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How Long Island homes end up on TV, in movies

You don't have to own a mansion for your house to be in movies, TV shows, music videos, advertisements and fashion shoots -- and having the right backdrop can earn thousands of dollars.

A fashion shoot at a Roosevelt home.

A fashion shoot at a Roosevelt home. Photo Credit: Jackie Sanchez

For the past six years, Jackie Sanchez has opened her Roosevelt split-level to photographers and video crews to shoot fashion spreads for, among others, Vogue Australia, Allure, Elle UK, Nike and Playboy.

Besides the money and fame (of sorts), Sanchez, 53, a model and makeup artist, says she enjoys seeing her home, which is full of Haitian art and antiques, in print and video.

“I just feel like I’m hosting a party,” she says, adding that meeting Mary J. Blige during production for a music video partly shot in her home wasn’t too shabby, either.

Homes get their close-up

Many movies, TV shows, commercials, music videos and fashion shoots use homes on Long Island as backdrops. Shooting in a home versus a studio comes down to the budget and the script or storyboard, says Patti Brashears, owner of Featured In Films, a Huntington Station location agency specializing in the New York metropolitan area.

If productions are looking for a blank canvas, studios work better, but homes offer fine architectural details that you can’t replicate in the studio, says Brashears.

Production location scouts find houses through referrals from other homeowners and location managers, word of mouth, real estate listings and shelter magazines, Brashears says.

After selecting a house, Brashears’ son and assistant, Matthew Orsini, photographs the house and many of its details so that production companies can access her website of 5,000 locations looking for features such as a spiral staircase, a barn door or a wine cellar. Sometimes a house is chosen merely for its proximity to another place where the production company will be shooting, such as a village or park.

One consideration is whether a house is situated within the “Studio Zone,” a 25- to 30-mile radius from Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Per agreements with several workers’ unions, any location beyond the zone requires paying crews extra for overtime, mileage and possibly hotel stays, says Debra Markowitz, director of the Nassau County Film Office, which promotes and coordinates film, TV and commercial production for the county. 

What they're looking for

Location finder Nancy Grigor, who owns Hamptons Locations, focuses on properties from the middle of Long Island — Bellport, Yaphank, Patchogue — to the North and South forks.

Having worked on movies such as "Nanny Diaries," "Margot at the Wedding" and "Something Borrowed" as well as fashion and video shoots, weddings and events, Grigor says that in many cases the productions use only exteriors, and, for the most part, come to the Hamptons for property along the water.

Her company represents a wide variety of homes, from gated mansions to more typical Colonials. In fact, some fashion and retail companies, including Urban Outfitters, look for less extravagant houses such as ranches to appeal to their targeted audiences, Grigor says.

Easy money

The project’s budget is the determining factor in how much a homeowner is paid, says Brashears. Commercials can pay between $3,000 and $10,000 a day; television shows, $5,000 to $15,000 per day; and movies, depending on whether they are independent or big budget, $1,000 to $30,000 a day.

Photo shoots for print, Brashears says, pay on the lower end: up to $2,000 a day. But, she adds, "You don’t have all the equipment — it’s not the intrusion that you would have with a TV show. A TV show can be anywhere from 60 to 100 crew [members]. It’s massive." TV show shoots usually take three days: one for prep; one for shooting and one for wrapping, she says. Period pieces, however, may take a bit longer as designers create the desired atmosphere, she says.

Before any location shoot starts, Grigor says she demands a security deposit from the production company. She also requires the company to show a certificate of insurance for that specific home and property. “We don’t set foot on any property without it," she says.

Grigor says she typically works on a commission, on average 20 percent of what the homeowner earns.

Accidents will happen

A Long Island World War II veteran and his son sued Paramount Pictures last year for damaging property and losing family treasures when a crew shot scenes for the Netflix series "Maniac" at his Valley Stream home. (Their attorney declined to comment, and the men did not return phone calls.) Some damages or breakage can occur during shoots, notes Brashears. “I’ve never had anything major, but things do happen,” she says.

Once during a shoot, an outdoor light fell and burned a hole in West Hills resident Karen Alpert’s patio umbrella. The production company immediately wrote her a check to replace it. “They stood by their responsibility,” says Alpert, 55, an attorney.

During most shoots, Amagansett's John Bradham, 56, a yoga studio owner and instructor, stays in Manhattan, where he works and has his main residence. He says he trusts Grigor, his scout, to protect his home and property by ensuring his dark wood floors are covered before furniture is moved and that everything goes back to where it belongs.

One notable shoot stands out for him, but not because of any damage: During a Tag Heuer watches advertising campaign, Grigor called to say that actress Cameron Diaz was tired and would he mind her using the downstairs bedroom to rest. “I said, 'Absolutely I mind. You got to put her up in my bedroom!' ” he recalls.

How to get your house in a shoot

If you want your house to be in pictures, Huntington Station locations scout Patti Brashears recommends the following:

DECLUTTER The more minimalist, the more a company is apt to choose your home. It’s too time-consuming for the crew to clear out all your knickknacks. 

SHOWCASE EVERYTHING If you want a location scouting company to consider including your home in its inventory, send pictures of your place. Take pictures of everything. The more elements you show of your house, the greater chance it might get picked for a shoot.

DON'T PAINT Instead, redecorate or freshen up the house. It may be exactly what production companies are looking for. If not, they can “dress” it to their specifications.

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