LoHud film stars: Jenny Higgons has a great story in Living Here this week about local families who have had their homes featured in films, television series and print ads.
Richard and Stacey Baumer and their trio of kids and dogs barely had to break their daily routine a few years ago to earn up to a tidy $12,000 in three days. The family simply had to stay out of the way of a production company that was filming a pharmaceutical company’s TV ad in their Scarsdale house. “It was only slightly inconvenient,” Stacey Baumer says. “We’re flexible and laid back.”
Here’s the Baumer’s house:
Lillian Vernon has also “hired” the Baumers’ 1909 colonial for photos for its print catalogues. “They liked its original moldings and details, which we restored when we remodeled,” Stacey Baumer says. “They wanted traditional features and liked our fireplace, staircase, front door, window sills and staircase railing.”
Charles and P.J. Mouquin rented out their 9,000-square-foot Sparkill mansion to 20th Century Fox for the filming of its movie “Stay.” (The couple didn’t want to reveal their financial compensation, but it was in the healthy five figures).
When you settle in to watch the upcoming movie “A Good Marriage,” based on a Stephen King story, you may recognize the stately colonial home used in some of the scenes: It’s the caretaker’s house at Sleepy Hollow’s Philipsburg Manor Restoration, seen below.
Westchester and Rockland counties offer beautiful and varied topography, architecture and communities — not to mention proximity to the city — which make both ideal for shooting films, television series, and ads for TV and print. “In the past two and a half years we’ve seen a 60 percent increase in production and inquiries regarding Westchester,” says Natasha Caputo of the Westchester County Film Office.
But if you’ve been longing to see your colonial, contemporary or mid-century ranch up on the big or small screen, take note: It’s often a hit-or-miss proposition.
Michael Silver and Patricia Sheiner’s colonial in Sleepy Hollow has been close to being featured in TV shows and films six or so times but always ended up being a runner-up. “None of the reasons we were rejected were because of our house,” says Silver. For example, a production company was extremely interested in — to the tune of $15,000 to $20,000 — the married couple’s house for the movie “The Sitter,” a comedy starring Jonah Hill and several child actors. “But,” Silver says, “an aspect of the child labor laws prevented one of the kids from living in Manhattan and working in Sleepy Hollow.”
Sometimes it’s a matter of waiting for the spotlight to come to you. For “A Good Marriage,” Rob Schweitzer of Historic Hudson Valley, which oversees Philipsburg Manor Restoration, said it was just a matter of chance. “One of their scouts was in the neighborhood looking around and saw it, thought the exterior might make sense for his project. He looked into who the owners were, which was (Historic Hudson Valley).”
Along with simply eyeballing specific neighborhoods, location scouts often check with local real estate agents for appropriate properties. The Westchester County Film Office also maintains a database in which homeowners interested in being considered can register their homes for free. In Rockland, location scouts and the state film office get referrals from the Rockland County Office of Tourism and Local Development. “No knocking on doors anymore,” says C.J. Miller of the Rockland office. Locations scouts also go to local real estate agents for suggestions.
So what catches the eyes of location scouts? Just about anything, from a shack to a palace. It depends on the kind of structure or area the production calls for and if it would be less expensive to use the location rather than build a studio set.
“It’s an eyeball thing,” says Mitchell Brozinsky, a location scout who lives in New City. “Sometimes I recognize things I’m looking for only when I see them.”
Other factors include the availability of electricity or the feasibility of bringing in generators, as well as cooperation from the homeowner, neighbors and local municipalities.
Though homeowners can never peg the size and quality of house that scouts look for, some surefire stipulations exist. Rockland location scout Rob Striem says simple and easily altered interiors are highly preferable. Quality furniture helps too. “Low-budget movies sometimes look for homes with nice furniture so they won’t have to spend a lot of money to redress a whole house; a director can walk in and start shooting.” Brozinsky adds that producers don’t like wallpaper because it’s visually distracting and homeowners frequently don’t want it taken down.
Almost every production will want to put its design touches on the location, which means packing up and stashing all of your stuff.
As for “show me the money,” Brozinsky says that print ads can pay a homeowner $2,000 to $3,000 per day, while a TV ad can pay out $3,500 and up. Movie shoots can pay as much as $40,000 for two months.
Financial compensation aside, homeowners also get to exercise bragging rights.
Wilson says that it’s very entertaining to be watching TV and suddenly catch her house in an ad.
The Baumers also get a kick out when they’re flipping through Lillian Vernon catalogues. Says Stacey Baumer, “It’s fun to see our home and spotting where in our house the photos were taken.” Read the entire story and see a gallery of photos at LivingHere