Wrapal: Creating A Marketplace For Film Locations

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo


For our startup interview today, we have an interview with Wrapal (, a new startup developing an online marketplace to help film-makers find filming locations, and helping property owners--both residential and commercial--make their properties available for films, commercials, television, and more. We spoke with co-founder Brian L. Tan ("BLT") about the business.

What's the story behind Wrapal?

Brian Tan: It all started, like most companies, with a problem. Lots of us come from a film-making background, and when we were trying to make a movie, one of the toughest challenges was finding a film location. It was also one of the most mundane parts of the film making process. You'd have to go out to a location, physically, talk to the owner, and it was all very mundane and time consuming. We started looking to Airbnb as a model. I travel a lot, and have been to fifty plus countries, and I always use Airbnb. I had a light bulb moment, which is we ought to make an Airbnb for film locations. Essentially, we've created a website, where it's mutually beneficial to both the property owner--who can list for free, and get extra revenue--and filmmakers, who can more easily find locations.

How would someone typically use your service?

Brian Tan: From the property owner's stand point, there is a three step process that we've implemented. They go on to the site, list their property, including such details as address, parking, noise level, and square footage, pretty much the same as listing their house on a real estate site. Then, that gets uploaded to our database. Film-makers can search that database, look through photos, and if they're interested, they contact the owner. It's slightly different from other location databases which might be online, because we're putting people in direct contact with each other. We're not a middleman, but more like a match maker. We're facilitating connections, and we let both parties interact, and negotiate their own prices, the days they want to shoot, and insurance requirements. Speaking of insurance, we have also partnered with NEEIS—New Empire Entertainment Insurance Services—and Lloyds of London, to provide $100,000 in third party property damage insurance, so that both parties can have peace of mind if things go awry.

How do you make money in all of this?

Brian Tan: We make our money on advertising. There's a non-intrusive, banner ad on the site. Plus, if you choose to book through our site, we use a third party processor, Stripe, and they charge 3.9 percent for transactions, which we pass on to consumers, and we get a portion of that.

Tell us more, for those of us not familiar with the film business, why is this needed?

Brian Tan: I've been in the film industry for close to ten years, and finding a location is one of the most dreaded part of a film. Unless you hire a location scout, for thousands of dollars, you have to do it yourself. Especially for independent film-makers, they just don't have the budget for a location scout. Plus, it's very time consuming. Because there is no central database of locations, you go looking around on Google, you go looking around on Yelp, and you end up asking friends if they k now a good place. The problem about that is, every time you create a film, it's the same vicious cycle. Once you find a location, you can never use it again. Usually, every script has a new genre, a new narrative, and finding places to film is like being on a hamster wheel, with you going around in circles. Plus, you don't want to use those same locations again, because that's inartistic. It's a very big struggle. It's also a very physical thing, because right now there's no way to look at those locations from your laptop, even if you are interested in a shoot. We're using technology in the same way other companies are solving hotel issues, taxi service, dating, and all of that, and using that same kind of technology to solve a big problem for the film industry.

Why would someone with a home or business want to list on the site?

Brian Tan: A lot of it is about monetizing and asset you already own, which is not being used 24/7. Say you have a home, and want to make extra money on the weekend. I personally rented my own house out to a film shoot, and they paid $1,000 a day, just for a small commercial. When you rent your home on Airbnb, you might get $100 a night, and you have the risk someone will throw a party. With a film shoot, they pay tens times the price, and they reset everything to original condition, and it's covered by insurance. For businesses, there's even more to gain. If you own a bar, for example, it's probably closed during the day. If you can rent it out for a film shoot, you'll probably make more from that film shoot than operating it on a work night. If you have an office, you can rent it out on the weekend, which you can use to pay the mortgage or rent. It's all supplemental money for that business. Plus, it often can get you free publicity. You might be familiar with Entourage, and how they are always going to the Urth Caffe in Beverly Hills. Now, because of that, everyone calls it the Entourage Cafe, and it's always packed. People are there because they've seen it in the film, or they want to star spot. It's the same as the cafe from Pulp Fiction. Being featured in films can really be a boost for your publicity. If you look outside Los Angeles, there has been a huge interest in a town in Oregon, because Twilight was shot there, and people are now going there just to check it out. The same with Albuquerque, because it's seen such a huge boost from Breaking Bad. There's a big incentive to do this. This isn't for the 24/7 sound stage, this is for the casual user, who really could use that extra money to pay the rent, the mortgage, or get something extra for the family.

So would Airbnb hosts be a logical source of locations?

Brian Tan: Absolutely, though we're slightly different, in that we have a lot of both residential and commercial properties. As much as we like unique homes and apartments, films are always using cafes, diners, and scrap yards, and everything in between. That said, Airbnb properties are definitely a big part of it. They have the same mind-set, the sharing mindset, and they already have their house on the open market so you can stay with them. Films are actually a lot less intrusive. There are more people in your house, but no one is staying at your home, and there's no risk of them throwing a party, or doing something you wouldn't approve of, because it's a professional environment.

Finally, what's next?

Brian Tan: We're launching officially on Friday, at after the premiere of a big movie, and we hope to grow and develop from there. Los Angeles is our big target now, because it's the birthplace of the movie, and our birthplace as well. We hope to get a good foothold and grow from here, to other film hubs and, way down the line, international locations.