Already the most filmed UK city outside of London, demand to use Liverpool as a location is showing no sign of slowing down.
As sites ranging from prominent city landmarks to residential streets continue to be sought by crews for a whole host of screen projects, we explore the ins and outs of putting your home in front of the camera.
In recent months alone, Liverpool’s profile as a top location for TV and film has been given a major boost. Not only has the city been used as the only non-studio set for writer J.K. Rowling’s latest Harry Potter-related screen creation, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’; but hit BBC drama, ‘Peaky Blinders’ is confirmed to return to Liverpool for a third series.
Such projects are just the latest in a stream of big screen productions and high-end dramas, so it’s no wonder Liverpool Film Office’s (LFO) locations co-ordinator, Kevin Bell, hails 2015 as “one of, if not the most successful year ever”. With this in mind, he insists there’s plenty of opportunity for residents of the city to take a piece of the action.
“What we have [being filmed] every single day is commercials, light entertainment, documentaries and so on,” says Kevin.
So how can you put your home on screen? And what are the benefits and implications?
Film crews have been spotted in historic areas including the city’s character-filled Georgian quarter on many occasions, but whilst such architecture may be a prominent pull for filming projects, providing confidence in Liverpool as a location, it’s by no means all that production companies are looking for.
Peruse websites of London-based agencies showcasing potential film locations across the UK, such as Shootfactory which has Liverpool houses among its range, and you’ll find striking architectural offerings and opulent homes being put forward for the likes of music videos.
Keeping it local though, the LFO is a key avenue for city homeowners to put any property forward as it not only acts as a port of call for production companies looking to make use of the area, but also maintains a database for which residents can sign up to for free.
“You find people who have registered have done it when they’ve literally just decorated or renovated, and we have the most amazing properties on there,” explains Kevin, adding: “People don’t tend to think of putting their house forward when they haven’t decorated for a year or two or they’ve got a more traditional terraced house, but what some would class as a normal terraced property is just as sought-after as anything else so what productions have to do is go out and search for them because they don’t tend to be on location databases.”
According to Kevin, a large and varied selection of potential properties ready to offer to productions, without them having to seek locations out themselves, will further strengthen the city’s chances of attracting more projects which can only have a positive impact on the local economy.
“Having that volume and diversity in residential properties will help the city attract production,” he says. “Even if those properties might not get filmed in themselves, they will certainly help bring more productions to Liverpool and help increase employment and investment for the city.”
What’s in it for homeowners?
From experience the LFO, which continues to remain involved in a residential location project on an advisory level once homeowners have been set up with productions, suggests it’s not uncommon for some city properties to be used time and time again.
As well as the expected element of excitement that comes from meeting actors and watching the filming action unfold, location managers are said to be keen to maintain a happy relationship with owners, in the hope of returning in the future if necessary.
With this in mind, looking after residents’ interests as their homes and lives are temporarily disrupted, and also providing “honest fees” in return are important factors.
“There’s a financial benefit – particularly with dramas, feature films and commercials – as they will come with a location fee which can range depending not only on the scale of the project but also the scale of impact,” highlights Kevin.
“There may be costs that a person needs to think about if they are going to allow a production to come into their property, and then that needs to be factored in and discussed with any fee, but productions tend to be quite honest. They’ll be very upfront so the owner can make an educated decision before they decide to move forward with filming.”
Scale and impact
How much filming takes place at a single location will inevitably vary from project to project, as will the impact on the property itself.
With discussions of the finer details taking place between production managers and homeowners prior to filming, residents can expect crews to be on site for as little as half a day with minimum dressing of the set, to a number of days with redecoration required.
“There are productions wanting a generic living room for a non-descript character that only has one appearance in the drama that they want to film for half a day, so they’ll do the minimum amount of dress and find a property that’s probably close to other locations they’re going to film in,” Kevin explains.
“Then you’ve got the other end of the scale, where we’ve had properties that have been filmed in for a week and every single room is decorated to the point where the production asks the person to move out for that period.
“It was a period production so they said ‘it’s your home and we’re guests, but we’d happily cover the cost if you wished to move out and just check how we’re getting on each day – you’d probably find that more comfortable’.
“That was quite a big feature film so you had about 70-80 people running around the property all the time.”
As agreed prior to filming, it’s standard for productions to compensate owners for any damage they may cause to properties and then to ensure they return homes to an “agreeable condition,” particularly where an extensive dress has taken place.
“The re-instatement is then essentially an opportunity to redecorate the house rather than painting the room back to the colour it was,” says Kevin. “Although if suddenly the demand is that they want this amazing wallpaper at £80 per roll and they never had it before, the production will say they can’t do that unless it was something agreed up front as part of the fee. You’ve got professional painters coming in and painting your house for you.”
Residents don’t always need to invite the cameras into their homes – sometimes being in the right street can put a property under the spotlight.
In such cases, liaison with households directly affected is standard as, again, production teams aim to keep residents on side.
Kevin suggests crews may look after online shopping deliveries to ensuring residents’ cars are securely parked elsewhere if such vehicles need to be kept out of shot, although it’s unlikely a general fee would be paid to a street’s residents for the exterior of their home being filmed. In the past, productions have instead made donations to local charities or projects.
“Where that then changes is that they might say they want to dress your windows, and there would tend to be a small fee involved where there’s more specific detail,” adds Kevin.