Magazine article Journal of Property Management

When Your Building Is a Star

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

When Your Building Is a Star

Article excerpt

Everyone wants to be a star, and commercial buildings are no exception. In recent years major filmmakers and advertising agencies have taken their sets from Hollywood back lots to prominent commercial structures throughout the country.

Think back, for example, on the following scenes: The observatory floor of the Empire State Building is awakened near midnight when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan finally meet in "Sleepless in Seattle"; Harrison Ford crashes a banquet hall gathering at the Chicago Hilton and Towers as "The Fugitive" chases the murderer of Dr. Kimball's wife; Macaulay Culkin finds Christmas at Chicago's Rookery Building (did you really think that was a Fifth Avenue toy store?) and watches gangster movies at New York's Plaza Hotel when not otherwise "Home Alone."

These movies are fun to watch being filmed, and everyone enjoys recognizing familiar places in the final product. Filming for these movies or ads, however, can cause problems and inconveniences for building management. Managers should be aware that stardom, even for buildings, has its price.

When the location scout for Paramount, MGM, Touchstone Pictures, or any major filmmaker or ad agency breaks the exciting news that your building has been chosen to become part of a cast, the prudent owner or property manager will keep in mind the following points even as visions of Hollywood twinkle in his or her eyes:

* Know the film. One major pitfall many property owners and managers experience is failing to fully understand the filming process and the demands it will place on their property.

At the outset, an owner or property manager should ask enough questions to ensure that the building will not be depicted in a negative manner. Not every property owner would be thrilled with the script of "Friday the 13th: Part 26," nor would they be eager to have their building portrayed as a bordello in the Roaring Twenties.

Similarly, the manager should spend plenty of time discussing the burden to be placed on the property. Both owners and managers should understand how many people will be on the property, at what times, and how the property may be changed in the course of filming.

Taking extra time at the outset to investigate before signing a location agreement is the best first step an owner or manager can take to ensure that filming will be a pleasant experience.

* Limit access to specific hours and specific areas of the building. Beware the location scout who presents a license agreement seeking permission to enter the building at any time during a series of filming days, with a full right to reappear at any later time in the event that the first few days of filmmaking prove to be inadequate.

Owners and managers should make sure that the agreement they sign clearly identifies the areas of the building that the film crew may access and the hours in which they can do it. Managers must keep in mind that film equipment alone is often so extensive that moving vans can tie up surrounding blocks, create traffic congestion, and necessitate extra security personnel at the filming site.

It is not uncommon for local police to control the observing crowds as the filming takes place, and all of this extra traffic poses a real threat to the owner's property. Managers should talk with other locations where the filming crew has operated previously to get a better idea of the type of activity that will take place on site.

* Obtain adequate financial security to guarantee that the building will be cleaned up and restored after filming. "Special effects" filmmaking can be particularly problematic for building owners and managers, as it often requires extra time to restore a building to its prior condition.

Similarly, identifiable signs are often removed as part of the filming process, entrance doors may be rearranged or altered, and a building's otherwise "first-class" appearance in the marketplace converted to something less than the standard. …

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