When it comes to shooting a film, one of the most overlooked aspects of the process is the sheer amount of paperwork that goes into validating a film shoot. Indeed, the business side of Hollywood is often left in the shadows, while the technical brilliance, acting performances and cinematic scores are on full display for celebration and acclaim. When it comes to shooting a movie, you need filming permits, which essentially give you permission to shoot in public places. Whilst applying for this legal document can seem somewhat daunting at first, the process is very straightforward once you get the hang of it. If you have never applied for a film permit before, here are several things you need to remember!

When will I need a permit?

There are times when you will and won’t need a film permit to legally capture your movie. For example, if you are walking around casually with a camera and not shooting anything, you likely won’t need a permit.

On the other hand, if you require a set location and its on public property, then you must have a film permit. This is also the case if your film shooting will affect others or the environment. If a road needs to be closed or some form of the environment needs to be altered in some capacity, then a permit is required.

Who is responsible for getting the permit?

Generally, the director is not responsible for getting the location permit. In fact, it is often the responsibility of one of the producers or even a location scout, who will convene with the local government or council to get this permit sorted. However, if you don’t have someone like this on your team, you might need to get this sorted yourself (don’t worry – the process is easy!).

How do I get started?

The first step on getting a permit is to reach out to the relevant government agency website that issues these permits. It’s always good to have a few industry contacts in the area you want to film in, as this will help expedite the process a lot. Most of the time, you should be able to find the relevant forms online, which you can download and begin filling out.

How do I formally apply for the permit?

Firstly, call up the relevant agency and inform them of your desire to file for a permit. Make sure that your chosen location does fall under their jurisdiction and let them know when you require the public space (there might be a clash if the space has already been reserved).

When you are completing all the necessary forms, make sure you read the fine print. Sometimes there is information that the agency wishes to communicate with some subtlety. You shouldn’t be intimidated or scared, you just need to be thorough. Triple check all the dates you have put down and describe with as much detail as you possibly can what you plan on shooting in the location.

If you are happy with the forms, submit them to the organisation. Make sure you follow up a few days later to verify that they were received. Pay the fee attached to submitting the permit and ensure that you get a certificate of insurance. This document guarantees that you have liability insurance and is necessary for most types of permits. It protects you if anyone is injured while shooting the film or any damage that might occur.

Once approved, you will receive a signed permit enabling you to fulfil your shooting requirements. Make sure the form is always kept on you, since city officials, park rangers, police and security guards can ask for verification.