurance
• E-mail Joburgfilm: email@example.com
When considering the location request, take into account:
• Inconvenience – If you are a landlord, for example, how do your tenants feel about filming?
• Accessibility – Can a camera, lights, and 30 people fit in the area?
• Safety – Is it safe to film there?
• Are there children in the neighborhood and is it safe for them or will filming be disruptive?
• How will this disrupt your life if at all? Take into consideration family, pets, etc.
Information to give the film company:
• Turnaround time – when you can approve the use of your property and sign the contract
• Restrictions or conditions, if any, on the use of your facility
• Fees and personnel costs
• Local film permitting information (Including requirements for permitting private properties in an estate. The location manager will obtain road permits prior to filming, but it’s good for you to know about film permit requirements and the fee structure, if any.)
• Special requirements, e.g., only certain parts of the property are to be used, etc.
WHAT SHOULD YOU CHARGE!
You’ve decided to say yes, and now it’s time to set the fees. How do you do this?
Joburgfilm recommends that you develop a sliding fee scale that takes into account various production budgets and the crew size. Don’t forget to consider the time the company needs to dress (prepare) a location and strike (remove) the set dressing. You should charge a lesser fee (one-third to one-half of film day fees) for these days.
You should also consider the length of time that the film crew is there (some shoots may last only a half- day or less).
Additionally, if you are a small business (shop or service), you should be compensated for loss of business while your premises are closed for filming, this will be included in the Location fee. If you are a larger business (corporation, office building) and not necessarily put out of business for the filming day, but inconvenienced, base your price on the rate comparable businesses in your area charge film companies for similarly requested activities. Leave negotiating room for differing types of activity and impact.
You should also take into consideration your level of inconvenience. You may wish to have different fees for interior and exterior filming. Since exterior filming is less intrusive, we suggest you charge a lower fee.
If you are a property owner or manager, decide whether you will have an all-inclusive rate, which includes an on-site monitor, electrician and any other required building services or personnel, or a use-fee plus reimbursements. If the latter, then be prepared to provide estimates to the production company of the approximate cost of these services and personnel. Shortly after the production wraps, prepare an invoice for the actual costs.
Usually, only the location scout or manager will conduct the initial assessment of your property. If you have a list of written guidelines, provide him/her with them before the scout begins. If you don’t have guidelines, you might want to create some.
The location manager or scout will consider the following:
• The "look" – does the location meet the needs of the script?
• Is there ample parking close by?
• Is there an area close by for the caterer to feed the cast and crew?
• Is there sufficient access to the facility – if needed, freight elevators, loading docks, etc.?
• If there are tenants, are they amenable?
If you are a business owner, guidelines should include your company’s policies in the following areas:
• Electrical – Can a production company use the on-site power? Would this be an additional cost?
If the production company needs to tie into building power, does a building electrician need to be present?
• Maintenance – Are there any regularly scheduled activities that may interfere with the proposed filming (e.g. housekeeping, gardening, watering Schedules, window washing)? What about the crew using on-site trash receptacles? Who will be responsible for ensuring that the location is left in a condition acceptable to the management?
• Parking – Can the company park any or all vehicles on or near the premises? The average feature film will use 5 to 10 equipment trucks and 40 to 65 vehicles. The average commercial will use half that amount.
• Management – What types of insurance will be required? What type of contract? Who will be assigned as the principal contact? Who will actually work the shoot (if different)? How will charges be assessed – flat fee plus reimbursement or all-inclusive? Who will provide security, and access to the building after hours? Can the company use your public or private ablutions?
These are the conditions for filming which should be included in your contract with the film company. If you have tenants, it is important that they be asked how they feel about filming, and that you also work with them on the basic guidelines.
If you are a homeowner:
• For your property’s protection, there should be NO EATING, DRINKING or SMOKING in the house (unless the script calls for it, on-camera only). You should have the production company place signs around the house to that effect, or have the company representative do so. You may wish to designate an area in the backyard for these purposes.
• Large trucks should not be allowed in the driveway because they tend to damage things like sprinkler heads. If you decide to allow this, make sure to do a walk-through after filming with the location manager to assess any damage.
• Vehicle and equipment parking should be planned in a way so as to avoid congestion on your street.
• Lights should be placed in such a way as to not scorch walls, ceilings, curtains, plants or trees. They should be checked periodically for safety.
• Nails, tape, pushpins, tacks, clamps, etc., should not be used on ANY wall, door, beam, or woodwork without prior approval.
• All floors should be covered in areas where crew will be walking. Power cords may be brought through the house, but only on floors protected by coverings or layout board.
If the location works artistically and logistically for both the production and for you, the location manager will return with the director, first assistant director, unit production manager and the production designer or art director and other necessary personnel to conduct the ‘location Recce.’ At this point, your property is under serious consideration and is competing with other, similar sites, which the production company will also be scouting in a narrowing-down process.
The director or production designer may ask if home furnishings, plants and other items can be added, moved or removed for the shot. They may also ask to paint or make other alterations. Be as flexible as you can – the director is trying to match your location to the script.
On your end, who gives the final approval? Who signs the location contract? If the person responsible for giving approval is unavailable, who may act in his or her place? Time is of the essence when a production company is making final arrangements for a location (known as "locking down"). Many times, locations have not been selected because approval could not be given to the company in time. Having an established set of guidelines that clearly outline the filming policies for your property can eliminate concerns, and enable you to more comfortably say "yes."
This is the most important part of hosting film production. It is vital to include as much information in the location agreement/contract as possible – for everyone’s protection. The film company usually has a standard location agreement that you may use if you prefer, but attach your provisions/conditions to it.
A sample contract can be found in Form C, Sample Contract.
If you manage or own a building, you need to determine what your role will be when companies are using only tenant space and no common areas. Joburgfilm recommends that, when the common areas of the building are not directly affected by the filming activities (such as production using a ground floor restaurant with access to the street, or shooting stills in a conference room), no contract be executed with the building itself. If the entire property is tenant occupied, then the entire agreement should be with the tenant. If you generally have a "no sublease" clause in your leases, you may want to exclude filming/location use.
It is wise to require payment or partial payment before the shoot is scheduled to begin. If you plan to request a damage deposit, make sure this information is included in the guidelines you establish, so the company can prepare the necessary paperwork.
Most insurance policies for filming on location cover liability. Ask the location representative for your copy of the company’s insurance Policy, prior to filming.
Once you and the company have "locked down" the shooting schedule, the company will most likely need a prep day or two before the shoot to dress (prepare) the set.
Preparation may include:
• Covering existing signage
• Placing gels or other covering over windows
• Removing/rearranging/adding furniture
• Painting leaves and foliage or adding foliage and greens
• Erecting flats (i.e., wood panels, which are painted to resemble walls)
• Adding tabletop props and wall hangings
• Removing/replacing doors
• Clearing parking spaces on the street by posting "no parking" signs 24 hours in advance, or by bagging meters, or placing company cars or security personal in spaces to reserve them.
Don’t forget to be a Good Film Neighbor
Before filming begins, the Production Company should do a letter drop to all Neighbors informing them of the shoot day and times. Responsibility crew etiquette should follow to ensure that more filming will be welcome in your community. You, too, need to be a good neighbor, landlord or property owner. Also, be sure to contact anyone who will be impacted in advance by the filming, working closely with the location manager for proper notification.
THE TECH RECCE!
Before the scheduled day’s work is to begin, you should arrange to meet with the location manager and/or the first assistant director and any other critical personnel to run through the day’s shoot. This meeting should be held prior to the arrival of equipment as the placement of vehicles is critical. The purpose of this “pre-filming meeting” is to make sure everyone is clear on what was agreed upon, and what both parties expect.
For smaller film companies, there may be only a van or two and a few private vehicles. For larger companies the equipment trucks will arrive first, and include:
Parked closest to the location:
• Electrical truck (contains all lighting equipment)
• Grip truck (contains camera support equipment)
• Lighting Generator (contains Silent Generator & Cables)
• Camera truck or van (camera equipment)
• DIT Van (Digital Imaging Technician)
• VT Van (Video Tape Operator)
Space permitting, this equipment also needs to be parked as close as possible to the location:
• Set dresser’s truck (contains props, flats, greenery)
• Special effects truck (if required, contains material/props for stunts, special effects)
• Crane (if needed, a large crane on wheels)
Parked nearby: A large open area ground or parking lot as a Base Camp. (Feature Films Mainly)
• Ablution Units – toilet units (commonly called a "honey-wagon")
• Wardrobe trailer
• Catering truck
• Motor homes (two or more), for actors or director
• Mini Vans (for shuttling crew, cast)
• Production & Private cars
In addition, there may be "picture vehicles" – cars/trucks used within the shot. The trucks will be unloaded and the first set will be "set." This takes about 1-1/2 hours. Then the cast will arrive.
The role of the On-Site Monitor:
If you are a business owner or manager, it is important to have someone monitor the filming throughout the day. Your monitor should be very familiar with your company’s particular guidelines and should have the authority to approve or deny any filming requests as they arise. If you need to find the location or production manager, find a crew member with a radio and have them paged.
Some possible last-minute reasons why your property won’t be used:
Weather – Cover Set
The most common reason for change of location on short notice during shooting is weather. Some companies will have a "cover set" (alternate interior location) but will need to reschedule.
The company may get ahead of or behind schedule and the shooting schedule may call for a location that was previously set for another date.
Cast (Illness, Conflicts, Not Scheduled)
An actor in a particular scene scheduled for that day’s shooting may be ill, which would mean a change to another location at the last minute.
Script rewrites occur quite often and can create location changes.
Equipment Breakdown or Non-Arrival
The breakdown of equipment such as cameras and generators can bring about last-minute changes in the location schedule.
After the last shot is completed, the cast will leave and the crew will “wrap out” (close out the production). The Location or Unit manager will stay until the last truck has left. Make sure the film company employees leave your location the way they found it! All trash should be removed and all furniture, signs, etc., should be restored to their original places. Make sure that you have in writing a provision that the film company must restore your property to its original condition.
If you can spot damages as the company is wrapping out, bring it to the attention of the location manager. They will either fix them at that time or schedule a day to complete repairs. If damages are extensive, present them in writing as soon as possible to the location manager or the production manager, who may then file an insurance claim. While on location, a film company is adequately insured for property and injury. This also includes personal damage if, for example, a crew member backs his truck into the neighbor’s car.
As mentioned, Joburgfilm encourages payment upfront, or partial payment per week for longer feature films and series, be finalized before the company leaves the location.
Total: Cast & Crew:
Vehicles: Production: Non-Production:
Monitor Arrival Time: Departure Time:
Review the location agreement with the location manager, ensuring compliance with all provisions before allowing vehicles and production personnel into the facility.
Ask to see the applicable JMPD permit and confirm any requirements or restrictions (i.e., safety officer, number of JMPD officers, etc.).
Introduce yourself to the Transportation Captain and discuss any rules, regulations and agreements pertaining to vehicles operation within the facility or on the grounds. Be sure to address speed limits, and any other concerns.
Assist in the placement of vehicles and equipment on property allowing for normal vehicle traffic by tenants and visitors.
Establish a crew meal area.
Introduce yourself to the craft services person to ensure they know that litter, cigarette butts, etc., are their responsibility and are an ongoing task rather than to be cleaned up when the production has wrapped.
Introduce yourself to the greens people (if applicable) to explain the policies on use of greens, disposal, and protection of existing plants and landscaping.
Establish smoking areas and ensure they are equipped with butt cans. Advise 1st AD that failure to comply with the smoking guidelines will result in termination of the smoking privilege.
Check all areas of activities, including parking lots and crew meal areas to ensure they are cleaned and returned to their original condition at completion of filming.
Inspect all areas for any damage and report to the location Manager
General Provisions to Location Contract:
Activities, areas of use, dates and times of filming, will not be modified without express written approval of the manager, owner or designee.
All areas of the property not specifically included in this agreement are off-limits to all cast and crew. Tenants, public, staff, and visitors will not be restricted except during actual filming, unless otherwise agreed.
Areas of production company use are to be kept continually free of trash, litter, etc., and are to be maintained in a safe manner. Cables, dolly track, and other potential hazards are to be shielded. If interiors are permitted, floors and walkways will be protected from excessive dirt or water. Landscaped areas are to be undisturbed unless otherwise agreed.
No person and/or animals are to be brought on the property. Unless otherwise agreed.
Check and/or initial the items below which apply to this contract:
Production company is to furnish own - electricity trash receptacles sanitary facilities phones
Areas of filming will be cleared of hazards at the end of each day’s filming or a set security guard will be provided by the production company. This set guard will follow the guidelines set by the owner and/or agent.
No overnight storage of equipment or vehicles. ( ) No smoking permitted.
Smoking permitted only in designated areas, which are properly equipped with butt cans. ( ) No interior filming or activity.
No activity, including arrival of vehicles and/or personnel will occur before a.m. or after p.m.
Crew meals will be set up as follows
Except as otherwise designated, no food or drink is permitted in the interior of the property. ( ) Parking of vehicles and equipment is as follows:
Any set construction, removal or covering of signs, painting, nailing, taping, or any other alterations to the property are prohibited unless specifically described below:
FILM CREW CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY:
Welcome, and thank you for choosing to film in Johannesburg! Johannesburg’s communities look forward to welcoming film industry personnel as guests when filming on location. To help ensure a positive experience for all concerned, Joburgfilm has developed the following film friendly guidelines:
1. When filming in a neighborhood or business district, proper notification should be provided to each merchant or resident who is directly affected by the company. This includes parking, base camps, and meal areas. The filming notice should include: *name of company *name of production *company.
2. Production vehicles arriving on location in or near a residential neighborhood should not enter the area before the time stipulated in the permit, should park one-by-one, and turn off engines as soon as possible. Cast and crew should observe designated parking areas.
3. Do not trespass onto neighbors’ or merchants’ property. Please remain within the boundaries of the property that has been permitted for filming.
4. Moving or towing of the publics’ vehicles is prohibited without the express permission of the JMPD or the owner.
5. Cast and crew meals should be confined to the area designated in the permit. All catering, craft service, construction, strike and personal trash must be removed from location.
6. Removing, trimming and/or cutting of vegetation or trees is prohibited unless approved by the permit authority or property owner.
7. All signs erected or removed for filming purposes will be removed or replaced upon completion of the use of that location unless otherwise stipulated in the permit.
8. Please keep all noise levels as low as possible.
9. Observe designated smoking areas and always extinguish cigarettes properly.
10. The cast and crew should not bring guests or pets to the location, unless expressly authorized in advance by the company.
11. All sets and props should be removed upon completion of use.
12. The Production Company will comply with the provisions of the permit at all times.
13. Production companies will refrain from using lewd or offensive language within earshot of the general public.
COMMUNITY "GOOD NEIGHBOR" CODE OF CONDUCT:
TO RESIDENTS AND MERCHANTS: If you plan to host filming at your property, you will become an ambassador from your community to the production company, and from the production company to your neighbors and the community at large. By encouraging the production company to treat the community with care, you can help ensure that the filming experience is a positive one for all concerned, and that this company and others will be welcome to return.
1. When hosting filming in a neighborhood or business district, residents and merchants choosing to allow production at their property should do their part to be "good neighbors."
2. Neighbors’ concerns should be properly addressed to ensure the shoot goes smoothly and is a positive experience for everyone involved.
3. Every effort should be made to ensure that production company members do not disturb your neighbors, especially if hosting filming requires preparation days involving construction to "dress" your property prior to actual shoot days.
4. It is a good idea to introduce yourself to your neighbors and personally notify them that filming will be taking place at your property or place of business. Many jurisdictions issuing film permits require notification to affected residents and/or merchants.
5. Discuss the company’s parking plans prior to the shoot and convey any concerns voiced by your neighbors. This will avoid problems like blocked access to driveways or roads that can cause ill will between you and your neighbors.
6. When appropriate, with advance approval and coordination with the filming company, invite neighbors to view the filming or have lunch with the crew. This will go a long way to promote positive neighborhood relations.
7. Hosting filming frequently can take a toll on your neighbors who may not receive the direct financial benefits that you enjoy. You may want to consider ways you can give something back to your community for the inconvenience, such as support for local organizations or simply hosting a backyard braai.
8. When filming occurs at night, excessive bright lights and noise may disturb your neighbors. Prior to filming, be certain to discuss such activities with your neighbors who may be adversely impacted and make sure the production company addresses their concerns. People want to feel that they have been included in decisions about activities that may directly affect them.
Hope this helps you enjoy your filming experience as much as we love making them!