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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At Locate we get to work with some of the best creatives in the business and we love being able to share with you the work they do and their career journeys.

Once such creative is photographer Stephen Ambrose. Stephen is an award winning photographer working with design and advertising agencies across the UK. He has recently won 3rd place in the IPA awards Extreme sports category for his latest project Calcio Storico.

Tell us a bit about how you got in to photography? 

My initial interest in photography began with my Dad.  He was a keen amateur and had an SLR. As my interest developed my parents bought me my own SLR when I was 12.  After some bad careers advice I ended up doing business studies at college. I lived in a small northern town and all the careers adviser knew was high street portrait photographers.  Then i got a job in a factory driving a fork lift truck and packing boxes. I stayed for 9 years but towards the end of this time I studied photography at night school where my tutor, Debbie, persuaded me to give up my job and go to Blackpool college full time to study for a degree in photography.  After graduating I relocated to London and started to assist. Firstly Architecture with Peter Durant and Grant Smith and then I fell in to the advertising world when my assistant friend Vik got me in as a second on a shoot with Adam Hinton. This has now taken me all over the world on many campaigns working with all the agencies in London.  In 2017 I won the portrait category at the AOP awards and this gave me my first advertising campaign and I spent most of 2018 working on numerous adverts for Adidas.

What appealed to you about starting this project?

This project started after spending most of 2018 photographing footballers at the top of their game. Then this made me think about what it takes to get to top level sports and I did a project on a young gymnast which showed me the passion that develops from a young age.  Which then led me on to how that passion continues if it doesn’t become a career. I was looking for a project that would show the ultimate passion and sacrifice and I came across Calcio Storico.

What is Calcio Storico? 

Calcio Storico is a game fought between the four districts of Florence, Italy every year.  Twenty Seven men in each team play a fifty minute game. Two semi finals on the third weekend in June and then the final always played on the 24th June, La Festa di San Giovanni (the feast of John the Baptist).  The game has been played since the sixteenth century in the Piazza Santa Croce. Passions run high. They do it for the love of their districts. No money is involved. The rules are no sucker punches and only one on one fighting but apart from this pretty much anything goes.

What were the challenges you faced shooting the project?

The main challenge shooting this project was rupturing my right arm bicep tendon a week before.  But also, as with any project, was gaining access. I had tried to contact the Florence government and was getting nowhere.  Then Locate productions put me in contact with an Italian producer that made a few phone calls and advised me that the best thing to do was for me to write a letter to the Florence government and state my case.  Its a very local event and they like it that way. It’s not something that they want to publicise to the world so I think they liked that I was doing it for me. I didn’t hear anything until 4 days before the first semi final when they emailed to grant press access and then it was a rush to book flights and hotel.

What are you looking to work on next? 

Now I’m looking for an agent.  I find that I’m quoting on lots of jobs but losing out to photographers with agents. The quoting and usage process is a minefield which an agent would be massively helpful as with exposure and self promotion.  I enter competitions and see art buyers and art directors with my folio but that extra exposure would be good. I think an agent gives an ad agency or client confidence in the whole shoot process, even if we all use the same production companies, casting directors, stylists, make up artists etc etc etc.

For my next personal project I’m continuing on the weird and extreme sports of the world.  Calcio Storico was the beginning and it was such an experience. High pressure, spontaneous, chaotic but at the same time keeping yourself composed and thinking of the big picture and how each image will work in the project.  With no art direction and no sports choreography you’ve really got to nail it first time as there’s no repeats of any actions. It makes the commissioned work a little easier.

 

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