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Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022

Broker Turns to Video to Frame Mansion’s Sale

For broker Ben Bacal, selling multimillion-dollar homes demands more than taking a few photos. It requires filming a Hollywood-ready video for as much as $50,000.

“You really have to step it up, because there’s so many of these modern mansions,” he said. “To get eyeballs, you have to do something different to flip the script and get people to talk.”

One of Bacal’s latest promotions is an 11-minute video that creates a fictional backstory for why a sleek Hollywood Hills home is on the market. But there’s a twist: While the video depicts the breakup of its residents, the roles are played by the happily married owners.

Husband Ori Ayonmike, who designed the house, paces hallways, pulls a carafe of liquor from a closet and operates the high-tech lighting before telling his wife, Nafisa: “I want a divorce.” She fetches wine from the cellar, lounges at the pool and flings her wedding ring into the water.

The third star is the $4.5 million house, as the camera lingers on details from light switches to fireplaces to all-white flooring.

Bacal, who attended film school and used to work in film production, said the two-day shoot, produced by Koreatown’s Rafiki Creative, set him back $20,000 but delivered quick results. Within a week of posting the video to his social media accounts, he had scheduled five showings and even pop star Justin Bieber registered his interest in learning more.

Bacal also recently gave a $48.5 million Bel Air mansion its own video, creating a story around a couple of kids who fake illness and spend the day making good use of the home’s amenities – golf on the lawn, dress-up in the closets as well as movies and popcorn in the screening room.

Both projects play into Bacal’s next business endeavor, Roofshoot, for which he said he has raised $2.5 million so far and aims to launch in the next couple of months. The Internet company will provide a website and app to help real estate brokers create their own home videos as well as a platform to promote them on.

“My peers have to be ushered into the digital world in a cost-effective way,” said Bacal, adding that homes at all price levels benefit from videos, even ones filmed on a smartphone. But only the megaproperties – $30 million or more – demand the full treatment.

“You’ve really got to make sure the production value is clever,” he said. “It can’t be cheesy and has to be really well produced. You have to pull all the stops out.”

Greener Vision

Beny Alagem’s grand plan for building up the area around his Beverly Hilton hotel is taking a new shape. Instead of creating two midheight residential towers, as planned in 2008, the hotelier is now proposing a single tower soaring 26 stories. That’s three times taller than the Beverly Hilton – and about two times taller than the city’s tallest building.

But Alagem’s focus is closer to Earth. The slender tower would allow more room on the ground for a four-acre public park.

“When we looked at everything, we said, it would be great to create this green belt all across Wilshire (Boulevard),” Alagem said, referring to an area many call the “gateway” to Beverly Hills.

The garden, designed by downtown L.A. landscape firm SWA Architects, calls for 100 types of trees, plants and flowers, all irrigated with recycled water. But Alagem needs voter approval to move forward. He is trying to drum up more than 3,000 signatures on a petition that will put the item on the November ballot. If he doesn’t succeed, he said he will revert to the original plan.

Construction of the 12-story Waldorf Astoria hotel next door, meanwhile, is on track for completion by the beginning of next year.

Meanwhile, Frank Gehry could soon make his own mark in the swanky neighborhood. The star architect’s Playa Vista firm, Gehry Partners, and Beverly Hills developer Townscape Partners are proposing a mixed-use development on about seven acres near Beverly Hills City Hall that would incorporate offices, condos, retail, restaurants, parks and a five-star hotel.

While most of the land is city owned, it’s not entirely unoccupied. For instance, it’s home to a production company and a credit union, while the private land holds a synagogue. Renderings show stacks of tan and white rectangular blocks encircling a verdant park.

Moving in

West Hollywood’s Green Building at the Pacific Design Center is bolstering its roster. PR firm Dan Klores Communications will move into 4,705 square feet; Pro Tour Memorabilia, specializing in sports collectibles; will occupy 7,250 square feet; and talent agency WME-The Wall Group will take 6,500 square feet. The rents range from $3.75 to $4.25 a square foot a month. The businesses will join a dozen companies including high-powered communications and marketing firms Weber Shandwick, Rogers & Cowan and PMK-BNC.

Staff reporter Daina Beth Solomon can be reached at dsolomon@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5262, ext. 263.

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