Meet the location scout helping Norfolk homeowners earn thousands
- Credit: Emma Chapman Photography/East Coast Locations
A Norfolk-based locations agency is expanding to help even more homeowners turn their properties into locations for some of the UK's biggest brands.
East Coast Locations is the sister company to Sandra Reynolds model agency and was founded in 2013 under the name Norfolk Production.
It later rebranded to East Coast Locations, and now works regularly with some of the UK’s biggest fashion and lifestyle brands, from Next, Joules and Boden to Denby, Radley and Parker Knoll - as well as local companies including Virgin Wines, Hopkins Homes and Cotswold Company.
The team manages an ever-growing library of locations for clients and offers production, photography and video services, as well as design and branding, and pairs commercial clients with locations and local crew and talent.
The team has recently moved into a new office on Westwick Street – the former home of Cookes Pianos – to accommodate its growth despite the pandemic.
“We were so busy throughout lockdown, which we just didn’t expect,” says location agent Rhiannon Bond. “Shoots were definitely tricky and I was worried to start with that it would stop all together, to be honest – but it didn’t. Being one of the industries that couldn’t work from home, we worked all the way through using very strict Covid protocols.
“Some clients chose to stay in London and do studio shoots but because we’ve got so much open space here in Norfolk, others wanted to travel out of the city and be in the open air. We have a lot of shoot and stay properties here so the crews were able to bubble together and stay in the house they were shooting at.”
As the business has grown, so has their client base and now their locations portfolio includes sites not only in Norfolk and Suffolk but throughout the UK, including London and the north. But Rhiannon says that one of their biggest “perks” is still their local knowledge, which often encourages some of the bigger brands to come – and then return – to Norfolk.
“When a client books a location with us we also organise the logistics for them, booking the best beaches and outdoor spaces as well as other locations that work for them and fit with their shoot schedule. For them that’s the value of what we do – we know the whole area and everything that we have here.
“We also offer full production, everything from crew and creatives to catering and shoot planning, which makes it easy for teams travelling here. When we bring clients to Norfolk it is nice because once they see what we have here, they usually always come back.”
Rhiannon’s role as a location agent includes scouting out new location properties and balancing the expectations of both the location owners and the clients.
She says the process usually works in one of two ways – either property owners contact the team with a location they think they might be interested in, or Rhiannon and her team scout them based on a client’s brief. “Sometimes I just drive past an amazing house and I just go and ask them if they’d be interested as a lot of people don’t know this exists or that it’s an option in Norfolk” she says.
But not every house makes an ideal location – even those which might fit the brief aesthetically.
“The house needs to be appropriate and right for all the things you need it for,” says Rhiannon. “Some people have amazing houses but they’re quite small or too dark or there’s no parking or something is a bit tricky, logistically, with them.”
Lots of people like the idea of it, Rhiannon says – particularly if they have spent a lot of money on a renovation and see it as a way to recoup the cost – but it is hard work. “You have to be really committed,” she says. “You can’t have family photos everywhere and fridge magnets. The house has to look aesthetically perfect all the time during shoots and recces.
“It can be long days, you have to be comfortable with lots of people being in your house and moving your furniture around. If a client has paid to use your house for the day they can’t have an owner running around after them, looking anxious every time they move anything – they need to be able to work freely and our location owners know they can always rely on us to ensure their house will be put back exactly as it was found by the end of the day.
“It can be really rewarding seeing your house used for shoots and obviously there’s the financial gain, but equally you have to be okay with what comes with that and a lot of people aren’t. Your house is a really personal space so I think a lot of the time, holiday lets and venues and event spaces are great because they’re built for that – but when it works, it’s really special.
"Some of our location owners are brilliant. They are so accommodating, so easy. It’s kind of a two-way thing: is your house right for us and is location work right for you? It’s about matching that up.”
Rhiannon says she visits every house she lists to get a feel for the space, although often clients will send her through floor plans and photographs to help her understand its layout. In lots of ways, it sounds like a similar process to buying a house: “Once you visit, you just see it so differently,” she says, and because client briefs can be both vague and super specific, she says it’s important the team know each location property inside out.
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The standard rate for an eight-hour shoot is normally around £1,250, Rhiannon says, although it does vary. “Some of the stately homes go up to £5,000-£6,000 a day and then equally, if you want a little cottage and you want to use their kitchen for a couple of hours, that can be different, too.” East Coast Locations then take a commission of 20pc.
But when location owners, understandably, ask how many bookings they will get, how much money they will make or the size of the crew they will need to accommodate, Rhiannon says it’s difficult to know as every shoot is different. “It can be a crew of four people, up to a crew of 50. Every shoot works on a case-by-case basis.
“The most amazing houses that I think are going to get booked for absolutely everything we sometimes don’t get a booking for at all – and other houses like a cute little cottage gets booked every week. It’s so random. You can’t estimate how these things are going to go.
"Some of the houses that I find and I fall in love with just don’t get booked as a shoot location – it’s interesting to see how trends change and what brands are looking for from season to season.”
Often the choice of properties follows seasonal patterns – although these are often ahead by around six months. This means that when we speak in July, Rhiannon says many locations are being set up for Christmas. “It’s the hottest day of the year and you’re putting Christmas trees and fake snow out – it’s the weirdest job!”
The team services a wide range of clients and has a growing property portfolio to match, from traditional stately homes to lakeside cabins and modern feats of architecture to renovated barns.
They have recently launched a new website, which makes searching for a location even easier, and Rhiannon says she’s always on the lookout for new properties, too.
Like what? I ask.
“Anything coastal that is whitewashed with white floorboards and just lovely and airy and beachy. I think that’s one of the biggest things clients ask for – they want direct access to the beach so they can shoot in the house and then literally walk out onto the sand. I know that doesn’t come up very often, but if any readers do have something like this, get in touch…
“And anything amazingly architectural. I think anything like that is another reason to come to Norfolk – people already know that we have the beaches and the stately homes, so it’s having those really cool houses that brands or clients will want to travel for.”
But the biggest thing, she says, is a big Georgian home – as long as it’s not white. “I’m looking for something that’s got really high ceilings, all the traditional features like ceiling roses and big fireplaces, but minimal furniture. So if somebody lives in one of those, I’d love to hear from you.”
For more information, visit eastcoastlocations.co.uk
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