Actors who are filming on location can be away for days, weeks, or months at a time, meaning they need a temporary place to call home. From lavish villas to economical trailers, there is a wide range of places actors can live while filming; here, we break down how most actors find rest and respite when work takes them far away.
Filming a movie or TV show can take a long time. According to cinematographer Margaret Kurniawan, “One or two script pages will take a whole day to film.” The longer the script, the longer actors are away from home.
The average movie takes around 1–3 months to shoot, but that can vary greatly depending on the genre. For example, blockbusters with complicated action sequences or period dramas with elaborate costuming and accent work may take longer than a straightforward comedy.
TV actors make an even longer commitment. Filming a 22-episode TV season can take around a year, with each episode taking multiple days or weeks to complete.
Other factors that can add to a production’s timeline include:
- Preproduction training: Actors may need special training before the cameras roll, such as dialect coaching, dance lessons, or combat instruction. For example, Tom Cruise trained for a full year—including taking 500 skydives—before shooting “Mission: Impossible 7.”
- Rehearsals: While not all movies or TV shows have lengthy rehearsal periods, some directors require that actors prep in advance and get to know their co-stars before shooting.
- Travel: For shoots with multiple locations, moving from place to place can tack on extra days.
- Weather: Unpredictable rain, snow, wind, and other natural elements can make it hard to get the right shot, adding time to a filming schedule.
Actors need comfortable places to live while filming so they can deliver their best performances. Movie and TV budgets account for actors’ living spaces, and production teams are responsible for finding suitable options for their cast and crew while filming on location.
With filming taking place all over the world, actors may be given a wide range of housing options, from hotels to apartments, houses, trailers, and more.
One of the most common options for actors while filming, hotels are readily available in many locations and price points. Productions with a large cast and crew may seek out hotels that allow everyone to stay close together, making it easier to transport people to and from set while creating bonding opportunities. In some cases, lead actors, directors, producers, and other vital production members may stay at a more upscale hotel than the supporting crew.
Apartment rentals are a great option for long-term shoots where actors won’t be changing locations too frequently, such as filming a TV series in one general area. Apartment living is more spacious and homey than living out of a hotel, allowing actors to settle in and get comfortable while they’re on location. These accommodations are usually reserved for lead actors only, as they will be on set for more time than most supporting actors or extras. Some actors stay in hybrid apartment-hotels.
Renting an entire house or villa is largely done only for A-list actors. Finding homes that are both up to the actor’s standards and close enough to set can be challenging, especially if there is a large, star-studded cast.
However, vacation homestay rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo have made renting houses while filming more accessible to all actors. Kathleen “Bird” York (“In the Dark”) prefers staying in an Airbnb while filming because “it’s nice to feel part of a neighborhood, and a kitchen makes it feel like home.”
Producers who own property near the set may offer their homes to actors as a perk while also saving on accommodation costs. Or, if an actor’s main residence isn’t far from the filming location, they may choose to stay at home while filming, commuting to and from set everyday. This is common for actors who reside in Los Angeles and New York City.
Many actors get on-set trailers to use for breaks in between scenes, but in some cases, living in the trailer may be the best or only option. Remote, off-the-beaten-path locations such as deserts, mountains, or forests may not have hotels or rentals within a reasonable distance, making it hard for actors to travel back and forth. Staying closer to set allows for more downtime, and some trailers can be quite luxurious, even within their limited space.
Where an actor lives while filming will be based on location, production budget, the length of the shoot, comfort and protection, and the actor’s fame level.
Not every film set will be within reach of five-star digs. Filming in big cities gives production teams lots of options to choose from, but if you’re shooting in the middle of nowhere (think “Into the Wild”), finding lavish accommodations may be harder to come by. Productions that include multiple locations may house actors in a range of living quarters, depending on what’s available.
Other location considerations include:
- Commuting distance to and from set
- Proximity to emergency services
- Support staff access
Big-budget productions have the means to go all out on actor housing, scouting only the best for their onscreen talent. While the average superhero movie has millions of dollars with which to spoil their stars, independent films can come in under $1 million, leaving fewer budget dollars for lavish living spaces.
Upscale locations with a higher cost of living may be out of reach for low-budget films. Obscure locations outside of big cities have fewer options to choose from, meaning stars may have to settle for what’s available.
Length of shoot
For shorter productions, putting the cast up in a hotel can be the most straightforward solution. If filming takes place in multiple locations for a few days at a time, hotels are the most practical and efficient option.
Extended-stay rentals are a good solution for longer shoots, as they allow actors to get comfortable in their new environment.
Comfort and protection
Actors put in long days on set. While every shoot is different, it’s not uncommon for actors to get up at dawn for hours of hair and makeup before putting in 10-hour work days, so where they rest at the end of the day can really impact their performance—positively or negatively.
Weather conditions can get grueling on set, too. Leonardo DiCaprio famously endured brutal, frigid conditions while shooting his Oscar-winning performance in “The Revenant,” while Kate Winslet got pneumonia after spending hours in cold water for “Titanic.” Long days, physical stunts, and the mental weight of portraying a character can take a toll, which is compounded further when actors can’t go home to see their family and friends. Comfortable accommodations provide necessary breaks from work, helping actors perform to the best of their abilities.
Actors also need privacy and protection while filming, especially if their location becomes public knowledge. Hotels or rentals can provide security to keep talent safe from fans and paparazzi.
The bigger the star, the better the accommodations. Rumors of difficult set conditions and star mistreatment can tarnish a producer’s reputation, so production teams go above and beyond to keep their talent—particularly their A-list talent—happy. Agents can also push for additional amenities: perks like pools, movie theaters, gyms, and on-site personal trainers top many wish lists.