Film presents unique opportunities and challenges for our community. The benefits of welcoming film productions include stimulating temporary investment, attracting future film activities, increasing civic pride, and contributing to tourism. However, it can bring disruptions to a neighbourhood’s daily activities. It also requires sound planning and good communication with all stakeholders.

Filming activities are generally brief in nature, often lasting a few hours to a few days. Yet the prospect of additional revenues and the possibility of seeing their locations on screen may be attractive to some property owners and institutions in Brantford.

Benefits and considerations when offering a property for film

Listing a property for the use in filming brings some benefits but also requires some consideration.

There are advantages of making a property available for film as noted below.

  • Potential income. Depending on your property, you may obtain hundreds or even thousands of dollars for each day of filming activities.
  • Possible upgrades. Often production companies will spend money and provide the labour to touch up or update your property to match the look they need. If you like the changes, you can ask them to keep them.
  • Great profile. Filming at your location will help elevate your property’s profile. It also adds to the character and history of your property to say a project shot on location there.
  • Elevating Brantford. The more unique locations available for filming in Brantford, the more the community can attract the attention of film. Often more options for filming can lead to greater filming activity which translates into a great investment in our community.

Before opening a property up to filming, here are also some considerations to weigh.

  • Temporary inconveniences. Filming activities will interrupt daily life at a location and the potential inconvenience must be considered. Clear communication and good planning can help to minimize anticipated inconveniences.
  • Time required. Preparing for film requires the time of property owners or their representatives including showing the property, arranging documents and payment, making alternative arrangements during filming, and post-production inspections and follow-up. Being flexible and understanding in advance the steps involved can maximize time for all parties.
  • Possible damage. While reputable film productions seek to be safe and avoid any damage, things can happen that can cause problems to the property. Clear terms in the agreement/contract, security deposits, and adequate insurance can provide the comfort and coverage to deal with unfortunate incidents.

Marketing a property for film

If you are marketing a property for film, consider these ideas as you start.

  • Showcase different settings. Productions are searching for unique settings and looks that add to the character of a filmed story.
  • Tell it visually. Take photos (yourself or use a photographer) of your property in a landscape orientation (snap the photos horizontally like you would see on a widescreen video) to tell a visual story of your location. Take enough photos to give a clear idea but 20-30 photos per location of the most interesting elements should be enough. Try not to zoom in or out (wide angle doesn’t always work well) but show it as the human eye may see it. Sometimes reverse angles (looking back) can help give sense to the space you are showing. Take 2-3 good photos from each angle/vantage (see next point). NOTE: If you are marketing a private residence, be thoughtful and cautious what photos you will share online, even in select databases.
  • Make the description accurate and interesting. In the description of the property, outline its unique aspects and consider including things such as its age, the style of its architecture, its size (e.g. square feet, ceiling heights, acres, etc.), different features (e.g. different rooms, amenities, décor – trim/molding, stairways, gardens, barns, ponds, woods, water access, etc), historical information, and other special selling points. Consider keywords to help in searches (e.g. brutalist, 1800s, carriage house, grand staircase, paneled room, library, redbrick warehouse, etc.). Keep it simple and factual (don’t over state it) and interesting.
  • Consider Ontario Creates. Film location managers most often begin their search for possible new locations using the Ontario Creates Digital Library. Consider listing your property in their library. (You will needs to sign a waiver granting Ontario Creates exclusive rights to each photo you submit – meaning your photos can’t be used anywhere else by you or anyone). NOTE: If you are marketing a private residence, be thoughtful and cautious what photos you will share online, even in select databases.
  • Balance expectations. There are thousands of properties (private, public, and institutional) listed across the province. For a film project, many properties across a community or across the province may be evaluated for a short or specific scene before the final location is chosen. If your property is considered for a scouting visit (checking it out in-person) it does not mean your property has been chosen as the final one for the scene to be filmed. Keep in mind that your property may not be scouted for filming, immediately or at all.

Readying a property for film

If a film production wants to use your property for film, consider these suggestions as you take the next steps.

  • Connect with us. If you are approached by a film production to use your property, consider contacting our film team to help you determine if the request is real or the people involved are genuinely connected with a project.
  • Remain flexible. Requests and demands may seem unusual at times. Deadlines may feel tight. Film professionals are under a lot of pressure. Understanding their position will help you build better connections and form realistic ideas of what is to happen. Try to remember that film productions operate on changing and strict schedules, and often work on multiple locations or in multiple communities at the same time. Being flexible goes a long way when working with productions that want to get the best shot but often have to adapt to circumstances (e.g. weather, illnesses, location cancellations, etc.) outside of their control.
  • Be ready for changes. Similar to the point above, every story and every scene is different. How every production works is different. The professionals making the project are different. Few things will be the same from scene to scene and project to project, even if you had the privilege of hosting a film production in the past. Be open to a change of plans.
  • Prepare your property. Take before photos (and later the after photos) of all areas of your property involved in filming activities as a point of reference or comparison. Also, provide the contact name and phone number of the person representing your property (if not yourself) who will be onsite when filming work is done. Depending on the arrangement, their fee could be included in the location fee or billed to the production company later. This person should be the first point of contact for the production for any questions or concerns. They should know the property to assist with things such as providing access to rooms or buildings, arming or disarming security systems, operating electrical panels, etc.
  • Ask questions. If a film production wants to use your property, it will serve everyone well for you as the land owner to be a part of setting the right terms. The section that follows gives you some ideas of what you could ask in advance to help you make a good decision.
  • Obtain a contract. Get a sound location agreement or contract for the use of your property that outlines key details, activities, and terms to which you agree.

Questions to ask prospective productions

Before you commit to any production, try to get the right information to help you make a sound decision. Here are some questions that may assist you in that process.

  • How long will it take? Find out the amount of time a production needs to set up for filming (prep), complete the filming, and clean up (wrap/strike) after filming. Try to get the specific start and end dates to help you plan.
  • What changes will be done? Find out how the production plans to change your property such as moving furniture, painting, landscaping, tree-trimming, putting down gravel etc. Get information on what they need to do to get equipment in/out and what they will do to dress the scene to achieve the look they need on screen. Find out what protection measures will be taken (e.g. moving furniture or artwork, limiting access to rooms, security, putting boards down to protect grass, etc.). Ask them how restoration will be done. Consider that if you like their changes (e.g. a painted room) you can ask them to keep those you like.
  • What if something goes wrong? Find out their plans for your property if something were to go wrong including risk mitigation and coverage (such as security deposits and insurance as noted below).
    • Consider asking for a security deposit. The amounts of these will vary from property to property and should consider planned activities, changes, or uses. Security deposits could a be certified cheque made out to you or your organization that you hold without cashing and return to the production when all activities are completed and your property is restored to your agreed upon condition. Or it could be some other form of payment held and the process of return agreed upon.
    • Ensure they provide proper insurance coverage for your property. This may include having your property (and perhaps your organization) clearly named as the additional insured on a policy. It also may include proof of the production’s valid general liability insurance. Remember that a more complex scene (i.e. number of people, action sequences, stunts, special effects, etc.) may require greater coverage amounts or more specific coverage (e.g. burning or pyrotechnics) clearly identified on a policy.
  • Who will be the production contact onsite? Find out who will be the production’s key contact(s) on site for you to get in touch with if there are questions/concerns during filming activities. Get the names and telephone numbers, and as well as the hours of their coverage.
  • What will the production pay to use the property? Discuss with the production the location fees and when they will be paid (e.g. all at once in advance, in installments, etc.). Determine what will happen if plans change. Remember that location fees are negotiated between you, the property owner, and the production company. The amount may be different depending on the location type, the extent of filming activities, the length of time, the potential impact or disruption, the risk, etc. Talking with the location management team from the production will be a great first step. Also remember that the City is not involved in location fee recommendations or negotiations for private or institutional property.

Health and safety considerations

Filming is a growing and safe industry for the province. Reputable production companies want to create the best product for the screen while being responsible employers, contractors, and stewards.

In Ontario, productions are subject to all applicable Federal, Provincial, and municipal legislation and regulations, including City by-laws and policies, wherever production takes place. The City’s filming by-law speaks to this in greater detail.

If you have specific questions about a particular production, please contact the production’s location manager or assistant location manager (most commonly named on notification letters circulated to the affected residents and businesses).

If you are looking for general info about film in Brantford please visit the film section of our website, or contact film@brantford.ca or (519) 759-4150.