Becoming a farm location holds a whole new set of benefits when comparing with other forms of diversification options.
At least that’s definitely the case with Farm Locations. Take it or leave it, you are hiring out your farm as it is.. The locations agency will market the farm free of charge, and only when a booking comes in will you pay the agency their commission.
Sure, some landowners might invest in providing a better crew facility (eg adding loos, insulated space and kitchen facilities into a barn), but this can be done over time, once you have experience of crews using the farm and understanding better what additions might bring more shoots through the door.
Location shoot income is harder to predict than a holiday let or solar installation. It can be feast or famine on the farms which have a more limited appeal and are not in a prime catchment area. That all said, one 10-day long hire in one year might exceed holiday let income all year. We just cannot guarantee it, and encourage owners to see a location income as a bonus income.
A safer bet on predicting an income are those farms in the prime catchment area (within the M25) and plenty of original features on offer. You are more likely then to get a good flow of business throughout the year.
As well as the “dry hire” of a location, additional fees can be generated through the hire of your animals, machinery, transporting kit and crew, and even providing catering or accommodation if you have it.
For a shoot to be made, a whole series of suppliers and services are needed, several of which can be sourced locally to the farm.
They can include overnight accommodation, catering services, shop supplies, local runners to help on shoot day, taxi services and marquee hire.
We have also had requests by producers for certain props which are not found on the farm but which can be sourced locally. They may include hay and straw bales, the loan of a bunny and donkey, the hire of a vintage tractor from down the road. If a farmer doesn’t have it, he/she often knows someone nearby that can, and in so doing is helping others to earn an additional income too.
A decaying building might be ugly to some but its raw beauty has huge appeal in the filming world. We love untouched, true, authentic buildings, farmsteads, and natural landscapes.
Watch the spectacle unfold when a crew comes to the farm. It can be quite something, especially with the major feature films and what they bring and do to create a “film set” at yours.
The small shoots, with sometimes just 10 in the crew, are often fascinating too, be that a fashion shoot which brings in the glamour of wardrobe, hair and makeup and models, or a music video with memorable creative story-lines (think supermarket trolleys being pushed across fields, a musician trapped in a tree, a car submerged in a lake).
You might get to meet a celebrity or two too, and often an owner will be invited to take lunch or coffee at the dining car. Always a pleasure!
How would it feel for your farm to be featured in a BBC crime drama or on the front cover of Tatler magazine? You will likely be filled with a sense of pride.
Enjoy too the stream of gratitude and applause that crew members give your farm when visiting it and shooting on it. As landowners who are used to it every day, you can often take for granted how beautiful your slice of Britain is, and how unique and special a property you have.
When a director or photographer is wow-ed by a building or landscape that a landowner has been custodian of for years, it’s truly music to the ears for those landowners who have resisted changing a building’s use or modernising it. One of our most popular farms, Cherry Farm in Hertfordshire, wows all its visitors by the stunning preserved farmstead the owners are protecting. Not a modern feature or change in sight.
Some productions might spread over quite an extended period, however most are short and sharp.
Photo shoots and music videos tend to last 1 day, at most 3 days. Tv commercials might be slightly longer, and dramas or feature films can be anywhere from 2 days upwards.
Unlike a long term let with tenants on site all year long, the beauty of location hire is that you can have plenty of quiet time too.
And unlike hiring your farm as a wedding venue or camp site, most shoot crews are off the property by 8pm at night. There’s no alcohol consumed either!
On some occasions, the works that a production undertakes (always agreed upfront by an owner) can remain with your approval, and have a long term improvement to the farm.
One farm benefited from a long stretch of new hard standing track that reached a distant field for the crew. It was cheaper for the production to pay for a permanent track, than it was to hire in temporary plastic trackway. Win-win both ways.
Other improvements have included clearing of overgrowth in old yards, replacement of broken fencing, and the leaving behind of tonnes of new topsoil.
The more the general public see of Britain’s countryside, the more respect and support there will be in rural England. And the more the general public meet Britain’s farmers and see and hear more about what farming involves, the more respect and support there will be in farming too.
“We LOVE having creative, talented people around us who are full of energy”
Catherine | Nightingale Farm, Berkshire