Despite the sharp decline in American productions caused by the writers’ and actors’ strike in Hollywood, the filming season in Quebec is in full swing. For many homeowners, this is the time of year when they let their homes become the stage for dramas and comedies destined for the small or big screen.
How did these residencies, prestigious or not, capture the attention of directors? How much does a rental cost? Should we go camping with the family for filming time?
“It’s case by case, everything is negotiable,” replies Michèle St-Arnaud, considered the oldest film location director in Montreal. “It depends on the type of property, the production time, the relocation needs of the occupants. In short, everything is relative to the nature of the invasion. »
To speak of invasion is not an exaggeration. “It’s invasive,” confirms Dominique Chagnon, who last summer rented his ancestral home dating from 1760, located on a horse farm in Calixa-Lavallée, Montérégie, for the filming of the American comedy French Girl, which stars notably starring Quebec actress Evelyne Brochu, and scheduled for release in 2023.
“It’s a tidal wave of 96 people coming to your house with tons of gear. They store your things, they move everything. Some pay attention to the house, others less,” says the one who, with her husband Bertrand Tremblay, breeds competition horses.
To continue to operate the farm and watch over their animals, the couple lived for four months, from July to October, in their trailer. “It’s okay, we’re used to traveling to the United States for competitions,” the 63-year-old remarked.
An owner interested in the adventure can offer his house to the various cinema and television offices in the province (see box). These organizations often create directories of places to offer to producers. However, it is easier to already know “someone in the middle”, agrees Michèle St-Arnaud.
However, most of the time, it is scouting teams who have the mission to find the places required by a scenario.
For French Girl, it was at the invitation of a researcher that the couple of horse breeders agreed to rent their estate. “We thought it would be funny and interesting,” said Ms. Chagnon, daughter of a former Radio-Canada producer.
From the first day of the rental, the residence and its surroundings were photographed in all their facets before the decorators, props and technicians turned it into a film studio. The photos served as a reference when it came time to return the house to its original state, when the cameras left.
“During filming, the house was unrecognizable. It gave a shock. They had repainted a large part, they had pasted wallpaper. It was quite special, but that’s the game, ”recalls Ms. Chagnon.
Gambling is mostly about big money. Everything is negotiable: the cost of the rental, the cost of meals, the wear and tear of the furniture, the loan of accessories… “There is no recipe”, repeats Michèle St-Arnaud.
It all depends on the production budget.
The contract may also include financial compensation for meal and accommodation costs.
Thus, Chantal Aubry chose to go live with her spouse and their three children in other houses in her neighborhood of Shaughnessy, in Montreal, during the filming of the three seasons of the series Nouvelle adresse, broadcast on Radio-Canada.
“The production schedule overlapped with the end of the school year and back to school. We couldn’t walk away,” says the dentist and university teacher. Her pretty Victorian house, which she owned at the time, was for viewers the residence of the character played by Macha Grenon.
What prompted the Aubry family to agree to these repeated moves? “We had just completed a major expansion and renovations. So the timing was good for financial reasons,” the 55-year-old said.
Ironically, these renovations allayed the owner’s fears of seeing her ancestral home damaged.
“Holes were drilled in two bedrooms to allow a camera to pass through. But I didn’t mind since it was a new gypsum partition. It repairs better than an original plaster wall,” she points out.
As elsewhere, the Aubry house has been completely redecorated to better represent the essence of the TV series. Wood paneling was added to the walls, as was wallpaper. At the end of each shoot, the production made sure to “get everything back to like new”.
“And we were compensated for the wear and tear on the hardwood floor and the mattress,” Ms. Aubry adds. Same story on the side of Dominique Chagnon: “No one quibbled. The floor was sanded and varnished throughout after the team left. »
“Insurance covers absolutely all damage caused by filming activities,” confirms Ms. St-Arnaud.
Are there still some nasty surprises? “When I saw my wardrobe wide open on the screen, I warned people that they will have to find other clothes to put in it in the future,” says Ms. Aubry, for whom no money no money was going to compensate for this display of his private life.
Dominique Chagnon, she discovered in the spring her window frames damaged by the adhesive tape (duct tape) used to fix large air conditioning pipes. “I went: Oh yeah. We hadn’t seen that,” she said.
Despite everything, the two women would repeat the experience without hesitation.
“It was really fun. They have been so kind and accommodating. They even found a role for my spouse. My kids were there every day chatting with the kids on the show,” recalls Chantal Aubry.
Dominique Chagnon agrees. However, she issues a warning. “You have to understand that these are artists who are looking for an image, a sound, a punch. You have to be in that mood with them. And if they prefer you not to be there, you have to be ready for that. You rented it, your place. You have no business there anymore. »
The Office of Cinema and Television of Quebec (BCTQ) has developed a photo library that allows homeowners to submit their residence as a filming location. The various regional and municipal film offices can use and improve this database.
This tool, free and public, contains nearly 8,000 locations and 165,000 photos allowing producers to find their next filming locations.
The BCTQ does not negotiate rental agreements between the production company and a home owner. Its role is limited to proposing a list of potential locations for filming.