The Unofficial Rules for Shooting a Student Film in Someone Else’s Home

Posted: November 11, 2008 by jerkmag in Uncategorized
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Often in filmmaking, one will need to occupy a space that does not belong to them. Traditionally this is known as going “on location.” An interesting thing happened to me this weekend; I played both host and occupant to on location shooting. While I worked on a peer’s film in a house on Ackerman, a separate crew shot in my house on Stratford. First hand, I was able to see the stresses of a film crew using your home to create their art.

So like Moses coming down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments, I now present to you the unofficial rules for shooting a student film in someone else’s home.

1. Compensate the owner. For the love of god, give them something. A bottle of wine, a gift certificate to the mall, anything really. They were gracious enough to lend you their house. In the real world, they’d say, “You want to shoot in my house? $3,000.”

2. All food is their food.  Offer any food you bring in for the production crew to the home-owners. In my house, that last piece of pizza is mine.

3. Clean up. Put things back where they belong.

4. Ask them to be quiet nicely. Shouting “quiet on the set” is rude. Approach the residents kindly and say something like, “We’re going to be rolling for a few minutes.” Shouting “rolling” when you start to shoot is also a good indication for people to be quiet, but don’t forget to yell “cut” when you finish the shot, so they know when they can talk again.

5. Communicate with the home-owners. Being passive is immature. A good producer’s job is to communicate.


6. Park (legally) on the street. This one’s a two part-er. Park in the street, don’t block up their drive way. But make sure you’re parking legally, because any tickets you get is your own fault. Learned that one the hard way.

7. Keep the doors closed and locked. They’re paying for heat.

8. Turn lights off. They’re paying for electricity.

9. Stick to the schedule. I know its hard to remain on schedule when shooting, but seriously sticking around in someone’s house for two hours after you said you’d be out is obnoxious. Don’t add last minute scenes because you can. Stick to the schedule and get out on time.

10. If you’re a measly PA or some other extraneous crewmember smile and say thank you.

I could probably come up with more, but if you stick to these I’d ask you to come back and shoot in my house any time.

~Alex Rabinowitz (Check out Alex’s film column running every Wednesday!)

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