As much as we would all love to pitch up and get cracking with filming in London straight away, there are sadly a few administrative hoops we need to jump through first before any filming can commence. To tick all the right boxes, you’re going to need to inform the right authorities of your film plans, gain permission to do so and you may even need to get a license or Notice of No Objection before you can even start to think about filming. The amount of paperwork may seem daunting but getting permission to film in London isn’t rocket science, it just requires some advance planning.
You’ve scouted out the right location, the production team is ready to roll, the only thing that is in your way is getting consent to film there. First things first, you need to find out if it’s a public or private location. In London, you can seek permission to film in public locations such as streets, town halls, leisure centres and schools via the borough’s very own Borough Film Service (BFS). Contacting the BFS will allow you to find out if you need permission and if anything going on in the area has the potential to disrupt filming. The BFS will let you know if you need to inform the police of your filming too, more of which will be explained below.
The application process to gain permission to film in a London borough depends on the size of the crew and production, the type of production and parking requirements. General timings range from three days for small crews and ten days for large or complex productions. Some boroughs will offer you the option of a Notice of No Objection document, which states that the Borough has no objections with the filming taking place. It is a useful document to have to hand, in case anyone asks any questions or objects while filming.
If the location is private, for example a housing estate, you’ll need to negotiate directly with the owners – whether it’s a housing association or council. If there’s more than one owner, you will have to negotiate with all parties involved. There are certain locations which may appear to be public, which are actually privately owned or managed. Locations such as Trafalgar Square, the London Underground and the South Bank are privately managed. Negotiations to arrange the timings and date of filming with management, as well as having to pay a fee is the norm to gain filming consent.
When planning to film on public roads, informing the Metropolitan police and the Highways Department is essential to make sure your plans are safe for you and other road users.
If the filming contains any violence, use of firearms, depictions of the police force or nudity, a police presence is likely to be necessary in order for filming to be permitted.
What about those crowd scenes? Well, if you’re filming in a public place, the copyright of the footage belongs to the filmmaker, so you don’t need to ask passers-by for permission to film them.
However if you’re filming interviews with members of the public, gaining written consent to allow the filmed item to be shown is essential. Asking them to sign a model release form is the best way to do this and as a legal document, it acts as an agreement between the person being filmed and the filmmaker.
If you are filming the interior of a building, you may need the owner of the building to sign a consent form before filming takes place. Filming the outside doesn’t need permission – but beware of legal proceedings if you’re portraying a negative message!
As you can see, advance preparation, organisation and administration is required before you can even think about shouting “Lights! Camera! Action!” on your shoot. All it takes, however, is contacting the right authorities and people to gain permission and ensuring all legalities such as Model Release Forms are considered and you’ll be on your way to filming on location in no time.