Spaniards beat recession by renting homes as film sets
More homeowners hoping to earn extra cash to make their mortgage payments are putting their old-fashioned apartments for film set rental.
For movie producers everywhere, cost is king.
So why bother splashing a large portion of a film's budget to recreate a 1970s Madrid apartment when you can find them in the city?
In Spain, private homes are often used as the setting for movies, television series, commercials and photo sessions. Well-known Spanish films – such as The Blind Sunflowers or Sex and Lucía – were shot in real-life houses or apartments, saving the cost of constructing a set.
"Building sets and shooting in them is expensive, which is the reason why natural locations are almost always sought out," explained Pedro Costa, a film producer.
The owners of these homes have found a good way to make extra money. According to the specialised agency Discovery 2 Localizaciones, they are paid between EUR 1,200 and EUR 3,000 a day, depending on the type of production.
It can even boost sales too – after all, who wouldn't want to buy the house where Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodóvar shot Bad Education? Owners also get a chance to show off their homes to millions of viewers.
Although the business is ruled by a few homes that are rented out on a regular basis, there is an increasing number of homeowners who want their share of the pie.
"I am getting calls from a lot more clients offering me their homes. Many of them have been on sale for a while, and so their owners are trying to make some money off them," said a spokesperson for Discovery 2.
"Right now the offer of homes is 30 percent higher than it's been during other years."
"For the last four months we have seen a considerable rise in the number of homeowners who register their property through our webpage," said an employee at Channel 1, another specialised firm.
"And the owners who are already registered call us to remind us that their homes are still available."
Not everything in the movies is glamorous as the industry is slowly feeling the effects of the economic crisis.
Demand for housing by producers is still the same, but the price they are willing to pay has dropped between 10 and 20 percent in October 2008, according to Channel 1.
It used to be around EUR 1,800 a day, but is now no more than EUR 1,200 to EUR 1,500, depending on the production, total days of shoot and the type of home.
Bad Education, for instance, was shot in a 400-square-metre villa at La Berzosa, in the Madrid region. Almodóvar's production company, El Deseo, rented the house through Tato Perdiguero, the man who runs the most active film location agency in the entire industry, and paid over EUR 48,000 for five months' of rent.
Another Spanish film, The 13 Roses, directed by Emilio Martínez Lázaro, used a home with a surface area of 1,000 square metres in Montepanarras, Torrelodones, and paid EUR 30,000 for the right to use it for three months.
There is a building located on Alfonso XII street in Madrid where countless movies have been filmed for the last decade, said Perdiguero.
One of the last was The Blind Sunflowers, by José Luis Cuerda, whose producers paid EUR 8,000 a month per unit – and there are eight in the building. Meanwhile, Julio Medem's Chaotic Ana was partly shot in a building on Eduardo Dato street in Madrid, at a cost of EUR 12,000.
"The type of home most in demand by film producers is the classic 400-square-metre apartment from the 1970s, which exudes both luxury and decadence," explained Tato Perdiguero.
But older apartments are also wanted. Regina is the owner of a 200-square-metre attic on the elegant Jorge Juan street in Madrid. For the last three years, it has been the setting of several shoots.
The secret of its success, she said, lies in the fact that "it's wallpapered and has old furniture - I've never refurbished it. My house has personality."
Regina's attic, which commands EUR 1,500 a day, was used as a location for Gordos, the upcoming film by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, director of Dark Blue Almost Black in October 2008.
There is also a demand for stand-alone houses with large rooms, and all kinds of decoration, from minimalist to classic.
For the last nine years, Javier Gómez has been renting out his 600-square-metre house in the upscale Madrid area of La Moraleja, although most of the time the star of the films and ads was the kitchen. It measures 50 square metres, has five windows, is flooded with light and boasts pure-white cabinets. This kitchen has featured in commercials for Campofrío packaged meats, Fairy detergent and Brillante rice.
But there are no rules as to what works and what doesn't.
"There are so many locations, and they are all so different. Modern, classic, seventies, designer, minimalist... Whatever the style, it could turn into a set," said a spokesperson for the agency Four Rooms Localizaciones.
In fact, the only real requisite is size. "The rooms must be large; everything else can be changed," says director Emilio Martínez Lázaro, who used empty houses to shoot The Other Side of the Bed and The 2 Sides of the Bed.
"We ask for a minimum of 100 square metres so they can fit all the equipment in," said the workers at Discovery 2, stressing that a film crew can be made up of 30 to 40 people - sometimes more.
For some owners, this extra income is the way to deal with the ongoing economic crisis. Before that, they used the money for work to be done on the property, but now it is an excellent way to make the mortgage payments, according to one agency.
However, in the case of the well-to-do, renting out their homes is more about prestige and personal pride.
In any case, it is an easy job. If the shoot goes on for several weeks, the producers will pay for a hotel stay. The average shoot time for a commercial is one to two days; for a film it is anywhere between one day and several months; and for television series it is once or twice a month until the season ends. A photo session can last anywhere between four hours to a day.
Owners get a check on the first day of the shoot, and there is insurance to cover any damage to the property - although nothing is ever damaged as a rule, owners said.
The agency takes care of negotiating the rent, going over the contracts, answering all questions, dealing with the insurance and just about everything else.
Some lucky owners even see their homes get a new lick of paint or a furniture suite at no cost to them.
El Pais / Sandra Lopex Leton / Expatica
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