Neighborhood Intel

7 things a location scout is looking for in an apartment

By Lucy Cohen Blatter | February 3, 2016 - 8:59AM

David -- who asked that we only use his first name -- is a NYC location scout who works on a major network TV show filmed in the city. He has also worked on several TV shows, movies and that iconic NYC drama, Law & Order; and he spends a good portion of his time knocking on people's doors and recruiting them—or, rather, their apartments—for filming.

What's in it for them? At least $1,000 per day for access to their apartment, but compensation can go as high as $40,000 or $50,000 for a few days. (More expensive neighborhoods like the Upper East Side tend to fetch more money, he says.) For movie shoots that take longer than a month, the pay can be much higher than that, he says (often empty homes are used for that).

Think your place is ready for its close-up? Here's what David says he's looking for in an apartment:

Alvin Khaled/Flickr

1. An easy commute
Apartments near TV studios (like Long Island City's  Silvercup Studios and Brooklyn's Steiner Studios) are gets, according to David, because it makes it easier, and cheaper, to move from on-site to off-site. 

2. Easy permission process 
Brownstones are the easiest types of NYC to film in because they're usually privately owned and David doesn't have to get permission from a management company or a co-op or condo board. While co-ops, condos and even rentals can—and are—used in movie shoots, homes owned by single entities with no boards to deal with are much appreciated. 

3. Mellow renters/owners/shareholders
"You want to work with people who are easygoing and won't create too many hurdles for you," says, David, who adds that he can usually tell if someone is persnickety from his first interaction with them. If they ask A LOT of questions or seem to have a lot of rules, they may not jell. (Remember that often times the production team will build walls, move furniture and otherwise temporarily alter the look of your apartment quite a bit. If you don't think you can handle that, you may not be the right candidate.)

And, "if you live in an apartment building that’s film friendly that’s one hurdle taken care of." So if you've seen neighbors rent their places for film crews, ask them to connect you with the scout they worked with.

4. Not too much light
Unlike condo buyers, location scouts aren't big fans of floor-to-ceiling windows, since it can make it harder for lighting people to mask the time of day. "When the light changes, it takes a long time for hte lighting guys to adjust," says David.

Thomas Altfather Good/Flickr

5. Decent parking options
Parking is a headache for location scouts, and with bike lanes everywhere, it's getting even trickier to find space to park the big trucks and trailers that are often part of a shoot. It also helps not to be too close to a bus stop or other no-parking zone.

6. At least one spacious room
"We need to have at least enough space to get a few different angles," says David. "We're usually looking for at least one decently sized room."

Noah Jeppson/Flickr

7. Elevators
David says he and his crew will never book a fourth floor walkup, no matter how spacious and beautiful the apartment. It's just too tricky to lug all that equipment up there. It's even better if a building has a freight elevator like the one shown above, he says.


Is it possible to make your apartment a star? A New York location scout tells all

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