Have you ever thought about using your property as a way to earn some extra money? Find out below whether your property has what it takes to be a successful film or photoshoot location.
In short, every type of house could be a film location. Just think of a typical evening in front of the television and the number of different houses and properties you see. Unless they are standalone sets (like Coronation Street), the likelihood is that they are someone's home. We are always on the look-out for every type of property, especially locations that represent how people live today or how they lived in the past. We have a huge number of enquiries for family houses. If you are wondering if your home is "special" enough, don't worry, not every production needs a palace.
"If you are wondering if your home is "special" enough, don't worry, not every production needs a palace."
As a guide, the type of location that does well is typical of a period in time. Period dramas will want genuine Georgian and Victorian houses, say, with untouched interiors. A film set in the 70s or 80s will want as many features of that period as possible - including the avocado bathroom suite! If your house untouched by time, then you may find it is in demand as a film location.
Properties which have a feel of foreign climes are also popular, especially if they are close to London. Limited production budgets often mean that they can't jet everyone off to Miami or the Mediterranean. If your house could pass for a Miami mansion or a villa, or any other type of foreign location, then it could have a future as a film location.
Having said that we look for every type of location, not every property will work for filming, just because the logistics can be so demanding. If you've ever seen a film being shot you'll know that filming comes with a lot of crew and equipment, and if they they are not on set they all need somewhere to park and somewhere to go. Film production teams will get around anything for a truly unique and perfect location. Read on to find out what they value when choosing where to shoot:
Location. Filming is expensive and moving crews around can increase costs significantly. The closer you are to the production centre the better. In most cases, this means London or the major studios like Pinewood or Elstree, but increasingly more films are being made in Manchester or Bristol, so being close by can boost your chances of getting selected.
Space. You may have the perfect location, but if there's no room for the crew or even enough space to film, then sadly it just won't work. To be successful in this industry, you need to have big enough rooms for the crew and their equipment, and other rooms available to use for hair, make-up and green rooms.
"You may have the perfect location, but if there's no room for the crew or even enough space to film, then sadly it just won't work".
Parking. Having off-street or unrestricted parking can raise the appeal of your property for any production, just for the convenience factor alone. Location managers have a lot to organise before a film shoot, removing the need for parking permissions makes their lives easier.
Quiet. If you're next to the motorway or underneath a flight path, then filming becomes more problematic at your property. In film shoots schedules are tight and time is money - the crew will want to get through the day with as few disruptions as possible. Hanging about to wait for a train to pass every 20 minutes is not ideal!
Even if you have space, the parking and the right location, you may not have the appetite for filming. Let's be clear: filming is disruptive, not just for you and your family but often for your neighbours too - which is one of the reasons why it pays so well. But ruling out filming doesn't necessarily mean that you can't earn money from your property as a location; it may be perfectly suited to being a photoshoot location. Photographic shoots are generally far less disruptive than full-scale filming with fewer people and much less equipment. However, photoshoot locations do come with special requirements - read on to find out more!
We like to think of our photoshoot locations as the super-models of the location industry - ultimately they have to be very photogenic! It doesn't necessarily mean that they have to be perfect (faded grandeur and even derelict properties are both popular photoshoot styles). However, something must appeal to the photographer to make an ideal backdrop to their shoot.
"We like to think of our photoshoot locations as the super-models of the location industry - ultimately they have to be very photogenic!"
Stylish. A lot of lifestyle photography takes place in aspirational homes. Your home could be popular because it has a strong statement style, or it could be for the opposite, a neutral backdrop which can be styled by the production. But a successful photoshoot location usually has that "special something" that sets it apart from the crowd.
Parking. Although the scale is smaller, the ability to park off-road or close by is as essential for photoshoots as it is for filming. There may be props, or wardrobe for the models, or furniture which will all need space to park and unload.
Location. Lots of production companies and clients base themselves in and around London, so many of our most popular photoshoot locations are in or within 50 miles of London. Shoots will go further afield for something exceptional. Don't let being outside London put you off from registering - just be prepared for the fact that you might not get lots of bookings.
Space. Crew sizes are generally smaller than for filming. However, there can still be a lot of paraphernalia and people that accompany a photoshoot. Having the space to put things, plus additional rooms for hair and make-up is always needed.
With more than 30 years combined experience of registering and booking locations, our team are well versed in the questions you're most likely to ask. From "what happens next" to how much can I earn", read on to find the answers to our frequently asked questions.
After we have accepted your location and our agreements have been signed, we will then make sure that we make your house easy to find on our website. We will tag your photographs highlighting the style of your property and its features. It is our job to make sure your property gets included in as many searches as possible.
Once you've registered your property online, it will come through to our registrations team, and they will decide whether your location is right for us. Sadly, we can't accept every property, and we use our judgement to determine which locations to take, and which to turn down. We'll base that decision on several factors like how unique your property is or whether we already have houses like it in the same area. Ultimately we make a judgment on whether we think it is likely to attract work. Sometimes a location will look promising, but the quality of photographs is poor, or there just aren't enough of them to get a good impression of your property. In these circumstances we will ask you to provide some more photographs, possibly using a professional photographer before we add your location to our website.
Please don't be offended if we don't accept your property. Our decision is not whether we like your home; it is a commercial decision based on whether we are likely to find work for you.
We can't give you a definite answer to how often you will be used. You may get a call in the first week, but then again, you may not hear from us for over a year. Some locations never get used at all. It depends on whether you have the right property in the right area for what the client is looking for.
Our most popular locations offer something unique to the user, are in a good area (usually in or around London), are well-photographed and have flexible and accommodating owners. We always do our best to promote your location to our clients and try to match as many locations to suitable briefs as we can.
"Our most popular locations offer something unique to the user, are in a good area (usually in or around London), are well-photographed and have flexible and accommodating owners."
The million dollar question - and the answer is....it all depends! Sadly, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question as there are so many variables which will influence how much a job will pay. It will depend on the production's budget, the level of disruption, the length of the shoot and the type of property you have. Stately homes generally command higher fees than suburban semi's. As a rule of thumb, feature films tend to have the highest budgets, followed closely by TV dramas. At the same time, editorial or stills lifestyle shoots with small crews, and little disruption usually pay much less. To give you some idea, we frequently negotiate location fees of a few hundred pounds for a photographic shoot, between £1,000 and £2,000 for a TV commercial and upward of £10,000 for a week's filming.
Although we don't publish a rate-card, our team of location coordinators are very experienced and will know the going rates for different types of job. They will do their best to get you the best price they can. And remember, we never confirm a booking without getting your agreement on fees beforehand.
Some productions can be extremely demanding and can bombard you with requests that you don't feel comfortable with. If you know in advance that you want to set some limits on what a client can do in your location, then it is best to talk to your agency about it when you register so that they can note it in your file. Some owners don't allow decorating or don't want their furniture moved. Others don't want filming in certain rooms or don't want any filming at night. It's much better to be open about what you will and won't agree to from the start than to change your mind at the last minute.
When it comes to negotiating what a production can and cannot do on the day, it is our job to make sure that you know what they want to do and everything is agreed in the contract before any filming takes place. You certainly don't have to agree to anything you don't want to. However, the more accommodating you can be, the more likely they are to choose your location and to come back in the future.
Our website is your shop window, so the best thing you can do to make your location stand out is to make sure you send us the very best images you can. It means photographing every room from multiple angles and in good light, making sure that you include some establishing shots of the outside as well as shots of the garden. Take a look at chapter 5 for some tips on how to photograph your house correctly. If you think you can't do your location justice, consider getting some professional photographs done.
Finally, tidy up! You'd be amazed at the number of people who send in photos of unmade beds and clutter everywhere, and then wonder why they don't get any work.
"Our website is your shop window, so make sure you send us the very best images you can."
In most cases, you will not need to seek permission to use your house for filming, but there are some exceptions to this:
1. You don't own the property. If you are renting, then you need to ask the owner's permission to use the house as a location. We have several homes on our books which are rented. Usually, the owners and the tenants split the location fee so that both parties benefit.
2. You live in an apartment block. You may find that your lease or management company doesn't allow filming, or has restrictions to protect the other residents. You can often overcome these restrictions if you (or the production company) compensates the other residents for their inconvenience. We ask you to check if your building allows filming as the involvement of a management company can add another layer of charges on top of the location fee.
3. Planning. Some councils have a limit on how many days of filming you can have before you need to get planning permission. It doesn't usually affect many locations, but if you are popular and repeatedly used, or you get bookings for long-term hires, then it might be worth checking out your local authority's website.
We recommend being as open and honest with your neighbours as possible as disgruntled neighbours can make life difficult for both you and the shoot. Most location managers will letter-drop your neighbours before filming takes place. The letter lets them know what is going on and gives them a contact number to call if there are any problems. Sometimes neighbours are even asked to get involved, perhaps being asked for the use of their driveway for additional parking (and earning a small fee for their trouble).
If you are a popular location house and have filming or photographic shoots several times a month, then we would recommend talking to your immediate neighbours. If valuable parking spaces in your road are continually being taken over by film and photography crews, then neighbours may well lose patience. Excellent communication is the key to keeping everyone happy.
"When it comes to neighbours, excellent communication is the key to keeping everyone happy."
There is no denying that filming can be disruptive. If you have neighbours who might be affected by what is happening in your property, it pays to keep them informed and onside.
Most photoshoots and small film productions won't need you to move out (although you may need to make plans for the day, especially if you have children). However, some big feature films and TV dramas where filming lasts over several days may require you to go and stay in a hotel for a few nights. Your costs (including food) will be paid for by the production. It doesn't mean you can go ahead and book the Ritz, but usually, the costs of a reasonably priced local hotel will be covered.
Answer: anything! The most important thing to expect is an early start and potentially, a late finish. If a production can squeeze everything they can into a one day shoot then they will do that, rather than go to the expense of hiring a location for a second day. Other than that, it will entirely depend on the nature of the shoot. Small shoots can feel very relaxed whereas large productions can, at times, feel overwhelming. Expect lots of questions about where things are and how things work, but once you've shown the crew around, you should be able to leave them to it. If we've done our job properly, you will know exactly what to expect, and will have agreed to everything in advance.
"If we've done our job properly, you will know exactly what to expect, and will have agreed to everything in advance."
Like agents in other industries, it is our job to connect our locations with the clients who wish to use them. In a nutshell, we offer a shortcut to producers, directors and photographers who need a location for their production but don't have time to go knocking on property owners' doors in the hope of finding their perfect location. But if you think that our job ends once a location has signed up, think again. Here are the top 10 roles of a location agency:
There's no point in us offering a service where we only represent a handful of locations. Our clients come to our website knowing that we'll have an extensive and diverse collection of high-quality properties that will ultimately save them a lot of leg work. We make sure that we have as many property types as possible, from foreign look-a-likes to archetypal family homes.
Once we receive your photos, it is our job to put them in the right categories and to tag each image (feature) so that someone searching will find what they want. If a production wants a Georgian house with a conservatory and a roll-top bath within the M25, we make sure that it's never more than a few clicks away.
"We make sure your perfect location is never more than a few clicks away."
In truth, many clients don't have the time to search our website themselves. This is where our expert team of location bookers come in. They spend every day searching through our location library matching our properties to specific briefs that clients send us. They know our website inside out and can quickly put together a portfolio of suitable locations.
We receive hundreds of briefs from location managers every month, and it is our job to create a portfolio of potential locations that match their requirements. A typical brief will specify the area, the property type, the period and the style. It will usually ask for special features (this could be anything from a grand staircase, some outbuildings or even a particular outlook or view).
If the client likes the look of any of the suggestions we send, they typically want to visit to see the location in real life. Some smaller shoots may skip this stage and book the property straight away, but for larger shoots and filming, where logistics need sorting too, the next step is almost always a recce.
Our clients work to very tight deadlines, and we're often juggling the client's itinerary with our location owners' diaries to arrange viewings. Making sure that you or a representative can be available at short notice is key to having a successful film location.
There is no fixed rate card in our industry for location hire which means that we are negotiating terms for every booking. We make sure that we ask for the budget upfront so that we can suggest locations most likely to accept the fee and can manage expectations. We will always try to work with a client to find a solution within their budget, but if they don't have sufficient funds, then we will be upfront about that too. It's in our interests to get you the best fee we can.
We make sure that locations know the budget, as well as what is required (dates, rooms, crew size etc) before we start arranging recces and reserving dates. This means that by the time we come to draw up the contract, all the finer details have been addressed and there are no surprises.
"by the time we come to draw up the contract, all the finer details have been addressed and there are no surprises."
The vast majority of the shoots we arrange use our agreement which all our location owners pre-sign. This means that the contract can be signed and returned in a timely manner before the shoot date. Larger productions, mainly feature films, will have their own agreements and it is our role to make sure that any contract protects your interests at all times. We won't allow any shoot to go ahead without a signed contract from the user (client).
Just as we need a signed contract, we also need to make sure that the client has sufficient insurance cover in case anything goes wrong. We ask for, and keep on file, a copy of the insurance before every shoot.
Once the client signs the agreement, we will invoice them on your behalf. As far as possible, we aim to have received payment before any filming takes place. Payment in advance isn't possible for some photographic shoots, but we will always make sure that you know when you are likely to be paid. As a location owner, you don't need to invoice us as we issue a "self-bill" which means that we invoice ourselves on your behalf. As soon as the client has paid us, we will pay you.
"We aim to have received payment before any filming takes place."
We usually check-in with you on the day after a shoot to make sure that everything went smoothly. It is very common for a shoot to exceed the contracted hours and if so, we will invoice the client for the additional hours at the overtime rate agreed.
Unfortunately, film and photo shoots do come with some risk of damage to your property. We recommend walking around your location with a crew member as soon as possible after filming has ended. It means you can agree both the extent of any damage and whether it was the fault of the shoot (it may have been already there). Typically you will be asked to get a quote for making good, and once agreed, we will then invoice the client.
Some owners often wonder whether they could manage their location themselves, and for some of the biggest and best-known stately homes which employ staff, this is entirely feasible. Even then, many of these properties choose to register with a location agency to benefit from the sheer number of film and photoshoot enquiries we get every week. Remember, our clients are trying to find a location as quickly and efficiently as possible; they want us to do their leg work. By registering with an agency, you put your property in the running for many more opportunities for filming and photography than you would by going it alone.
Location agencies typically work for a wide range of clients, often juggling many briefs at the same time. At Lavish our clients can be major film production studios filming a feature in the UK or TV production companies making anything from a period drama to a TV reality show. We work for stills production companies, picture editors, photographers, major brands and more. And then in between are the documentary makers, the video producers and vloggers. We work with students at the start of their careers to film directors who are household names. In fact, anyone who needs a location for filming, photography or an event is a potential client of Lavish.
Being a successful location isn't just about opening your door and taking the cheque. There are lots of things as an owner you can do to make the shoot go smoothly and keep clients coming back again in future. Here are our do's and don'ts of running a successful shoot.
The film and photographic industries work to tight timescales - we might get asked for ideas in the morning and be on the phone arranging recce's (viewings) by the afternoon. If the client is on a tight schedule, then they will want to narrow down their long-list rapidly. It is frustrating for everyone concerned if we can't get hold of you. So please do keep your mobile close at hand and check-in to messages and emails regularly - it might just mean the difference between getting the job or missing out.
"Please do keep your mobile close at hand and check-in to messages and emails regularly".
It stands to reason that the more accommodating you are, the more that crews will enjoy filming or shooting at your location. And if everything goes smoothly and works the way they wanted, they will remember and hopefully, be back. You don't have to agree to everything, especially if it is an unreasonable request. Our job to be clear about what they want to do and get your agreement. However, small things like saying "yes" to the use of rooms for hair and make-up, allowing them to use some of the facilities in the house and agreeing for them to remove and replace furniture carefully, go a long way.
It is so important that when a client arrives, they can get started straight away. Your property must be clean and tidy with any clutter put away. If you're making a bathroom available (which all but the biggest productions will need), make sure that there is plenty of loo roll and clean towels.
"Your property must be clean and tidy with any clutter put away."
Sometimes several years may have passed since you photographed your property and a location that looked pristine on our website can look tired in real life. It is your responsibility to make sure that you keep your property in good condition and that the photos on our site are representative.
Yes, it is your home, but you've hired it to the production, and if you don't leave them alone to get on with their jobs it can be very frustrating, not to say irritating for the crew. We recommend being on-hand when they arrive to show them where everything is. Give them a way to get hold of you if they have questions or issues during the day, and then make yourself scarce until they're wrapping up. It is undoubtedly a good idea to be there at the end for a walk-around with a crew member. Use this time to make sure everything has been put back correctly and that no damage has been caused.
You don't need to leave the house (unless you want to) so we recommend keeping somewhere free of filming for you and your family to go and get on with things during the day. Checking in regularly to make sure that they're sticking to the what was agreed is a good idea, but following them around with a dustpan and brush isn't!
Lots of filming and photography naturally involves actors and celebrities (this is one of the upsides to renting your house out as a film location!). Friends and family can be very inventive in finding reasons to visit on shoot days, but remember, the cast and crew are working and probably won't appreciate an audience. We advise you to seek permission from the location manager before arranging any autograph or selfie sessions with your friends.
Many film and TV production companies are very hot on confidentiality. Most film location contracts come with clauses which mean that you must keep all information about the nature of the filming completely confidential. In this day of smartphone cameras and social media, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage privacy and confidentiality. However, no one should take any photos or video footage of the proceedings or the cast without permission. If your teenagers are star-struck and likely to post pictures all over Instagram, it is probably best to keep them out of the way!
"If your teenagers are star-struck and likely to post pictures all over Instagram, it is probably best to keep them out of the way!"
Our clients must be able to rely on the photos on our website as they may not choose to recce your location before the shoot. If you refurbish or redecorate, then please update your photos. Even if you swap a large item of furniture (e.g. you've sold the grand piano) let us know and send a replacement photo.
Hiring your house out for film and photographic shoots will increase the number of people coming in and out of your home, which will inevitably lead to increased wear and tear. Although most shoots will do everything they can to protect floors and paintwork, it is likely that small marks and scratches will occur and that these may mount up over time. Wear and tear comes with the territory, and you should probably budget for redecorating your house or cleaning your carpets more frequently than usual.
If you are very house proud and want to keep your home immaculate at all times, then perhaps renting out your home for filming and photoshoots isn't for you.
Our website is your shop window, so taking great quality photographs is the best way to get noticed by location managers, producers and photographers. They use our site daily to find their perfect location. Read on to learn everything you need to know about photographing your location.
Our location owners take most of the photos we display on our site themselves. Taking pictures isn't difficult, especially once you've read our tips on how to photograph your property successfully. If you're still not sure your photography skills are up to it, then, by all means, use a professional photographer. It means that you can be confident of high-quality images. Remember, the better the photographs, the more likely your location will get noticed. Even then, it is no guarantee that a production company or photographer will choose your location, but its an excellent starting point!
As in most things, preparation can make the difference between doing something really well or doing it badly (or only just well enough). Take a look at our 10 top tips before you get started.
1. Choose a sunny day when the light is good - your house will look much better in natural lighting. And avoid flash.
2. Tidy up. Prospective clients will want to get a feel of your house as a blank canvas; make the beds and put things away so that the room can shine without the distraction of clutter and mess. If you have items that you don't want to be available for filming, then put them away before you take photos.
3. Limit photos to the rooms you are prepared to make available. Our clients will expect to be able to film or photograph every room that is on our website.
4. Use a digital camera, and yes, your smartphone will be good enough. If you have a tripod, then use it to make sure that your images are steady and straight. If not, then make sure that you hold your phone or camera as steadily as possible.
5. Don't use a wide-angle lens. Wide angled lenses can be useful to see a wider perspective of a room, but often they are used to make a small room look bigger. It is best to play safe and steer clear, and just take a series of photos from different angles if you don't want to miss important features of your room.
6. Take landscape photos. Most location websites use a standard format for displaying images which are usually square or landscape. If you include portrait photos, then inevitably the photo will appear cropped in the majority of images.
7. No artistic angles. The images should show a location manager or photographer what your rooms look like so that they know what they've got to play with. If your artistic shot means that they can't tell where the floor ends and the ceiling starts, they may simply "pass" on your location.
8. Focus on the rooms, not their contents. Remember, clients are interested in the space and its architectural features. You may love your collection of china dogs or your favourite lamp, but the client is unlikely to be as interested. We don't need a close-up, especially not at the expense of an image of the room that they are in.
9. Include important views. We get a surprising number of briefs where the view from the room is a really important feature. Favourites are city views, sea views and country views, so if you've got them, flaunt them.
10. Don't pretend to be something you're not. This only wastes everyone's time, including your own. Keep your photographs as realistic as possible so that they are a true reflection of what the client will find when they turn up to recce or shoot.
And finally, leave out people, pets and personal items - they won't make your property more appealing. If anything, they'll just be a distraction.
When we load your photographs onto our site, we usually organise them in the way you would expect if someone was showing you their new home. It helps us (and you) if you keep this in mind, and take your photos as if you are going around for the first time:
Step 1. Start by taking pictures of the outside, including the garden and any outbuildings. A photo of the drive and parking area is useful, especially for big productions which will want to get a feel for how many vehicles you can accommodate. Make sure you get a perfect shot of the front of your house. Location managers can often get a good feel of what lies inside if they know what type and period of property it is.
Step 2. Go into the house from the front door and photograph the hall and stairs, followed by the principal downstairs rooms. Make sure that you photograph each room from every corner starting from the door you entered by. If the room has a great feature, like a fireplace or a view, then make sure you capture it. If you have interconnecting rooms, it often helps to get a view through from one room to the next.
Step 3. Photograph the stairs and landing and all the bedrooms where you would allow a crew to shoot. If you have ensuite bathrooms, make sure they are visible from the bedrooms too so that the location manager or photographer can get an idea of the layout.
Step 4. Cellars, basements and roofs - if they are accessible to a film crew and you will allow filming in them, then photograph them too.
Step 5. Gardens, pools, lakes and outside features. The external photos don't have to be as extensive as the interiors. Features like swimming pools and lakes can be sought-after, so make sure you include them. Tip: if you do have a swimming pool, a summer shot will be much more enticing than a photo of a pool cover in the depths of winter.
Answer: lots! It is much more common for us to have too few photographs than too many. And in this digital age, taking and sending new photos is easy. If your photos keep a client guessing about what is on the other side of a room, then you haven't taken enough. Start with lots, and if we need to trim down the number, we will.
"If your photos keep a client guessing about what is on the other side of a room, then you haven't taken enough."
Like every industry, filming and photography has a language of its own. Learn the terms of the film location industry, and feel like a pro when you welcome your first film crew into your property.
A recce is a viewing of your property and typically takes place after the location manager has drawn up a shortlist of properties that could work for the brief. There may be many recces before your location is hired. Recces usually involve the location manager and then increasing numbers of the production team as they assess your location's suitability and develop their plans.
The tech (technical) recce takes place at the end of the process, usually, once your location has been selected but not confirmed. A tech recce can be a long meeting with the location manager and other members of the crew to sort out all the technical requirements of the shoot - including the sound and lighting and where to put the green room and the catering trucks. Having a tech recce is an excellent sign as it shows they are committed to your location. Still, it doesn't always go as planned - sometimes they will find obstacles that mean they cannot go ahead.
A honey wagon is a portable toilet for the cast and crew to use. Small shoots and film crews would expect to have a bathroom or cloakroom in the house allocated for their use. For big crews, this often isn't practical, and they will use a honey wagon on-site or close by instead.
"Small shoots and film crews would expect to have a bathroom or cloakroom in the house allocated for their use."
A unit base is where the production team will base itself while they are filming on location. Unit bases can be big, empty buildings, or often, are outside spaces (carparks or playing fields). Winnebagos and catering trucks can be parked there during the duration of filming.
Prep days are for setting up a location before the shoot. If the location doesn't need much dressing, then half a day of prep may be all that's required. Big productions which are transforming the property might need many days to prep.
Prep days fees usually are half those of film days.
Striking a location happens when filming finishes and the property is cleared up, cleaned and reinstated to how it was before the film crew arrived. Most crews will take detailed photographs of the property before they prep it so that they can put it back with everything in its original place. A crew member will invite the location owner to inspect the property to report any damage or missing items.
Fees for strike days usually are half of the agreed film rate.
A location manager typically works freelance and is employed by production companies to source and then manage all the locations for the film. Location managers will work to a brief and will have a budget for locations. They will shortlist locations, negotiate fees, agree on the usage, notify neighbours and any relevant authorities, and ensure that everything is in order at the end of filming. The location manager will be the main point of contact for the location owner during filming.
"The location manager will be your main point of contact during filming."
A location scout is often a freelancer whose job is to find a location that fits the client's brief. The brief might be for an outside space with a specific feature or a property that may not be on the books of a location agency. They should take into consideration the logistics and feasibility of a location when making recommendations. Location scouts typically work under the supervision of the location manager.
Once a client has created a shortlist of potential locations, they will want to reserve them for the dates of the shoot. They do this by putting "options" on the locations. A 1st option means that they have the first refusal on the property; a 2nd option means that they have the second refusal. Once you have agreed to a 1st option you can't just change it if a better offer comes along. It means that clients can plan their production safe in the knowledge that their locations will be available on the dates they need them.
"Once you have agreed to a 1st option you can't just change it if a better offer comes along."
"Pencilling" a location for shoot dates is another word for "optioning" or reserving the location. If you have a shoot pencilled in for a particular time, it means that you have reserved it until the client has either booked it or released it.
A confirmation means that the client is confirming that they want to book your location - it is the thing we've all been working towards! A confirmation can come very quickly for a small photoshoot. However, for a feature film, it can happen after weeks or months of recces, tech recces and negotiations. Now it's down to the fine details where we agree on all usage and fees, and draw up a contract.