With life being “a bit boring after covid”, Jackie from Auckland (surname omitted on request) jumped at the chance to make her home a filming location for a scene on Shortland Street.
She replied to a flyer in her mailbox, asking him to contact her if she would lend her house to the film crew. Jackie thought “why not?”.
In August, New Zealand’s longest-running medical drama moved into his living room, which turned into another chance to get a TV commercial filmed soon after.
Now, Jackie jokes that she’s on a mission “to be famous by not being famous.”
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“You never know where it leads. One opportunity opens another opportunity,” she says.
Unfortunately for anyone who dreams of their home enjoying TV fame, getting their home on TV is often pure luck and being in the right place at the right time.
Rob Deacon is a location scout for Shortland Street, and says that although websites exist overseas with location databases, in New Zealand if he is looking for a specific look, his job involves a lot of “search Google Maps, find something that fits and make the door knock”.
“If it’s not so specific, I’ll put flyers in mailboxes and see if people are interested.”
That’s how Jackie’s cul-de-sac in a west Auckland suburb became a Shorty hub for two days in August. It was a disturbance that she thought might be a problem for neighbors, but it became more of a talking point than anything else.
“They were all really good about it and saw it as something different. A little excitement, something to talk about in the street.
A neighbor, Deborah Larkins, was even offered $100 to allow the film crew to use her driveway for the day. But that meant a 6 a.m. departure—something Larkins was unwilling to get up early for.
But if you really want a famous salon, is there anything people can do to increase their chances of being chosen? Not really, says South Pacific Pictures production manager Jason Fitch, who is currently working on local series Ahikāroa.
“Sometimes we’re looking for really fancy places, sometimes we’re looking for a [rundown house],” he says. So giving the house a bit of a makeover won’t necessarily improve your odds.
Landlords can list their property for rent on the local Shared Space website, but locations are still typically found through door-to-door, online searches and drive-throughs.
However, if you live on a street with limited parking and nowhere for the crew to go to lunch, you probably won’t be the first choice.
“You might find an amazing home that’s perfect… [but there are] no park within 10 minutes for the crew to sit down and eat lunch,” he says.
Having a gorgeous home isn’t a guarantee either.
“It’s a bit like playing. You might have the best house in the area, but what we’re really looking for are crappy windows and an old-fashioned design. There are no guarantees.”
If you’re lucky enough to invite a film crew into your home, Jackie says it’s worth saying yes. And don’t be afraid they’ll leave a mess.
“They come in and take pictures of how you have your house. They make all the changes they need and put your house back exactly as it was.
Although Fitch suggests, while film crews are cautious, it’s best to put “Nana’s antique vase” or anything irreplaceable hidden away.
And once you’ve said yes to turning your house into a film set? There’s quite a bit of planning involved, Deacon says. You’ll probably have to leave for the day and it’s better if the animals do too.
The director and art director will assess the house and make sure it’s what they’re looking for.
“After that we do a technical reconnaissance” (that’s a cinematic term. It basically means checking the location to make sure it has everything they need) and a plan is made as to where the lights, actors and props.
Deacon then collects the notes and returns to the owner with a plan.
“It’s their opportunity to say, ‘Well, actually, I don’t want you to move that couch’.”
“Almost everything is agreed in advance and usually the owners leave for the day. We’ll do our thing, clean up and give it back to them. It seems to be working out really well.
And most importantly, if you allow a movie to invade your house for the day, you get paid, right?
Absolutely, Deacon said. Location fees are always paid to owners. As for how much?
That’s up to you and the crew to discuss.