Thursday, 20 April 2017

What type of film to help sell a house?

Let’s sell the house. Let’s choose an estate agent. Let’s make a film about it. OK, but what sort of film? We looked at lots of films of houses in North Wales and there is quite a mixed bag from the cheap and cheerful to the professional. The professionally produced films all showed the houses to their best, with excellent camera work, but one film in particular caught our eye. Everything about it was just right and we said that’s what we want. 

Whereas the other films were good, we found them a bit sterile, cold and lacking in character. But the one we liked invited us in, this was a lifestyle house film, a sub-genre we had been unaware of. Instead of seeing rooms, windows and gardens you saw people using and enjoying them.

After a brief exchange of emails ‘Gareth the Film’ came to meet us, to do a recce and talk through some ideas. The key question was to what extent would we be prepared to get into the spirit of it. Would we be filmed arriving by train? Picking some herbs? Playing with the dog? Catching some fish and putting them on the BBQ for friends who we’d meet at the platform? We said yes.

With the story and scenes agreed we had to procure some props, dress the rooms, make sure the garden was looking just right and invite some extras to be our guests for the BBQ scene.

A key element of the film was choosing the right music and we scoured through websites that provide thousands of tracks for use in films. After dismissing ones that sounded too much like Lord of the Rings, we ended up with a perfect choice – the rhythm was light and happy and most importantly it would fit in with the sounds of an approaching train. Our chosen track was 2 ½ minutes long, so that became the length of the film. Surely that wouldn’t take two days to film!?

As the first day approached we prayed that the forecast of good weather would hold, this was to be the day for outdoor filming and the BBQ. Gareth arrived with his partner-in-film, his father John, who operated various cameras and microphones and was also the ‘spotter’ for the flying of drones. Drones would be a key component of the production and for this we would need wind speeds of less than 17 mph. 
Gareth and John Hearn

It was a Sunday with just two trains scheduled which would pass Campbell’s Platform twice on the way up and twice on the way down. These were the four, time-critical slots of the day for the story to work.

As the first train approached I stuck out my hand to request it to stop and it did. I then asked the volunteer guard if it would be OK for me to get on and off a few times while I was filmed from different angles. Having pre-booked this with the management of the railway I was expecting ‘of course, no problem’. But instead I got ‘that’s the first I’ve heard of it’ and much later ‘I’ve got a connection to make’. But we were accommodated and it all worked well.

The story involved my returning with the shopping to the kitchen where Sue was boiling a kettle on the Rayburn for coffee. We were supposed to exchange a kiss as I put down the shopping bag and Sue poured the boiling water into the mugs. Sounds simple enough, but there were many takes and near misses!

After Sue was filmed doing some gardening, I tied a fly in the old barn, walked away with a split-cane rod and returned moments later with a couple of trout. Virtual fishing with the help of a Tesco’s fish counter is so convenient and guarantees success.

Our guests arrived on the down train and we greeted them on the platform. After the children played in the garden, throwing frisbee to Molly, we settled down by the BBQ, where the trout was cooking, and toasted with Champagne …. This was the critical closing scene!

The drone was in the air beneath the Scots Pine as we waited for the last down train of the day, hovering at eye level until Gareth heard the train’s whistle. It was then a swift flight away from the tree and up into the sky at the right angle to capture the house in front of the mountain with the train swinging into view. It worked perfectly.

On the second day of filming we filled in the key gaps of the story such as the rooms and the actual riding of the train. Continuity meant I had to wear the same clothes and carry the same shopping bag and contents – I looked fine, but the baguette was a bit limp.

For the interior filming a lot of use was made of the ‘slider’, a level track on which the camera could move sideways. It was very effective at conveying the sense of just walking into a room. Then there was the boom which captured the essence of the four-poster room. It started high to focus on the cruck beams, coming down to reveal the bed itself and the ancient Persian tapestry above. 

It was an enjoyable experience working with Gareth and John and a couple of days later Gareth was back with two versions of the film to get our feedback as to which we preferred and whether any final edits were needed. We were over the moon with what we saw and are hopeful that this film is going to be a great success in attracting potential buyers to the house.

But as Gareth pointed out, having a great film is no use at all unless you get people to watch it. He then proceeded to give us a masterclass in social media. Thanks Gareth and John – we will nominate you for an Oscar.

Gareth and John own and work for North Shore Productions. This is the film and I think it's fantastic. Everyone was a star but I think Molly upstaged us all.


  1. Having been on the train, passed and even stopped at Campbells. "Watching the film gets me everytime".
    You caught the essence in 150 seconds beautifully.
    Martin Dowse

  2. Everything about it was just right and we said that’s what we want. sell