Behind the Scenes with…a location owner

“We basically live on a film set!” Jen, owner of Location 604

Jen’s property is one of our favourite locations and has been featured on our location library since the early days of Locate Productions. Having hosted many shoots at her unique property in Bromley, South East London, we thought we’d find out a bit more from Jen about what it’s like to hire out your house for shoots.

When did you first realise you could hire out your house as a location?

I just read it in a magazine! It sounded like fun, so thought I would give it a go.

Do you remember the first shoot that you hosted at your house?

The first shoot was for an Italian fashion magazine. And then shortly after, the same photographer wanted a location for a Vanity Fair magazine shoot. He phoned me up and said ‘I really like your location but I can’t tell you who the talent is’ so I was quite excited! I was looking at who was flying into London on that date, and found out that Robert Redford was due to fly in. I said to my sister ‘perhaps it’s Robert Redford’ and she said ‘if it is, I’m coming round!’ Of course they didn’t say anything about who it was, but when everyone arrived the call sheet was on the table – I was a little disappointed to read it wasn’t Robert Redford, but a shoot with Macaulay Culkin and his siblings, entitled ‘Hollywood Brothers’. It was my son’s favourite film though, so he was dumbstruck!

What’s your favourite kind of shoot?

The best ones are the adverts where they’ve got a big crew and a location manager and you know they will look after everything themselves – so you can just sit back and let them get on with it. I love that. Everyone’s good fun, so I love all of it really, but those ones are the best – I like it when you’ve got a massive crew indoors!

Shoot for Walkers Crisps at Jen’s house.
Walkers/AMV BBDO/Kevin Thomas

Do you witness the shoots in progress?

It depends – you have to gauge it. Sometimes I just sit in my son’s room, which is out of bounds to crew, and if they want me they’ll come and find me. But most of the time they don’t mind you being involved and chatting to them. Sometimes I’m very involved, which is fun.

Have you ever featured in shoots yourself?

No, not yet…I’m working on that one!

How many shoots do you average per month?

At the beginning of last year it went crazy, we were probably having around one a fortnight – 2-3 shoots per month. Then it levelled off a bit. But last year I probably hosted about 35 shoots. I had 5 enquiry emails on one single day once!

It seems like you really enjoy hosting shoots?

Oh I do!

How about the most memorable adverts? Have you had any fun celebrity encounters?

The funniest celebrity just recently was Leigh Francis. He was so nice. Nothing like the character he plays. It was for his new show ‘Keith Lemon in the USA’. He’s really nice, so quiet! He was chatting with the crew and everyone, you have a bit of a laugh with him and then he puts his outfit on and he’s Keith Lemon. The prosthetics too, were just amazing…he was suddenly Taylor Swift!

How about celebs you’d like to meet? George Clooney?!

Funny you should say that – quite a few years ago I was at work and missed a call from Locate but had a voice message explaining you’d had an enquiry about an advert for George Clooney and a bank. I thought ‘Oh my God, it’s George Clooney, at last!’ And then, two hours later, I had another call to say they were shooting the advert elsewhere. So close, I could have cried!

Shoot for Fila at Jen’s house.
Too Hot x Fila/Tom Emmerson/Joseph Prince

What are the best things about hosting shoots? 

Meeting people, chatting with them. I hosted an editorial shoot with Cheryl Cole and that was really weird! It was a photoshoot for Wonderland magazine and she had the whole entourage – the hairdresser, the make-up, we even had Fabergé jewels here with bodyguards, the whole lot! Cheryl was really, really nice, I sat there for two hours chatting with her and then my niece came round to meet her and then we got told off for chatting – she had to go off to the X Factor!

What advice would you give to homeowners wanting to do what you do?

Well, you’ve got to be very chilled and laid back and you’ve got to let them use the whole house. You need to let people come in, do what they want, go where they want – if you’re going be a bit fussy over it, then I don’t think you should do it. They’re here to do a job and you’ve got to let them do it to the best of their ability.

Your property is one of the more ‘out there’ locations we have on our location library in terms of décor – your location really seems to inspire people.

That’s why we’ve kept it like that, I know it’s a bit sad, but in the twenty years we’ve been here we haven’t changed much. I mean, I want a new kitchen but everyone says oh no, don’t – we like it!

Have you seen the production industry change in the time you’ve been involved as a location owner?

One thing I’ve noticed lately in photography and film shoots is that some people are going back to proper film from digital. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the film cases in the rubbish, but I’m starting to find them again!

Are you inspired to hire out your property as a shoot location?

Register with our location library here.


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We caught up with the owner of one of our favourite locations, Brown House, for an insight into her experience of recently hosting a multi-media shoot during lockdown.

What were your initial thoughts when you were asked to host a shoot during lockdown?

Personally I was happy with the idea, however some of the family were concerned about strangers coming into the house who might bring infection, so we thought about it quite a bit. It made an important difference that the shoot was in the garden rather than in the house.

What were your main concerns ahead of the shoot?

The shoot itself was to be outside, but of course the crew would need access to the kitchen and the loo, so would not be entirely outside. The main concern was if the crew were not careful, they could inadvertently bring infection into the house. They were reassuring that they would be very restricted where they went and we decided we would disinfect the surfaces in the kitchen and the loos after everyone had left.

How did the experience of this shoot differ to pre-pandemic shoots?

Everyone was absolutely delightful, as always! On the recces, everyone wore masks, used hand sanitiser and kept their distance. They spent very little time inside the house, for instance they waited for each other and talked outside, rather than all being in the house at the same time.

How was your experience while the shoot was happening?

I was in the house to start with, but out for most of the day. The team were thoughtful, for instance they suggested opening up the side gates to give most people direct access to the garden, which limited the number of people who needed to come into the house. And they brought a winnebago, which was used as a green room instead of using a room in the house. During the day, someone needed to make a call – rather than just go ahead and use the study, they phoned me to ask if it would be OK for that person to sit in the study to make that call, which of course was fine.

Did you feel that the Covid-19 safety precautions put in place by the production were adequate?

Yes, very much so. Everyone was wearing masks, including outside even though it was hot. Most or all people were outdoors most or all of the time, they set up tents outside, so there were just a few people in the kitchen. Covid warning signs were also put up,  reminding everyone to wash their hands and the loos were clearly signed so no-one would go into the wrong rooms – they were very careful. And the house was left immaculate afterwards, as always.

What advice would you give other location owners, ahead of hosting a shoot in the current climate?

It’s a personal choice, people must make their own decisions. However I am happy we did it and this was a few weeks ago, the virus was more prevalent then than it is now. When we got back in the evening, we wiped down with disinfectant all the doors and surfaces where people would have been, it didn’t take long.

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