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Here's a Cheat Sheet For Your Building's Movie Shoot

New York City

Movie Mechanics
Feb. 12, 2016

Your first step is for shareholders or the board to approach location scouts, location managers and publications like the New York Production Guide to publicize availability. “A good location is something that is distinct, architecturally interesting, and has a lot of space,” says Sallie Slate, who worked for more than a decade in the media relations department of theAmerican Museum of Natural History, where she oversaw the building’s role in Night at the Museum. She now runs her own business, Sallie Slate Productions, working as a liaison between buildings and production companies.

Damon Gordon, a location manager for many big productions, says one of the first things he looks for in a location is access. “We’re not going to be able to film in a wonderful apartment in a fifth-floor walk up,” he says. “We are nomadic companies and we travel with literally everything we need for a day. We are similar to the circus.”

If your building is chosen as a filming location, the production company will send a contract that contains basic provisions as well as some customized points covering your building and the production’s requirements. Insurance details should also be provided.

Now it’s time to agree on fees. While each production is different and there is no set fee for using an apartment or building, the Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting – the city agency that administers film shoots in New York City – suggests an all-inclusive fee or a rental fee plus itemized charges for electricity, water, phone, and furniture use.

Typically, a production company will pay each individual apartment owner a fee in addition to an access fee to the building for opening its doors. If filming takes place on common property, such as the lobby, another fee will be paid to the building.

Gordon adds that renting out apartments and your building won’t make you or your building rich, but it can have an impact on the bottom line. “There are a lot of savvy co-ops and condos that have reaped a windfall though the industry,” he says. “There are some buildings I have worked with that made enough money through productions that maintenance costs remained unchanged for years because we were offsetting that.”

So you have reached an agreement with the production company and the crew is due on Monday? There’s also the neighboring community to consider. The production company will secure permits from the city to film and park its production vehicles; these are the colored signs often posted in the street alerting residents about upcoming parking restrictions.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a film crew just coming to shoot in one apartment. Productions will need access throughout the building and will also need space to store equipment and for actors and crew to wait until they are required on set. “Apartments that think they just say, ‘Yes, come and shoot here’ have another think coming,” explains Slate. “When a film crew comes into your space, it’s like an invading army. You need to be clear about what it is you want, how much you are willing to give, how organized you are, and how committed your building is because it can be a pain in the neck. Film crews work like dogs and it can be a 14-hour day.”

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