When Do You Need a Film Permit?

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Shooting a movie on your phone or a portable camera is easier than ever! But when do you need a film permit?

Films with “no commercial value” do not require permits. So if you’re just hanging out in a park with your friends and making a video for personal use, there’s no permit required.

But do you want to use your film to make money someday? Even a student film or a YouTube video is considered a film with commercial value.

Soundstages Don’t Require Film Permits

You generally don’t need a film permit if your filming is done entirely within a soundstage. This may sound expensive, but many soundstages offer rentals that include many of the other items you’ll need: lights, tripods, monitors, electricity, wifi and even a studio manager. According to ProductionHub, you can expect to spend up to $3,000 per day renting a sound stage.

How to Obtain a Film Permit

If your production does require a film permit, here are the 5 main steps in how to obtain one, from FilmLA:

  1. Select Your Location
  2. Secure Insurance
  3. Submit Application
  4. Conduct Outreach
  5. Arrange Payment

If you’re not in Los Angeles, you can start by researching your state’s film commission website.

Make sure you plan enough time for your permit to be approved. Although the state of California only requires an application to be submitted 4 days before the first shoot day, a film shoot that requires closing roads must give more notice (12-16 days).

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Do You Need a Film Permit to Shoot in Your Apartment?

I know what you’re thinking: I don’t need to close the freeway! What if I just want to shoot a movie in my living room?

Technically, you still need a permit. Shooting on any yard or street or inside any home, apartment or office building still requires a film permit.

Sure, many filmmakers try to shoot without a film permit. Trying this would be at your own risk. You’ll just have to think about what might trigger the local police (or a property owner) to shut your production down.

Also, don’t forget about parking. Don’t assume your cast or crew members can just park anywhere they want.

Where to Find Film Locations

Need some inspiration for your film shoot’s location? Check out LocoScout and Giggster!

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