Location Partner Q&A: Emma in Didsbury

Emma lives in Didsbury in Manchester with her husband and three children aged 10, 7 and 5. When she was on maternity leave with her third child, Emma decided to sign up as one of our Location Partners. Here, she talks about what that experience has been like for the family and why they’re still happy to open their doors to film and photography crews four years on…

How did you come to start working with UK locations?

We’d had some renovation work done on our house and the builder had taken some photographs of our property to use on his own website, and it was him who said, “Actually, we work with UK Locations and they may be interested in your house for film and photography shoots.”

So first, I talked quite a lot to Cat, the Operations Director, and she told me about the whole process and how it would work. After that, we submitted the photographs the builder had taken and UK Locations replied saying, yes, they’d be interested in partnering with us. So then James, their photographer, came out and took his own photographs, which was great, and he explained to me a little bit more about what happens on shoots.

See photos of Emma’s house!

What was it that convinced you to partner with UK Locations?

Right from the off, when I had that initial chat, my first impression was that they were really lovely to work with. I work in finance, so this kind of thing wasn’t something I was used to. But they made me feel very comfortable about it all.

I was very keen on not having anything to do with contracts. I wanted to be able to rely on someone to do that for us – people who had the industry knowledge, which I don’t have. And so for me, it felt really safe, really welcoming – friendly, like a family. I’m quite a chatty person and I felt I could do that with ease with the UK Locations team. And so that was really one of the main reasons, just feeling safe and welcomed.

The trust between us grew very quickly. You know, life’s not perfect and things do go wrong and things need sorting out. Whatever job you do, there are always going to be challenges. And whenever I was like, “Should this be happening?”, I always got a really quick reply, not just an email, but phone calls. It’s a personal relationship.

The other side of things that I really felt comfortable with was the fact that we had a direct point of contact at UK Locations, especially now I know how many people come in for a shoot and all the different parties involved in the lead up to it! I have one contact point. They deal with the contract, they field all the questions, funnel them, then communicate back at key points. They also suggest things to me that I might not have thought of in relation to the shoot. So that just makes it really, really easy for me.

Did you have any preconceived ideas about what it would be like hiring your home out as a film and photography location?

Well, actually, that’s really interesting. So before we started working with UK Locations, I had no idea what it would involve. But I do have two friends who work in the industry and they were like, “Oooh, I don’t know. Anything can happen on a shoot!”. And so if anything, I was probably overly wary. But looking back, there was no need to be. Our experiences have been really positive.

Okay, so why do you hire your home out as a film and photography location?

That’s a really interesting question and one my friends often ask me. It’s really lovely to have such a range of people in our home, who would never have been there otherwise. My husband and I have backgrounds in finance and law, so we weren’t part of the creative world at all. You know, you look at an advert on the television and it’s like a minute long and you’ve got no idea of all the effort that goes into it. But by being a Location Partner, you get access to all of this. We’ve got three small children, and for them to see all of this activity and creativity is just fab.

Even something that might look just like a simple day shoot can still be of huge interest to a child. There are stylists, there’s makeup people, models, art directors, producers, directors, actors… There are so many people that they just wouldn’t even have known about. The children are only little, but it’s great that they’re getting exposed to all these different careers. They wouldn’t have had that opportunity if we hadn’t partnered with UK Locations.

Yes, we have to get the children out of the house, sometimes at half seven in the morning. Or we stay out a little later than we would’ve, just so my children won’t bug the crew during the day. But overall, the flexibility it offers me to be at home with the children right now is great. So that’s another benefit of having a home that’s a shoot location.

Can you describe what happens on a typical shoot day?

Well, there’s not a typical shoot day. Even when we do shoots that sound similar, like for different brands but the same type of product, they’re not. On one shoot for a kitchen appliance brand, they turned up and basically just shot stills of products on our kitchen work surfaces. So, when we got another job with a different kitchen appliance brand, I thought it might be a similar kind of day. Well, the next one was full on cooking from scratch, using and showcasing so many of their kitchen appliances. Huge team. Completely different feel. The house smelt lovely. All this food. It was two completely different shoots!

But in general, what tends to happen is the night before I make sure the children go to bed at a decent time, so then I can do the final sweep around the house, you know, making it look as clean and tidy as possible. That includes shoving lots of things in cupboards so people can’t see them! And then in the morning, it can start from half seven. So I tend to get the children ready earlier and then my husband takes them out.

Then the crew start to arrive, but obviously, the crew can be from all different locations and different teams, so they tend to come at different times. And for a lot of them, this is the first time they’ve met. But you quickly meet the person who needs to know the details about the wi-fi and where the toilets are and things, and that one person will then pass it on to everyone else, so I find that talking to them is one of the most important things to do. And then throughout the day, our house is handed over to the crew and anything can happen within those within those four walls.

They can move furniture, they can redecorate, they can use any room in the house. Or they might just use one – and there might only be about 6 people, not 30. We’ve got experience of both those scenarios and everything in between. So no, there’s no typical day.

How does it work when they redecorate your home?

We hosted one shoot for a decorating company and there were lots of little patches that they were doing on the walls and they were so particular about matching the paint back. At the end of the day, they were even there waiting for the paint to dry! Another time, we hosted a Netflix drama and I would say two thirds of the house were redecorated. And at the end of that, we had the choice of keeping it how it was – which I did actually do with a few of the rooms – or putting it back to how it was before they started.

But even when there’s no decorating for the shoot itself, there is still a bit of decorating at the end, you know, if things have got a bit scuffed. But our experience has been that at the end of every shoot, they’re more particular about the house than I am! Even small details are put back in place. So what tends to happen on a shoot is at the beginning of the day, they’ll take photographs of everywhere and then they will move things after that. Then, at the end of the day, they look back at the photographs and make sure things are put back in the right places.

See inside Emma’s house!

Another thing that often happens is that people bring flowers to a shoot and other little features and at the end of the day, they often ask, “Would you like to keep them or should we take these away?”, which is lovely. And people tend to clean on the way out, taking the rubbish away with them. And then at the end of the day, I just tend to do a quick walk around – not to look for things that have gone wrong, it’s more a case of finding someone’s jumper or a notebook. And so at the end of the day, it’s good for me to be here just to basically help them get out and make sure that they’ve got everything they need. We also tend to do a walk around together, just to make sure that everything’s how it should be.

Can you tell us about some of the shows your house has been used for? Any favourites?

Some of my favourite shoots are the ones my children have really liked. Often, you don’t know who’s going to turn up – you might know the marketing agency’s name or whoever booked it through UK Locations, but you don’t know exactly who’s going to turn up. And on one occasion, it was the O’Donnell sisters, who are very beautiful, glamorous girls. I didn’t know of them, but my children were just over the moon. It was lovely for them to see all the styling and everything that went around the shoot. It was just this really exciting day with these lovely people in the house.

And then there are times where people I am very much in awe of have turned up and it’s been lovely to meet them. We’ve also done quite a significant Netflix drama here, which was amazing for us as a family. We moved out for that shoot, and it’s really interesting when you watch it on the television and you see all these famous people in your house.

Those big shoots do obviously bring quite a bit of disruption to the house and the street. But for us as a family, that Netflix drama was just really, really positive. UK Locations work really well with the production team and make sure that as much communication as possible goes out, telling people in the area what’s planned.

What would you say to someone considering hiring out their home for film and photography shoots? Do you have to have a certain mindset?

As a shoot location host, I just try to be as flexible as possible because, like I said earlier, no two shoots are the same – even when you think they might be. Even if they’ve told UK Locations what’s planned, you don’t necessarily know who’s going to turn up and when, or what they might actually want to do when they get here. So you just have to go with it really and be aware that some of those people have never been in your house before, and that they’ve got quite a stressful job to do and might be working with people that they’ve not have worked with before. It’s basically about making it as easy for them as possible, so I tend to let them all get set up and then say, I’m going to leave you in peace.

I’m never more than 10 minutes away and I use those days to get my out-and-about jobs done, maybe just popping in and out on occasion, in case they’ve got any questions. But the approach I take is to hand over to them and never be too far away. And I do now have a bit of a cheat sheet that I hand over at the beginning of the day, which answers the main questions that tend to come up – basic things like how the house works, the wi-fi, any quirks with things in the house.

Would you recommend partnering with UK Locations to other homeowners?

I’ve recommended UK locations to a few of my friends already and a few of them are on the books, which I think is testimony to the way we, as a family, work with UK Locations. The reason I recommend it is that it enables me to generate an income whilst still being around for my children, and everything is looked after from like a contracting and client perspective. I don’t have to worry about anything like that. And all of our experiences have been really great. So I talk really positively about our experiences and that’s why my friends then want to be involved as well.

When I started out, I didn’t really know what I was doing and I just feel I got really lucky. It’s only now that I realise how much work goes into organising a shoot and I have just one point of contact, which makes it all very, very easy for me. Also, I don’t have an Instagram account for our house, whereas a lot of location owners do, but because of working with UK Locations, I’ve never had to promote it myself because they have their own network. They can direct that flow of work to me. I’m not doing anything to generate it myself, which is absolutely amazing.

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