August 20, 2014

The Airbnb of Location Scouting? Set Scouter Connects Filmmakers Directly to Property Owners

setscouter set location scout appLocation scouting can be a lot of fun when you're spending time imagining the potential production value of a place you're visiting for the first time. It's very rewarding to report it all back to the production department heads, introducing the exciting visions of "what if?" for ground zero of principal photography. However, unless you're an experienced, local scout with a laundry list of locations and contacts, you're also going to spend a lot of time searching, driving, cold-calling, and negotiating to find that perfect fit for the project. If only there were a platform to make this entire process easier, especially for indie filmmakers. But there's not, so I better end the article here -- kidding! Say hello to Set Scouter, which Anila Gill of Tribeca says "hopes to be the AirBnb of  location scouting."

From Set Scouter's About Us page:

Set Scouter Inc. is a Toronto-based film location scouting marketplace that connects filmmakers looking for the perfect set with property owners looking to rent out their space for production. Set Scouter has developed an expanding catalogue of locations available for filmmakers, producers, and media professionals. Set Scouter aims to make the location scouting process faster, easier, and more affordable.

How affordable, you ask? Signing up is technically free, but it's a service, so there are fees. From the location owner perspective, Set Scouter charges 15% of the booking price (that you set yourself). For scouters, they charge 5% for booked locations. Filmmakers are required to have liability insurance and are required to submit a $500 security deposit to Set Scouter in case something were to happen. And if a production goes over, it is billed 10% of the booking price for every additional 30 minutes, with a minimum of $50 per 30 minutes. Their cancellation policies seem reasonable and are sliding depending on how far out from a booked shoot date you are. And, as this is a Canadian company, the transactions are processed in Canadian funds.

When you book a scout of a location using their Schedule a Scout feature within Set Scouter, you are charged $40 per location. So let's say you're looking for a cabin location in the remote Rocky Mountains. You're shooting along a pristine mountain ridge, and knowing that you want just the right sunrise angles, you want at least four options to look at. You book a day of four tours on Set Scouter's Schedule a Shoot, and you are charged $160. If for some reason the location owner simply not show up to the scout, the money is refunded once you contact Set Scouter.

Now you can book a location through Set Scouter right away online, but personally, I can't imagine booking a location without at least an initial scout first. That is inadvisable at best, and catastrophic at worst. Even having that as an option really almost feels like a trap for green producers who aren't taking factors like electric and audio into account/only going for a location based upon pretty pictures and descriptions. So for my own use of Set Scouter, I'd just factor in the extra $40/location scout on top of the 5% as a given and not a "feature." For indie budgets, it still seems like a good deal for the convenience and time saved.

One can imagine that privacy and anonymity are important in dealing with a service like this, right? After all, you're potentially inviting strangers into your home/business/property. Well Set Scouter seems to be doing a good job of taking security and privacy seriously. On their Safety and Security page, they make sure to note that as a location owner, your full name and address are private until booking (and yes, this of course protects Set Scouter's interests too). Locations are noted in a general 2 km area, and again aren't released until you book or use their Schedule a Scout tool to schedule a tour for the production team.

The caveats I could foresee in the future are not unlike the caveats for AirBnb -- namely, the legality of it all state to state. Yes, you should be able to rent out your space if you have the proper ownership or authority, but I can only imagine certain areas could have special permit requirements Especially for outdoor locations that feature prominent landmarks or the like. This article from The Guardian speaks to some of the legal trials AirBnb is facing, for example. I wonder, will Set Scouter face similar problems?

I also have questions about enforcement -- for example, let's say the crew goes over time while wrapping up lights. The production claims it wrapped on time, but the location owner claims it went over at least 30 minutes. Does Set Scouter arbitrate/enforce the claim?

Set Scouter is currently in beta testing but is already building its catalogue in Toronto. What do you think? When Set Scouter goes global, would you consider it for your location scouting needs? Or are there other scouting services like this you would recommend right now?

Link: Set Scouter

[via Tribeca]

Your Comment

16 Comments

Hi Benjamin,

Thank you for writing about Set Scouter! We are really excited to be introduced to the US film community.
I wanted to answer your question about enforcement of overtime. We charge 10% of the rental fee each half hour a production goes overtime. That time is documented by the homeowner. Quite honestly, we haven't had any trouble yet. It's a community built on trust and the homeowners are actually more forgiving than we are. We've had homeowners offering to feed the crew and the crew leaving flowers for when the owners get back!

August 20, 2014 at 4:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Fantastic idea, especially when you're shooting all over the world.

We've used AirBnB itself, at times, when truly stuck. This looks to be much better.

August 20, 2014 at 5:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Why limit this to just Toronto? This is a brilliant idea, it would be perfect if it were available in London UK, I would use it all the time. I'm tired of bloated location costs and location scout companies taking a massive cut from our budgets.

Any chance this will spread to other locations? I don't see why it needs to be just Toronto...

August 20, 2014 at 6:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matt

Oh just seen you are in Beta, from the article. Hope you can bring service to the rest of the world too soon!

August 20, 2014 at 6:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matt

Hi Matt,

We're working on it! Reaching every production company is important to us and we'll be there to support you soon.

Alex
Founder, Set Scouter

August 20, 2014 at 9:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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This is a incredible service! I will definitely sign up next time I need to find a location. Ultimately, though, there is room for abuse. Is it fair that a huge production would get the same price as an independent? I don't think so. I would suggest that the pricing be based on a tiered-system where the cheapest price is for the smallest number of individuals who will be present at the location. For example: $350 for less than 10ppl. $1k for more than 10. Obviously, those numbers have to remain attractive, but I think it should be incorporated so as to keep the business sustainable. Just a suggestion!

August 20, 2014 at 8:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Hi Seth,

Brilliant idea! We have some ideas on how to deal with this very problem. Solving the pricing situation is our next step. We want to make it fair for everyone, including the homeowners.

Alex
Founder, Set Scouter

August 20, 2014 at 9:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Seth's right of course, and it's not just fairness, it's also the wear-and-tear a larger production imposes vs. a small crew.

August 20, 2014 at 8:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Absolutely! We're seeing that on the productions we're booking. We're working on this next!

Alex
Founder, Set Scouter

August 20, 2014 at 9:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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This is a GREAT idea - Added props if you come to Cincinnati Ohio sooner than later!

August 21, 2014 at 9:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jason

Can't wait to be in Cinci, Jason!

August 21, 2014 at 4:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Great team some of whom I've met including Alex, interesting concept, I'm based out of Toronto and love seeing quality startups coming from the area. If I need a location for shooting a video or film I know what site I will go to to find my ideal spot!

August 21, 2014 at 10:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I'm location scouting now for my movie and having a hard time finding people who are willing to allow a film crew for a couple weeks. We're looking for a secluded cabin in the woods in or around Pennsylvania. Any suggestions?

August 21, 2014 at 11:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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bob

We're not in Pennsylvania just yet, Bob! Hoping we can help you scout soon.

August 21, 2014 at 4:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Great Idea, I'm so sick of these explainer videos though.

August 21, 2014 at 5:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Adrian

This will realistically only ever be useful for smaller productions - I can see inexperienced producers keen to bypass dedicated location managers in favour of saving a few dollars by using an app. The truth is, there is so much more to location managing than simply scouting. Film crews are known to be extremely prone to causing damage, or at the very least, high wear-and-tear to most locations - there should always be a location manager or an assistant every time a crew member steps inside someone's property.
There are also big logistical hurdles that are commonly handled by the locations team (such as supervising prep and strike days, finding suitable parking for base and tech vehicles etc) that this app simply won't be able to cover. And the overtime policy sound incredibly draconian. And I can't imagine Set Scouter would have the resources to assist a location owner should they suffer at the hands of a cowboy production. This sounds like a good idea in principle but the reality is that it won't ever be more than just another online location library to anything bigger than a small independent production.

August 22, 2014 at 5:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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LJ