Make your home a film location
2015 proved to be the busiest year Edinburgh has ever had for filming in the city, generating £6.9million worth of economic impact through the twelve feature films and TV dramas filmed here, along with dozens of commercials. With a recent survey showing that 40% of visitors to the UK are attracted to what they see on screen, film production in Scotland is also incredibly valuable to the tourist industry.
It’s the job of Film Edinburgh, the local film office for Edinburgh and the Lothians, to attract productions to the city by offering up a choice of great locations and properties for production crew to choose from, and they rely on ordinary people to submit their properties as possible locations, no matter the size. Rosie Ellison from Film Edinburgh is keen for as many property owners as possible to sign up to their location matching service. She says: “We need as many properties as possible to attract production companies, and anyone can get involved in this. You don’t necessarily need to have a big country house, it could be a family home, a flat, and on any scale or size, so don’t be put off because you think that film companies are only interested in mansions or New Town flats.”
“Location managers send out requests to film offices across the UK, or if it’s a production like James Bond, around the world. They will say ‘we are looking for a country house next to woods and with a beach, or a swanky apartment in London’, and they will then visit the ones that look possible.”
When Sunshine on Leith was shooting in Edinburgh, one of the requests from the location manager was for Film Edinburgh to find a flat where a nurse could live. “Not many nurses live in stately homes, they live in normal flats and houses, so a second floor flat in Polwarth was chosen and the experience was very exciting for the owner. She got to meet Dexter Fletcher, who was very charming to everyone, and she had a great story to tell,” says Rosie.
One home that has been used for a number of productions is Arniston House, a grand Georgian mansion in Midlothian. It’s a private home where the owners balance the running of a large house with a programme of private tours and renting out the property for film locations.
Henrietta Dundas is the daughter of the owner of Arniston, and helps to co-ordinate productions when they come to shoot. “We’ve done bits and pieces of filming, a couple of days here and there, and it’s been great,” says Henrietta. “It can be long hours and you’ve got to make sure you are available, but it’s good fun and it’s a buzz. The relationship with the location manager is key to it.”
One of the more recent productions filmed at Arniston House was the BBC three-part TV series Murder, which was filmed in numerous locations around Edinburgh and which used a central location as a base for the entire production.
Rosie says: “The location manager was after a base for the production which had an institutional look so it could double for police cells and a sports centre, and we found a school owned by the council which had closed down. The production was in there for three months, filming in different corridors. Everything else was filmed in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders. The second episode was set in Belgravia, in London, so we found a Belgravia type location in one of the smart flats in the West End of Edinburgh.”
Three months of filming and three months production brought in over £1 million to spend in the city region, and this money goes to the location owners, to hire the crew, for carpenters and prop-makers and electricians, bringing a real boost to the economy.
While some people might worry that all the equipment and crew could make a mess of the home, the production crew will always make sure a property is put back in exactly the same way. “People in the industry are very mindful of private homes,” Henrietta says. “The production and location manager are amazing and extremely resourceful. They take all the photos and they’ll remember where everything goes. If there was any damage they would fix it,” says Henrietta. “Watching it back, it’s surprising the detail that goes into making one little scene, but it’s exciting to see the property up on screen, especially when it’s fantastically lit.”
She adds: “Film Edinburgh is just fantastic and they are always looking to promote local properties to location managers. They have also used our holiday cottage, used local caterers, so it’s good for the local economy too. I would definitely recommend it – it’s like the circus come to town.”
If this sounds like an experience you would like to take part in, you can see for yourself what it’s like to rent out your home – and you might also be able to meet some of the actors involved.
“Filming can be a long, boring process, and usually the owner can duck in and out if they wish,” says Rosie. “The location manager will always look after them – they may not have a chance to meet the actors, but it depends on what’s happening in the scene. For the filming of The Railway Man, Colin Firth was great, he was out shaking hands with people who had come to see the filming and he wanted to meet the owners of the house.”
“2016 is already getting off to a cracking start with drama productions, and it’s looking like a very busy year. We do everything we can do to persuade productions to come here, so sign up because we need you. You can register free of charge. Just contact Film Edinburgh and we would be happy to register you, as we are looking for all kinds of properties.”