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Now showing: Your home

Eve Troeh Sep 19, 2008

Now showing: Your home

Eve Troeh Sep 19, 2008


Tess Vigeland: Here’s a little distraction: Since you can’t cash in your stocks over the weekend, may as well watch the Emmy Awards.

Little gold statues will go out to the best actors, writers and directors for television. But what about Best Performance for a House? Like that two-story colonial Don Draper comes home to in “Mad Men”?

TV shows, commercials and movies often use private homes as sets and studios pay big money for the privilege. Marketplace’s Eve Troeh found out that homeowners do earn that money.

Eve Troeh: This summer Lisa Hutchins rented her house to NBC’s “Heroes” for a week. While the sci-fi drama filmed inside, Lisa tiptoed around huge crates outside in her driveway. She had to whisper “Quiet on the set.”

Troeh: How many people are in your house right now?

Lisa Hutchins: I’ve lost count. Yesterday we had a party scene, which I didn’t even know was going to happen — 40 to 50 extras above and beyond crew. I would say there’s maybe 30 crew here, minimum. Those are the ones I can see. I haven’t gone in the house recently. Could be another 30 to 40 in there, too!

It was day four of self-imposed exile for Lisa, her husband and two kids. They camped in the guest house above the garage. Most of their belongings were in the garage, moved there by the set decorators.

The family relocated on short notice. Lisa says shoot dates can move around a lot and you’re never really sure what’s going to happen. Producers say they just need the dining room, but to shoot the dining room they have to put tons of camera, lighting and sound gear somewhere else.

Hutchins: Suddenly it becomes the living room, the kitchen, the bedrooms… Oh, I don’t have my house.

And Lisa’s neighbors don’t have their neighborhood. Big rigs, star trailers and catering trucks line the block. Huge generators roar. To keep the peace, Lisa gives her neighbors as much notice as she can. When the shoot’s over, she sends gifts baskets. All this effort for a few minutes of one episode of one TV show.

[TV crew]: Gotta set the chassy up here… Action!

Spoiler for “Heroes” fans: This season, you’ll see a man and a woman argue briefly in Lisa’s elegant foyer.

Network TV shoots like this pay about $3,000 a day. Movie shoots can climb to $10,000. You can rent your house for 14 days of filming a year tax-free. Most owners don’t reach that limit, and like Lisa, they don’t book their own gigs. Her house has an agent.

David Hatfield at Cast Locations handles about a thousand properties around Los Angeles. He recommends homeowners leave during a shoot.

David Hatfield: It’s kind of like a circus coming to town. You know, the tent goes and everybody goes and everything goes right back where it was.

That’s part of Hatfield’s job: to make sure the circus cleans up. He also draws up contracts, takes glamour shots of the property and shops it to location scouts. Like most agents, he takes a commission — usually 30 percent.

Not all film shoots take over the whole house. Hatfield says producers often just need a facade, a backyard or a fantastic… laundry room.

Hatfield: Nice windows, view of a garden, you know?

Troeh: So like detergent commercials?

Hatfield: Exactly, Tide and all that. Yeah. Some people it’s the basement, an attic, greenhouse, treehouse…

When Hatfield saw Sheri and Morrie Pechet’s suburban ranch home, he knew he had a star — because it’s a time machine. Original wood panelling, custom furniture, flagstone fireplace. It played perfect in “Zodiac”, last year’s crime thriller set in 1960s San Francisco.

Sheri Pechet loved that shoot.

Sheri Pechet (singing): Let me entertain you… you know?

She got her picture taken with the film’s stars, Anthony Edwards and Mark Ruffalo. She got paid twice (They rented her furniture for the re-shoots.)

And that was just one of more than 20 TV shows, movies and commercials shot at the Pechet’s house. ESPN, White Castle, an indy movie with Mariel Hemingway. Sheri and her husband are retired. so no schedule to interrupt.

Pechet: At this stage in our life, this is fun for me. I look at this more as a cocktail party. And this is their house for the day.

Sometimes, Sheri says, the crew leaves the house better than they found it. Fresh paint, landscaping, maybe a lamp or two.

But what she’d really love is a shoot where they’ll dig her a swimming pool.

In Los Angeles, I’m Eve Troeh for Marketplace Money.

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