When it comes to “location, location, location,” Patrick Sprinkel is a Napa Valley expert. But he’s not selling real estate.
Sprinkel’s location-scouting company, Scout Napa Valley, is known for its large portfolio of Napa Valley homes, resorts, vineyards, restaurants and other venues that can be rented for photography and motion picture production.
The owner has an extensive background in the fashion photography business, having worked as an art director and fashion stylist for firms such as J. Crew, Macy’s and Lands’ End.
“I had moved to Napa Valley but was commuting back and forth to (San Francisco) daily for some 10 years,” Sprinkel said, “and eventually realized I didn’t have time to enjoy this wonderful place in which I live.”
So Sprinkel took a chance, quit his city job and began freelancing out of his Napa home. His business grew by referrals from colleagues and friends who knew his work.
Soon, Sprinkel said, clients began asking if he knew of any interesting homes or special locations in Napa Valley that could be used as backgrounds.
“Napa is not only a destination, but a lifestyle that clients want to capture in their catalogs and films,” he said.
Sprinkel began contacting friends, and friends of friends, asking if they would be interested in renting their properties for use in catalogs, ads and films. That was the beginning of his business, Scout Napa Valley.
“I have developed trusting relationships with property owners and walk a narrow line between representing the needs of the homeowner and the client,” he said.
Sprinkel handles the rental contract between the homeowner and the production company or photographer.
“We make sure everything is transparent and proper before any project begins,” he said. “We are using the homes of my neighbors and friends, and my reputation is on the line each and every time. I want everything to go smoothly for all concerned.”
Afterward, he said, Sprinkel makes sure the home is put back exactly in the same condition as it was found.
Sprinkel negotiates his fee based upon the clients’ production needs. In addition to providing a location, he may be asked to book a production-friendly hotel for cast and crew, hire a local caterer or book transportation, or work with a local florist to provide flowers for the set.
Sprinkel noted that his business often provides economic benefits to the Napa Valley. “We hire and use local Napa businesses,” he said. “A catalog photo shoot may consist of anywhere from 25 to 50 people, while a major motion picture might have a crew of 150 who need to be housed, fed, entertained and transported to locations around the valley, sometimes for as long as two or three weeks.”
He said that photography often takes place during the late winter and spring — considered the tourism “off season” in the valley — because the fashion business prepares fall advertising, retail catalogs and in-store materials some six months in advance.
The Scout Napa Valley website includes a location “library” with search capabilities. Users specify their location needs from a large and varied menu of criteria. They can select a style of architecture or type of setting and note whether, for instance, a vineyard, fireplace, fountain, lawn, garden or swimming pool is also required. The website identifies properties available with those attributes, along with color photos to help refine the search.
“Our website gives clients a real sense of the architectural and landscape diversity of Napa Valley,” Sprinkel said. “When we bring clients here, we want them to feel they are in our home.
“I like to say, ‘We live it. You’ll love it.’”