British Columbia

How to get your house a starring role when Hollywood comes calling

Registering your house as a potential filming location for the big (or small) screen is easier than you think.

From swanky mansions to creepy cabins, your house could star in Hollywood's next big blockbuster

This house on West 36th Avenue in Vancouver was used in the 2007 movie Juno. (Twentieth Century Fox)

If the beginning of filming season in B.C. makes you excited, there's an easy way to be part of the Hollywood action: sign up your property as a filming location.

Okanagan film commissioner Jon Summerland says filming scouts are always on the lookout for interesting properties.

"Generally, we want a house with an open concept. Somewhere where you can put a camera and half the house won't disappear. You want something that flows and gets good light," he explained.

While some people might think mansions make the ideal film location, Summerland says every house has its day.

Sometimes the production team is looking for something tiny, dilapidated or even "haunted-looking."

"We'll take anything and everything."

This cabin, near Hope, B.C., played a starring role in the 2012 horror film, The Cabin in the Woods. (Lions Gate Films Inc. )

As for how long the filming process takes, Summerland says it depends entirely on the shoot.

"If they're filming for three weeks, there's a prep generally of three days and a wrap of three days after. You could be out of the house for an entire month if you're willing to do that," he said.

"Generally, they're around two to four days."

Contract to protect house

While some people may be wary of handing over their property to film crews, Summerland says the industry standard is to return the house exactly as it is found.

Professional film companies will draw up a formal contract and provide insurance to cover any damage that could happen in the house, he said.

Crews work professionally in the space and often cardboard-up walls and cover floors, he added.

"By the end of it, your house should be back to normal in every way," he said.

The film series Twilight was partially filmed in Vancouver. A house in West Vancouver's British Properties was used in Twilight: New Moon. (Summit Entertainment)

Summerland said financial compensation for location use depends on the kind of house, the kind of scene and the region of the province.

For example, a small kitchen scene filmed between two people in the Okanagan might warrant $1,000 per day. In Vancouver, the rate could go up to as much as $7,000 per day. 

The key is to negotiate a rate that makes both parties happy, he said.

Registering your house

Registering your property is done through an online registry run by provincial agency Creative B.C.

The first step is creating a digital photo tour of your property, and Summerland says wide shots are essential.

"The film industry is wide shots, medium shots and tight shots," he explained.

"If you can show multiple rooms in one shot, that's great because then you can show action in different areas when you're filming."

Jon Summerland says take pictures that include multiple rooms — like this pan shot — so film scouts can picture how action can take place. (Creative B.C.)

While the pictures should be better quality and over 500KB, Summerland said it should still honestly depict the property.

Special features like pools, stairways, or interesting architectural details should be highlighted.

After you submit your files and your property checks out, it will be added to an online database. Private residences will be password protected and only be available for viewing by motion picture professionals. 

If there is any interest in your house, the professional will contact you directly if they wish to use your property. The production crew will still have to submit a permit application to the appropriate regional authority for permission to shoot.

"I don't think you're going to get rich off it, but it's going to be cool. You're going to have fun," Summerland said.

With files from Daybreak South

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled How to register your property as a filming location