Lights, camera, action! Is your Victoria home film-worthy?

Film commission offers homeowners tips on having your property used in a movie

Patricia Walter

Imagine your Saxe Point waterfront home or your funky Fernwood dwelling as the set for a murder mystery movie.

That dream could become a reality for property owners in Victoria, Esquimalt and around the Capital Region who want to register their home or business for use as a TV or film location.

Patricia Walter, who owns Gibson House, has rented out her heritage home to a few productions in the past. They include the 2004 made-for-TV movie I Want to Marry Ryan Banks, which starred Jason Priestley, Emma Caulfield and Bradley Cooper.

“It’s fun seeing your home transformed, and it’s particularly delightful seeing it in the movie,” Walter said.

The Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission is hosting a seminar Thursday (March 22) at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre on how to put forward your property for use in a film.

Film commissioner Kathleen Gilbert invites anyone with a unique home or business to attend and learn about the process of getting your property registered, including what to expect when location scouts visit your home, the process of having film crews on set, to the final wrap of production.

“This really is an educational seminar,” she said.

The film commission, which maintains a database of registered properties that includes thousands of photos, is looking for homes and businesses that are unique and different. Gilbert adds, however, that it doesn’t have to be pretty.

“Mostly producers and directors are looking for something different and unique that hasn’t been used a lot,” she said. “It can still be an average home – it’s just that there’s something about it that fits the character of the home in the script.”

A variety of property types are needed, from mansions to modest single-family homes, and even apartments.

The commission is always looking for new places to enter into its files, Gilbert said – the more variety, the more likely producers and directors will choose the area to film their projects.

Such sites as Royal Roads, Bastion Square, lower Yates and Johnson streets and Uplands are among the areas used most commonly, she said.

Gibson House, built in 1919 on York Place in Oak Bay, features a grand staircase, detailed mouldings, large windows and a large overall space, details that stand out in films.

Depending on the project, crews can be around for three to five days, Walter said.

“It’s a takeover, but you kind of like it because you know the end result (is) you see your house in the picture.”

She said it is common for producers to use some of the homeowner’s furnishings, but things like drapery and lighting are routinely brought in.

“One time they made our dining room a bedroom. They had to remove the dining room table and a piano. They really set it up differently.”

Compensation for renting out your property depends on the budget of the production and how unique your home is, Gilbert said.

“If (location scouts) can turn a corner and find the same house on the corner, you don’t have a lot of bargaining power,” she said. “Some houses go for $500 a day, some big huge mansions go for thousands a day.”

Gilbert encourages the public to attend the free seminar as a way to help the local film industry.

“We’re all about economic development, and certainly getting more films (in Victoria) increases that, and (it’s) money in people’s pockets, so it’s a way to augment your income,” she said.

Movie magic in your home

• The seminar on how to put your home forward as a movie set takes place Thursday (March 22) from 5 to 6 p.m. in the senior’s centre at the Esquimalt Recreation Centre, 527 Fraser St.

• To register, call Jennifer at 250-386-3976 or email

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