On Wednesday, January 15, local business owners, residents, and location professionals gathered at the West Valley / Warner Center Chamber of Commerce for “Bringing Filming to Businesses in the West Valley” – a FilmLA sponsored networking event and panel conversation attached to the LA Loves Film campaign.
The event launched with welcoming remarks from Michael Owens of Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfeld’s office, before moderator Sean McCarthy engaged the night’s panel in a lively conversation about attracting filming and best practices for hosting filming in a business or retail setting.
On hand for the panel were two of FilmLA’s own, Permit Operations Director Josh Mingo and Outreach Liaison Carri Stevens, plus three experienced location professionals. Among them were Greg Alpert, COLA Award winning location manager recently with “Big Little Lies,” Jennifer Dunne, location manager on projects such as “Lisa on Demand” and “L.A.’s Finest,” and Michael Burmeister, COLA Award winner working recently on projects like “Hotel Artemis” and “Suburbicon.”
The evening’s far-ranging conversation featured a variety of tips and advice for first-time film hosts. Here are just a few of the highlights from the conversation.
- Proceed with landlord permission. Most residential and commercial leases set conditions on the use of rented property. Burmeister explained, “say for example you have a store, but you don’t own your building. We will also need permission to talk to the owner to make sure they’ll allow filming to happen.”
- Be flexible with location fees. No two film projects are alike in their scope and budget, so film hosts should expect to negotiate. “There are feature films that get made for a million dollars,” noted Dunne, “and there are student films people are paying for out of their own pocket. And obviously it’s different for a business than a homeowner, because we’re buying the business out, and different kinds of businesses make different money.”
- Market in multiple ways. It’s easy to self-market commercial property for free on CinemaScout, the California Film Commission’s location database. Beyond that, marketing help is available from third-party location services, as can be found in the Creative Handbook. Alpert noted, “When it comes to photography, contracts, insurance, site reps… location services can help you navigate those waters. Just don’t limit yourself and sign any exclusives.”
- Know your neighbors’ needs. Before signing an agreement to host filming, take time to discuss potential impacts with other residents or businesses on your block. Dunne clarified that “we don’t expect you to do our job. But if you have relationships with your neighbors it can help, because you have to live with them. We will communicate with everyone we’re parking in front of or in the vicinity.”
- Remember minutes matter. Location selection is often opportunistic, limited by time pressure and proximity to other planned locations. Make sure your front-line staff know to refer filming inquiries to your attention. “If we’re on deadline doing episodic television, it’s quick,” Alpert warned. “If you’re not always on site, talk to your management, give them permission to call your cell phone. Otherwise, we’re moving on because everything happens so fast.”
- Permits protect your property. Production representatives are responsible for applying for film permits, but it’s important that film hosts inspect permits to limit their liability. “It’s always in your best interest to require the permit,” advised Stevens. “Smaller filmmakers working without permits may not be following rules and guidelines, might not have insurance, and could upset your neighbors. That can burn the neighborhood, and then it’s harder with the next interested project to move forward.”
FilmLA shares its gratitude with all who gave of their time, space, and expertise to make this a successful event. For information about upcoming LA Loves Film events in your area, join the campaign mailing list below.