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Picture Your Perfect Home : It Could 'Star' as Film, Television Location

January 24, 1988|BARNETT SUSSMAN | Barnett Sussman is a Times real estate writer. and

Picture this.

It's Academy Award time. The audience tenses with excitement.

The winner is announced.

You rise and acknowledge the applause.

But the Oscar isn't for you--it's for your house.

All this is only a dream, of course. They don't give Oscars for locations.

But if they did, a lot of Los Angeles houses would be contenders.

About 2,000 houses in Los Angeles County will be used this year as locations for filming, according to Gene Webster, director of the Los Angeles county office of motion picture and television development.

"Nowadays, film companies often find it more economical to find existing locations rather than build sets," Webster says.

Film companies pay from $500 to $5,000 a day, and more, for the right to film in a house, according to Jim Thompson, president of Real to Reel, a Hollywood firm that brings real estate owners and film companies together.

Mansions are the most wanted locations, he says.

A big reason mansions are popular is because they usually have large rooms that make it easier to set up interesting camera angles as well as to accommodate actors and crews.

But don't despair if your house isn't a mansion.

Film companies will select small houses or, for that matter, stores, banks, warehouses or any other kind of setting that best fits the story.

Occasionally, an entire street may be used as a location.

Former screen actress Maralou Gray specializes in representing mansion owners, here and overseas, who rent their estates as locations for filming or for parties.

Mansions owned by her clients have been used for "Back to School," starring Rodney Dangerfield, and the "Valerie" television series.

Gray said that while film companies will sometimes call for rooms with touches of marble or fancy molding, generally the best location is a plain room with four white walls.

Long driveways and large gardens are also popular.

Gray said that the most asked-for locations don't have palm trees, tropical foliage or other features easily identifiable with Los Angeles.

Location agents say their commissions average 30% for normal locations, with lower fees, averaging 25%, for mansions and larger properties.

Webster said the agent should make sure the property owner is protected with insurance against liability and property damage. The agent should also see that furniture is put back in its original place.

The property owner will normally be paid in advance by the agent.

Another important service that agents can perform is negotiating with neighbors, Webster said. He told of one unhappy neighbor who kept blowing his trumpet just to wreck a film shooting.

Although agents provide a useful service, there are other options, Webster said.

Owners of unique or historic property can send photographs to the California Film Commission, 6922 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 600, Hollywood 90028. This state agency maintains a library with more than 50,000 photographs of locations and receives between 500 to 800 requests a month from film companies. There is no charge to the property owner or film company.

Property owners can also contact location managers of film companies directly or advertise in Location Update or other film industry publications.

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