location scout debbie regan nyc

The Old Westbury home of Debbie Regan, which will soon be listed, was used in “The Oranges,” a new Hugh Laurie film.

Film-Shoot Homes Generate Buzz and Buyers

By Marcelle S. Fischler
Published: May 12, 2010

THE tulips in front of Debbie Regan’s 1907 Old Westbury colonial were temporarily camouflaged by boxwoods. Her living room sofas had been moved to the attic to make room for more traditional couches. Heavy chintz drapes had been hung over her sheer white curtains. Though it was May 6, a winter garland festooned her porch and a Christmas wreath hung on her front door.

She had recently touched up paint in anticipation of putting her seven-bedroom home on the market. But for one day, as part of the filming of “The Oranges,” a dramatic comedy starring Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener, Ms. Regan’s white clapboard two-story house was transformed into a bed-and-breakfast, with a neon sign in the window.

As owner of Debbie Regan Locations, she has over the last 20 years assembled a database of more than 5,000 homes, from three-bedroom splits and Levittown Capes to mansions on the water, for use as settings in television shows, motion pictures, commercials and magazine spreads.

The cachet of having a home as a film shoot location, she ventured, generates not only buzz but also, possibly, more interest from potential buyers. With the economy in the doldrums, “more people are seeking us out,” listing their homes.

The Island has long been popular as a provider of film and photo settings. Ms. Regan said that homes in Nassau County as far west as Syosset, or within an hour’s drive of the city, were often selected. The Hamptons are also a favored location. “Sometimes,” she said, “people that weren’t ready to put their house into filming are more flexible once their house is on the market.”

Debra Markowitz, the director of the Nassau County Film Commission, concurred, saying that there had been an increase in homeowners approaching the agency in the last few years for filming, television and commercial opportunities.

Fifty homes are mounted, much like multiple real estate listings, on the commission’s Web site, each with a code and a town. “We put homeowner and production company together,” she said.

Similarly, according to the Suffolk County Film Commission, movies filmed locally include “The Nanny Diaries” (2007), “The Forgotten” (2004), “The Manchurian Candidate” (2004) and “Something’s Gotta Give” (2003).

Ms. Markowitz couldn’t say what percentage of homes listed as potential film locations were for sale, but surmised that it was a good selling point. “People like to know that their home was used for a famous movie,” she said. “It’s a brag point.”

There’s also a financial reward. Pay can range from $2,500, for a print ad, to $4,000 to $7,000 a day for filming, with an additional $1,500 for setup and wrap days.

On a recent day, Ms. Regan fielded filmmakers’ requests for a detached garage; bedrooms belonging to 9- to 14-year-old girls; and a kitchen that did not look “midcentury” but that also didn’t have a Sub-Zero fridge — which she said “denotes a socioeconomic level.”

Recently she provided a home in Oyster Bay for the season finale of “The Good Wife.” She located another North Shore house for an episode of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent.” Her own grand staircase was recently the backdrop for a Brooks Brothers fall catalog photo.

On May 3, when Elizabeth Sehring listed her five-bedroom Victorian in Sea Cliff for $1.749 million, she asked her broker, Terry Sciubba of Sherlock Homes Realty, to mention in her sales brochure that her house had a copper roof and was frequently selected as a setting for commercials.

“My house has a better résumé than I do,” said Ms. Sehring, a writer and producer-director of the Sea Cliff Silly Shakespeare company. In the five years since Ms. Regan left a card under her door, Ms. Sehring’s home has been featured in a Hallmark commercial, on the “American Shopper” television show, on the Learning Channel, and in advertisements for Folgers Coffee and Healthy Choice frozen dinners.

“People get a kick out of it, and it is a unique selling point,” Ms. Sehring said, adding that it also provided a windfall. The profits allowed her to remodel her master bath.

Ms. Sciubba said that being featured in film “will draw attention to a house,” an essential part of marketing. “It adds flavor to it,” she added, pointing out that in the last dozen years she had twice sold the home where a young Brooke Shields filmed the 1981 “Endless Love.”

“All the brochures said it was featured in the movie,” she said.

In Glen Cove on May 7, shooting began on “Mildred Pierce,” an HBO miniseries starring Kate Winslet, scheduled to be broadcast in Spring 2011. The site is the Woolworth Mansion — which has been on and off the market for $20 million for several years.

Ilene S. Landress, a co-executive producer for the series, said that through the middle of July, she would also be using locations in Locust Valley, Point Lookout, Cold Spring Harbor, Caumsett State Park in Huntington and the Gables section of Merrick, where the white Spanish-style bungalows are “more preserved and more historically correct” than those in Glendale, Calif., where the story takes place in 1931.

When the miniseries was scouting in Merrick, Ms. Landress said, the scouts checked out two or three homes on the market. “Sometimes it is nice if the house is empty and you can do what you need to do for a movie,” she said.

But those homes needed so much work that, while some exteriors were filmed, interiors are being built on a stage at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Last fall, a for-sale sign on the lawn of a two-bedroom cottage in Rocky Point caught the attention of Patrick West, the writer of a 15-minute film, “The Mailbox,” about a woman struggling to pay her bills and in danger of being thrown out of her home. He asked Roula Stampoulidis, the owner and a broker with Bel Breeze Real Estate, if she minded having a movie filmed there.

The project provided the jolt needed to move Ms. Stampoulidis’s $244,900 rental property, which had been on the market for a year and a half.

It took 10 days in November to shoot the film; because of the attention garnered by the presence of the crew, brokers noticed the house in the local paper. Buyers started to ask if it was the site of the filming.

In April the house went into contract. “It did spark a little interest,” Ms. Stampoulidis said.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce” was scheduled to be broadcast in February 2011.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 23, 2010

The “In the Region” article in Long Island copies last Sunday, about the use of residential real estate as the setting for films, misstated the planned broadcast time for an HBO series, “Mildred Pierce,” starring Kate Winslet, which is being shot at the Woolworth Mansion in Glen Cove. It is spring 2011, not February 2011.




























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