What It’s Like to Watch TV Replicate Your Home
For years, “Boardwalk Empire” had filmed in our neighborhood — and seemingly on every other block in Brooklyn. Every time I angrily moved my car for production, I enviously wondered when a scout would darken my doorstep. If you were going to lose parking to crew trucks and vintage cars, you might as well get paid for it.
After my enthusiastic welcome, Mr. Ginsberg, the location manager, returned the next day with the show’s director Leslye Headland. Then, a few days later, they descended with 30 studio department heads for a tech scout. They fell in love with the same things we had when we bought the house: the moldings, the heavy wooden five-panel doors, the bright light that streams into our dining room from our back yard.
We got a call in March that the pilot would be shot in our house. “It’s sort of rare,” said Mr. Ginsberg, “to build a set for a pilot, since we don’t know if it’s going to get picked up or not. We prefer to do it on site.”
Within days, the house was measured and painstakingly photographed so that Susan Ogu, the set decorator, could clear out our belongings and fill it with different furniture, drapes, lamps and wall hangings. The first week of April, we left for my mother-in-law’s place in Prospect Heights, and our furniture was moved to the basement and onto a truck. Our house was now officially “Julia’s house” — what’s called a hero house in production parlance — where the main character lives, in this case Brittany Snow, of “Pitch Perfect” fame.
“The character wouldn’t live in a brand-new building in Williamsburg,” explained Neil Patel, production designer for the pilot. “She would live in a house with character, history and soul. Her house is important because it becomes the home for these newly discovered sisters.”
A layer of clutter was added to give the place a truly lived-in feel. Several of our paintings, art photographs and our 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints were kept for the shoot. We made sure the artists who were still alive were paid for the rights to show their work. (The crew asked us to email a detailed list of all the artists and contact information.) The producers also donated some money toward the annual block party so our neighbors wouldn’t hate us too much for those lost parking spaces. The shoot itself was only two days, at $7,500 per day, though there were prep days and wrap days as well, which paid less.