Creating a film is an exciting endeavor, but along the way it’s inevitable to hit logistical aspects that can discourage your ambitions. Film permits, for any filmmaker, can inevitably be one of these obstacles. Can I shoot here? What do I need to do to shoot here? Will I get in trouble? These are all fair worries in the world of filmmaking. Let’s look at the solution to these worries — learning how to get a film permit. 

Watch: How Film Permits Work (And Why You Need Them)

Subscribe for more filmmaking videos like this.

Why You Need a Movie Permit

Importance of Film Permits

Why are film permits so important? Well, to put it simply, they can prevent a variety of headaches, liability issues, and obstacles that can slow down production. Let's look at some of the benefits before we get into the nitty gritty of how to get a film permit.

Legal Protection and Professionalism

Film permits and location releases protect filmmakers from disputes, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations.

Community Relations and Access

Securing permits fosters positive community relationships, facilitating access to desired locations.

Smooth Production Process

Obtaining permits upfront allows the team to focus on creativity and logistics, reducing disruptions.

Avoiding Penalties and Delays

Compliance with regulations helps avoid penalties and delays, safeguarding projects against setbacks.

Planning for a Movie Permit

1. Early Planning

Begin your permit acquisition process as soon as possible. Getting ahead is the name of the game in pre-production and some jurisdictions require applications to be submitted months in advance due to strict policies. Early planning will give you a better shot at obtaining the permits needed to shoot at your first choice locations.

Scouting Locations

Explore potential filming locations with your Location Scout. Consider both public and private properties depending on the locations you need to tell your story. While you're at it, download our Location Scouting Checklist.

While public areas may seem easier to secure, they may have more stringent regulations, and filming may require additional permits.

Private properties require permission from the property owner and potential location release agreements.

Location Scouting Explained  •  Subscribe here

Utilize Resources

Take advantage of resources like film commissions, location databases, the film school you attend or your network of other filmmakers. If other filmmakers have shot in the same area, reach out to them for advice and recommendations. What was the process like for others?

Do some reverse engineering. Find films or productions that have taken place at these locations and reach out to the filmmakers and producers for some insight on their experience.

Do You Need a Permit to Film in Public Places?

2. Identify Required Permits

It's essential to identify the specific permits needed for each location. Different locations have different regulations, and failure to comply can lead to delays or even cancellation of production. Do your due diligence learning which permits you need by researching local laws and consulting with location managers.

Public vs Private Locations

Public locations may require additional permits, such as filming in parks or on public streets. Private locations typically involve acquiring location release agreements from the property owner. Understand the regulations and requirements for each type of location to avoid any issues during production.

How to Get a Film Permit Behind the Scenes of Moonlight StudioBinder

Behind the Scenes of Moonlight  •  On location in Florida

Contact the local film commission

Local film commissions are an invaluable resource for filmmakers. The whole idea of film commissions is to provide support to productions and filmmakers so that they can recommend shooting in these places again.

They can offer guidance and assistance in identifying and obtaining required permits, navigating local laws, and securing locations. If you're shooting in Greater Los Angeles, you'll contact FilmLA.

Just take a look at the impact the Abu Dhabi Film Commission had on the Dune: Part Two production.

Behind the scenes of Dune: Part Two in Abu Dhabi

Contact the local government

Some locations may require state or federal permits depending on the scope of the project. It's important to research these regulations beforehand to ensure compliance. The best way is to contact the local government or relevant departments and inquire about any necessary permits.

How to Get a Filming Permit Application

3. Application Process

Once you've put a finger on the permits you need for your production, it's time to start the application process. This step may involve various forms, fees, and supporting documents, including script pages, insurance certificates, and location maps. Double and triple check these documents to avoid any unnecessary delays during the application process.

Understand the Timeline

Each jurisdiction has different processing times for permits. It's crucial to understand these timelines and factor them into production schedules. 

Gather Required Information

Prepare the necessary information for your application. This usually includes details about the project, shooting locations, dates and times, and any potential impacts on the area. The more details you provide, the smoother the application process will be.

Fill Out the Application Form

Complete the official permit application form provided by the relevant authority. This can often be found on their website.

Application Requirements

4. Submit Your Application

Submit your application well in advance of your planned shooting date. The required lead time can vary, so it’s essential to give the reviewing process ample time so that you do not run into production problems.

While some places offer free applications, many others may require a fee. Check the specific requirements and include any necessary payment with your application.

Communicate Clearly

5. Notify Affected Parties

Depending on the location, you may be required to notify the neighborhood or businesses in the area about your upcoming shoot. This is often a requirement for obtaining the permit. Make sure to follow all guidelines and provide ample notice to avoid any disruptions or complaints. 

It’s important to have good communication with the local community wherever you are shooting both out of respect and to avoid and production problem.

How to Get a Film Permit New York Film Academy Behind the Scenes in Time Square StudioBinder

New York Film Academy Behind the Scenes in Time Square

Meet with any community leaders or stakeholders before your shoot to address any potential concerns and ensure a smooth production process and maintain good relations with the community.

Using Your Film Permit

6. Receive Approval and Obtain Permit

The relevant authority will review your application. This may involve consultations with local departments (e.g., traffic, police) if the shoot impacts public areas.

Once approved, you will receive your film permit. Make sure you have this on hand during your shoot. You may need to present it to authorities or concerned parties.

Maintaining Film Permission

Additional Considerations

Obtaining shooting permits can differ from location to location, country to country, and even city to city and its important to consider all factors that may affect your project.

Insurance Coverage

Many locations require proof of insurance coverage, including general liability and workers' compensation, before granting permits. It's essential to have adequate insurance coverage for your project to avoid any issues during the application process.

Permit Extensions or Modifications

If your shooting plans change, contact the issuing authority as soon as possible to modify or extend your permit. Waiting until the last minute can lead to delays or having to call of a shoot altogether.

Be Flexible

Despite thorough planning and obtaining all necessary permits, unforeseen circumstances can still come up. Try to be flexible and have backup plans in case of any issues with locations or permits. 

Be a Good Steward

Always follow local laws and regulations while filming, and be respectful of the locations you're using. Leave them in their original condition after shooting wraps up. This will ensure future filmmakers have the opportunity to use these locations as well.

Securing a filming permit is a multi-step process that demands attention to detail, foresight, and patience. While it may be tempting to cut corners or shoot guerrilla style, taking the time and effort to obtain necessary permits will save you from a long list of production headaches. 

Up Next

Location Scouting Tips

As previously mentioned, location scouting is crucial not just for acquiring permits, but for the overall success of your production and ultimately, a great film. In our next article, we dive into essential tips for location scouting and how it can truly impact your project.

Up Next: Location Scouting Tips →
Solution Icon - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows.

Learn More ➜

Tags: , ,
  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copy link