Hollywood calling... well, Effingham actually!

I got a call yesterday from LocationSurrey.com. I ducked the initial call as I presumed that it was probably yet another company interested in finding us an new office. (After being flooded twice in a year we are now perceived as a highly mobile company by estate agents who often cold call us to see if it's been raining heavily or not!)
I checked out their website and soon realised I'd got completely the wrong end of the stick! These guys help TV and film people source everything they want to make their movie, TV programme or commercial. From venues, cars, film extras, props, Champagne - you name it. They've been doing it over the phone for yonks, but the website idea is new.
The boss himself had been calling, Mike Smith, and I checked him out on the site and discovered I had just missed talking to the man who, "discovered Adam and the Ants and launched the Smurfs!"
He's also managed and advised many individuals: David Frost, Rolf Harris, Michael Grade, Hazel O'Connor, Rick Wakeman and Billy Ocean and basically been involved in TV and media most of his life. Oh, and as if that wasn't enough - he's married to the lovely Sally James, from Tiswas!
I phoned him back promptly and we had a great chat. It seems one of the things media types are sometimes looking for is a dog. Often they don't know what type of dog they want for a certain shot, but when they see it they know!
The idea is to build up a database of people who would be delighted to have their dogs featured on TV or on the big screen. It's highly unlikely you'll be able to give up the day job, and there's every chance you may never get a sniff of work, but who knows - maybe your dog could land a part in the next Harry Potter!
Years ago one of my dogs got a walk on part in an ITV drama. It was called "A Kind of Loving" - a period drama set in the 1950s. My old dog Magic was seen for only a few seconds walking with a man in a trilby in the background, but it made me very proud and made me realise that sometimes the look of a dog was all that was wanted by the TV bods, that acting didn't have to always come into it. The doggie equivalent of an 'extra' did exist!
I think we got £50 and the excitement of hanging around a location for a few hours.
At the other end of the scale - the canine equivalent of your Helen Mirrens and Judy Denchs are people like the late great Ann Head who used to command a massive £1,000 a day for her dogs - but as she could control her dogs to such an astonishing degree, there was an endless queue of people wanting to work with her from all over the world. (I once saw her at work with one of her legendary Pippins and I kid you not she was able to give a long sequence of commands in advance that included a very precise instruction as to how much white of the eye the dog needed to show when it put its head on its paw! Remarkable.)
Anyway, if you have a gorgeous dog (aren't they all?) and you'd like to have your dog's photo and brief CV put in front of the casting directors, here's how to get involved.
The cost is £50 per year - less than a pound a week - and the company will negotiate your fee if your dog does get signed up for any work (they know the correct money you should receive so you won't get diddled). Their commission is 15% of any monies you receive direct, so it's in their interest to get you the best fee.
I'd say from my limited experience of dogs and TV studios - make sure you have a confident, well balanced dog with basic training as a minimum as film and TV sets can be odd places. An apparently shy dog may have found a niche role in the latest VW Polo commercial, but a nervous, aggressive or noisy dog probably wouldn't normally ever fit the bill! However, being able to bark on command is one of the talents worth mentioning.
And what if you're not in Surrey? It doesn't matter - if you are happy to travel, then no problem. What is likely to happen is that if someone has decided to set a film in, for example, a sleepy Surrey village they are likely - out of convenience - to source many of the props from the same place they found the dream cottage. So that's how your dog, car (or even your own photo should you choose to register yourself as an extra!) may get chosen. Plus once the website gets known for being strong on dogs, the directors will hopefully use it to browse on other jobs, too.
There's no guarantees though and we know from media-watching that fashions come and go and this month Dachshunds may be all the rage in commercials - but it may be several years, even decades before they return to vogue!

If this appeals you need to:-
  • Provide good photos of your dog (up to three)
  • Name, breed, brief description and age (eg six years old in July 2008....so the directors can work out the actual age of you dog when they view) - remember people viewing may have no idea what size a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is so spell it out!
  • Any detail of special talents (if relevant)
  • Owner's address & contact details (this information is NOT made public)

There is a charge of £50 to be on the website for a year - although if you respond via the blog you'll get an extra two months free.

The website is in its pre-launch state at the moment if you check it out - so you'll see there's only one dog on their at the moment. Mike decided to launch the web side as he was already spending so much time on the phone to directors, it made sense to give them something visual to browse through as well.

To be one of the first dogs on the books send a cheque for £50 made out to locationsurrey.com Ltd together with a stamped addressed envelope to:

Freshwater House
KT24 5QR

Fingers crossed one of the blog readers lands a starring role! Do let me know how you get on. I'm rustling up Tess and Oscar's best pix. Perhaps one shot showing Oscar clean and gorgeous and one of his usual muddy self might be best as he could easily play a stray, too! Maybe Oscar was named Oscar for a reason... I can just see us tripping up the red carpet getting our Academy award now! Best muddy dog in a supporting role...
Who knows, maybe even our garden might be of interest to a director looking for a venue to set the latest post-apocalyptic movie!

Stop press
Mike's just emailed - you get the £50 back when you get your first booking - although they can't guarantee that you'll get work. I fed back that some people on the various doggie forums were a bit put off by the fee, he's offering to register two dogs for £50 as a special blog discount. He also says: "We have nothing to prove and are quite open, we have to be with Council endorsement. We would never push people to join, it's not worth the effort and is far from financially viable to do so! If you're at all worried - just don't sign up."


Anonymous said…
I always think these are a great idea until I get to the "and for just £50"..so what is the £50 for?

I send them photos,
I take the photos,
I feed the dog etc and they...

well they just seem to e-mail the photos to a few people.

Nice work for £50 a pop

Beverley Cuddy said…
I've tried to explain that the £50 grates - they came back with an offer of doing two dogs for the same price, but they say it's something you'd get back in full with your first bit of work - if successful. I guess it's a punt - a way of advertising to directors for a year. A pound a week. It won't be for everyone, certainly. If it was free - or even the first 50 free I think word of mouth would grow the entries after that. Mike pointed out that if it was a scam it's not the brightest or most ambitious one as it would take an awful lot of dog owners parting with £50 to make him a fortune, and if you look at his CV he appears to have much more profitable things to do!

I think the thing is here that he already has all the contacts with the directors.
Linda Ward said…
My first thought was that if it is a new website, then we should get the dogs on for free as we are making it look busy on their behalf, with no guarantee that 'novice' dogs will get any work once more 'professionally' trained start being signed up - we'd be paying to seed their website!

I'd rather have the dogs on for free, and pay the web fee once I'd got work! Fred is too anxious. Beauty my greyhound might like it, but she's too old to act as a racing greyhound now, so I don't fancy paying money for other people to look at her photo for a year. I am wondering if there is commission for the people who do join through the blog, as you are advertising for them!
Anonymous said…
It would be a better idea if the the £50 was deducted from your first job rather than have to fork out £50 up front in the hope of something happening.

That way the company would have to work for their £50 instead of concentrating on just getting more 'new faces' at £50 a pop!

I'm sure he can earn more money doing other things but if all the actresses, dogs, private houses and retail stores etc are all giving £50 then it's not bad for no guarantees is it?
Beverley Cuddy said…
I know what you mean, I've said much the same thing myself.
Just don't think many people will part with £50, and if not people sign up then the directors are unlikely to see it as much of a resource for finding dogs if there's no choice.
Maybe they'll have a change of heart...
Beverley Cuddy said…
See the latest blog for news of a great free offer for the first 20 to send me their cvs.

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