Author Topic: Renting phones to movie production firms  (Read 812 times)

Offline WB6NVH

  • *
  • Posts: 6
Renting phones to movie production firms
« on: December 18, 2016, 02:34:09 PM »
I searched and didn't see this topic discussed yet, so I will start it.

Those of us with websites showing our collections or museum displays have probably all been approached at one time or another by various film production company people wanting to "rent" or "borrow" something from our collection for a movie or TV show.  This might sound fun on the face of it but I have heard horror stories from other collectors who did this, such as loaning cars, vintage radios and TV's and so forth.

The pitch is usually this - - some production outfit for an upcoming movie contacts the collector and wants to rent a rare item from his collection.  They will pay maybe $ 300-500 for the rental and say they carry "insurance."  Sounds good, right?   Maybe not. 

First, many of these production companies exist only during the production of the film and vaporize thereafter.  Phones disconnected, E-mail bouncing or lost in cyber space.  If you haven't gotten your stuff back by then, what to do?  I was contacted by a production company wanting to rent a rare 1960's car telephone from me that they saw on my website. They were willing to pay $ 400-500 in rent for an undisclosed time period.  Great, right?  Maybe not.  That phone is worth in excess of $ 1100 based on the only one I ever saw sell on eBay, and that one was not as nice as this one.  If I never got it back, what would compensate me?   And how would I file a claim?  Contact their insurer?  Ever done that?  The insurer typically tells you that you are not the insured and the insured is the one to file a claim, not you.  And that you can't prove what your item was worth so they won't pay you other than a token amount.    Starting to sound not so exciting now.

A couple people in the police car restorer groups some years ago rented vintage police cars to a film crew.  When the cars were returned, it seemed that the crew had jumped the cars over a high dirt berm and bent the frames and done collateral damage, making the cars more or less a total loss.  And the insurance reneged on paying, without a lawsuit being filed against the film production company, which had already packed its tent and disappeared.  A friend rented a rare car telephone control head to a film company a few years ago.  He had a terrible time getting it back and had to call them nearly every day for weeks until they returned it.  When he finally did get it back, it had been drilled up with extra holes and an assortment of "prop" lights and baubles added, more or less ruining it.

So...just curious if any members have tried renting their collection items to film crews, and whether they had better experiences than these.

Offline AL_as_needed

  • **
  • Posts: 872
  • WE 565HK
Re: Renting phones to movie production firms
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2016, 02:44:10 PM »
I have not had any experience with a film crew, but have had a few phones used in on stage performances. For me it was not a huge liability worry as I was already directly involved in the stage/set work and would be personally overseeing their use. Needless to say this did allow me to take extra steps they wouldn't be knocked over, dropped, or used to club someone etc.

Granted these also were not thousand dollar pieces, but still to me, they are part of my collection.

 Im sure this dilemma you speak of is why there are either inaccuracies within films concerning specific items (not just phones) because the owners rightly dont want to see them destroyed. On the other hand, if a prop house wants to get it "right" they would need to buy the items outright if possible and that can take a huge budget. Just look at "the queen" on netflix, a very very high budget series, most of which went into props and costume design to get things as accurate as possible.

Offline TelePlay

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 7437
    • . . . times keep changin'
Re: Renting phones to movie production firms
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2016, 02:54:29 PM »
Having been involved in theater, stage plays, for many years, I did loan phones for a play but only if I was working the play, usually sound effects, so I was always there to watch over my loaned props. I've never loaned or rented out phone equipment that was not junk to begin with, and here's why.

Having been involved in theater for many years, I can honestly say that if you want to ruin or destroy or severely damage anything from rooms to furniture to props, don't give it to a 2 year old, give it to a arts production company, film or stage. I almost think they go out of their way to wreck whatever is within reach. Clean up after they leave is more than a chore. Seems the cast, mainly the cast, has no concern about the stuff around them. After all, they are the most important thing ever since sliced bread and they have their name in the billing so I guess that gives them free reign to not care about what happens to stuff as long as they put on a good performance and get mentioned favorably in the review.

That's 25 years of experience from my soap box, so I will now step down and wait to hear others horror stories.

Offline paul-f

  • **
  • Posts: 3299
    • Old Telephones as Entertainment!
Re: Renting phones to movie production firms
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2016, 03:51:59 PM »
I have had several excellent experiences renting or selling phones for prop use.

All the fears mentioned are well founded.  I compared notes with others before jumping in the deep end and came up with several general rules of thumb. Here are a few I remember off-hand.
  • Never rent anything you will miss if it doesn't return or returns in pieces.
  • Make sure the terms specify that items must be returned in the condition as sent.
  • Make the rental fee greater than the sale price if sold outright or collect a large damage deposit.
  • Charge for any extra services provided.
  • Get the full fee plus a damage deposit in cleared funds in advance.
  • Pack everything carefully and include directions to keep the packaging and how to pack for the return trip. Clarify that this is essential to make sure they get their deposit back.
  • Return deposits and any excess fees only after items are returned and tested.
Negotiations have weeded out a few marginal potential "customers," but were well received by major (read "reputable") production companies.

One only wanted to discuss a rental agreement. It turned out the phones were to be shipped to Australia for several months of shooting, then returned. Most of the phones were fairly common, so I suggested they should buy them outright for just a bit more than the rental fee. I charged extra for packing for international shipping. At the end of shooting, they could sell them locally or abandon them and save the return handling and deposit bookkeeping. I got paid more for less work. Nice.

Another insisted they had to have a 1A speakerphone seen on my site. I really didn't feel good about it being away for a few months and quoted an outrageous fee, hoping they'd take an alternative set. They accepted immediately. I tried to get them to take just the 592 set and mounting cord, but the set dresser absolutely needed the control unit, too -- so the lights would light properly.
Of course, when the phone returned, the mounting cord had been cut at the control unit, as someone decided the box was too big to hide on set. Thank goodness for the damage deposit. I was relieved that there was no other damage.

BTW, the 1A speakerphone was one of over a dozen phones rented for that movie, and they all were returned in the original packing crates looking as good as when they left. It helped that filming happened about 2-hours drive from me and they had a contractor pick them up in a truck, rather than use a commercial shipper.

My only disappointment was that the footage of the 1A speakerphone was left on the cutting room floor.

I hope many will provide phones and advice to production companies, so the films will more accurately display vintage phones and won't have as many of the errors we love to find.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2016, 03:56:42 PM by paul-f »
Visit:         WE 500  Design_Line


Offline Dave F

  • **
  • Posts: 804
  • Help!! I Still Need Some AUTOVON Cards!!!
Re: Renting phones to movie production firms
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2016, 03:02:10 PM »
The caveat concerning getting involved with movie production companies is well founded and extends far beyond just renting them your stuff.  I live in Culver City, CA, about 1/2 mile from Sony studios.  Sony is the largest employer in the city and has all sorts of agreements with the city for special tax considerations.   One of the things Sony has agreed to is to do a certain amount of filming each year within the city.  Consequently, hardly a week goes by when we don't see filming taking place somewhere in the city.  They often use houses in our residential areas in films, and they are known to pay big bucks for a few days of such use.  However, I have heard horror stories about the condition some of these houses are left in after movie crews have stomped around in them for a week or so.

Several years ago we were approached by a location scouting crew to rent our house for a couple days of filming of a popular TV show (name intentionally omitted!).  At first, they only wanted to do exterior shots, so we agreed and made a preliminary deal which would have been financially quite nice.  But as the date of the film shoot got closer, we were informed that they also wanted to do some interior shots.  With all my collectibles taking up space and the thought of the hassle required to make the place acceptable to them, we politely declined.  As a result, they ended up using one of the neighbors' houses.  According to the neighbor, the resulting mess was still worth the payout they received.  However, having had a close-up view to the goings on, I'm glad that we didn't get involved.  The money wouldn't have been worth it, and the thought of one of my priceless rare phones getting trashed was a deal killer.

Bottom line: Film companies do pay well for use of private property, but be ready for lots of potential hassles.


Offline Futuralon

  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Renting phones to movie production firms
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2016, 05:42:47 AM »
I have no opinion either way on whether it's worth it or not, but wanted to share a recent well publicized %%%% up, where hollywood destroyed an 'irreplaceable' antique.

During the filming of Tarantino's the Hateful Eight, Jennifer Jason Leigh's character plays a guitar. The next cut, Kurt Russel's character freaks out and smashes it. Well someone didn't tell Russel that Leigh was using an antique Martin for that take, and that he should save his acting for another take with a cheap guitar.

As a result Martin guitars has stated they will never ever ever loan out an antique guitar again.

Offline AE_Collector

  • Global Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 7527
  • AE 2 - AECo's 1st Self Contained Desk Phone 1925
Re: Renting phones to movie production firms
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2016, 12:46:48 PM »
Telephone Collector Grant Munro here in Vancouver Canada has been renting to the many movies and TV shows produced in British Columbia for many years now.

He has had a few problems with damage over the years but nothing too unusual all things considered. I know he collects a damage deposit up front that is enough to compensate him if the item disappears (which has happened) or is damaged anywhere from just slightly to completely destroyed.

A long time ago Grant had to decide what items in his collection were not for rent as they were too close to irreplaceable.

All the people involved are not going to handle props the way you handle your phones so you have to expect some potential damage.


Offline LarryInMichigan

  • ***
  • Posts: 5139
Re: Renting phones to movie production firms
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2016, 02:45:54 PM »
I have tried to look into renting out phones and other things here in S.E. Michigan on a few occasions, but I never made any progress.  I have a huge number of antique/vintage clocks and radios and some fans as well as phones.  I would certainly demand a deposit and restrict what I rent out.  If anyone here has any information about how or where I might find such opportunities, I would appreciate hearing it.