A Guide to Permits for Filming in Difficult Locations

Over the years, the Artbeats film crews have learned that shooting can prove to be very difficult in many of the cities across the country. In fact, we recently shot in one of the most security-obsessed cities in our nation: Washington, DC. We’ve learned a few pointers along the way and thought we’d share them. Artbeats’ Location Manager, Diane Barrows has compiled this list for you.

1-A. Start early. Some park permits can take six weeks!
1. Research – what is worth shooting in the city/location of choice?

2. More research – where are the subjects located? Are they private or public? Are they going to be part of a street scene or panorama, or will they be the subject of the shot?

3. If your locations are privately owned, begin seeking permission and get releases from the property owners.

4. If they are public places, gather your addresses or cross streets, names of parks, etc. Then do a search for filming in that area and see whether or not permits are necessary.

-If they are, begin working with their film office to see whether your locations are within their jurisdiction.

-If they are not and your location is in a National Forest or Park, State Park, or other entitity such as the Bureau of Land Management, do a search to find out each entity’s requirements. If you shoot without a permit, you can be issued a citation or ticket.

-If you’re going solo, you won’t need parking, traffic directors, or special notification that you’re going to be using a particular area. But be sure to read the specific rules for every area you will be shooting because different rules apply to different situations, times of day, and even particular days. The size of your crew can also affect the cost of your permit.

-Most permit applications require you to list very specific locations as well as the time of day you’ll be in the area.

5. Know the boundaries of the area in which you are allowed to shoot. Sometimes you think you’re getting permission to be on a sidewalk, but you’re actually getting permission to be on the street and NOT the sidewalk (or vice versa). Washington DC is notorious for this. And the same street may have several entities governing shooting. You stand at X and are on area 1, walk a few feet and are on area 2, turn around and are on area 3. It can be very confusing – and they’ve often GOT YOU ON SECURITY CAMERAS. Violation of the rules can terminate/revoke your permit.

6. Permission for a particular day doesn’t carry over to the next day unless you specified that. Keep in mind that the city may be orchestrating multiple events and are trying to keep everything from overlapping in a bad way. We didn’t get permission to be on a particular street one day because there was an activity where thousands were expected to be there. But we DID get it for the next day.

7. Carry your permit with you as instructed on the permit. We have been asked to show our permit, and it’s quite gratifying to prove that you have permission to be where you are.

8. Have fun and happy shooting!

What kinds of experiences have you had trying to obtain filming permits?

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4 Responses to A Guide to Permits for Filming in Difficult Locations

  1. Winston Smith says:

    When shooting in Washington DC, always watch your back.

    The Homeland Gestapo Department is watching you.


  2. Pingback: A Guide to Permits for Filming in Difficult Locations

  3. Tim Bradley says:

    Shooting in Sydney Australia is not too bad permit vise. If you plan to shoot near the Opera House it can be harder, as you will need permits. Otherwise if the crew is small you should be okay.

    • Trish McCleskey, Artbeats says:

      Thanks for the heads up Tim. We haven’t filmed in Australia yet, but we do hope to have the opportunity some day. This information will be extremely helpful.

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