Do You Need a Permit for Film & Video Production? - Midweek Productions
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Do You Need a Permit for Film & Video Production?

Do You Need a Permit for Film & Video Production?


A question we get quite often is, ‘When Do You Need a Permit for Film or Video Production?’ First, let’s break down what a filming permit is and what it typically grants you.

What is a filming permit? 

Filming permits are permits issued by governments to allow filming in certain locations. Every city and state has some sort of office that handles filming permits and there are usually costs or limitations.

When do you need one? 

For starters, you need to identify if the place you are shooting is public or private. A public place would be a city owned street, sidewalk or park, a private place could be a residence, business, sidewalk, parking lot or land. 
So how do you find out if it is private or public?

Do some research! The first step would be to identify if there is a business or private residence close by and simply ask who owns the location you want to shoot at. There’s a good chance that they may own it themselves or they can point you in the right direction of what person or company may. You can also look the property up online to see if that leads you in the right direction. 

Private Property 

If the location does indeed turn out to be a private residence, you will most likely not need a permit for that particular place. This does not include the sidewalk outside, the neighbor’s yard or any other areas you may need for holding, staging or parking. And just because it is a private residence doesn’t mean that the production company  shouldn’t get a location agreement or that the location may still have a cost associated with it.  And remember, even though a person or company can issue you permission to film there, the production company will still need a Certificate of Insurance or COI. 

Public Property

If it turns out that the location is publicly owned by a town, city or other public entity, you will have to follow that state or city’s filming laws for permits. They vary from state to state, so it’s best to check your local state film office to see who you need to get the permit from. Depending on the public location, you may not actually need a permit, but once again that can be determined by the local film office. 

Air space is different than ground space so be sure to look into rules and regulations for drone filming permits at your local film office. You must also have a remote pilot certification from the FAA. 
Before applying for a permit be sure the exact location you want to film and the date of filming. The costs and rules associated with permitting, especially in cities like LA and NYC can vary greatly depending on your exact shooting location. A permit can also take up to a few weeks to be granted, depending on the individual production office, so be sure to start the process early.

Can you shoot without a permit? 

Of course, there is always guerilla filmmaking, which is a form of filmmaking characterized by low budgets, skeleton crews, and simple props using whatever is available. Often scenes are shot quickly in real locations without any warning, and without obtaining filming permits. Midweek Productions does not condone guerilla filmmaking as it can often put the crew and talent at risk. We advise just ask and follow proper procedures. If you don’t have the budget to shoot exactly where you had in your head, talk to the local film or locations offices and see if they can suggest a similar location that may be free or less expensive. 

Whether you need a film permit depends on if you are shooting on public or private property and varies from state to state. It’s always best to check with your local film office for any special rules or procedures. 
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