Before grabbing a camera and hitting the streets to film a movie, you should check to see whether or not you need a permit to film. In many California cities, including Los Angeles, film permits are required for most filming and photography projects.

If you’re caught filming without a permit, you may be cited for a misdemeanor and subject to costly fines, court appearances, and even a criminal record. Thus, it is always important to obtain a permit where required.

What Types of Projects Require a Permit to Film in Los Angeles?

Virtually all film projects require a permit in Los Angeles, even if the project is being filmed on private property or in a public space.

How Do I File an Application for a Permit to Film in Los Angeles?

Filing an application to film in Downtown Los Angeles, and other California areas, is relatively easy. It can be done online at FilmLA, and the application will be processed rather quickly.

However, before filing, you must first obtain liability insurance for the shoot and file the proof of insurance with FilmLA.

How Much Liability Insurance Do I Need?

All filming projects require minimum coverage of:

  • $500,000 for still photography only
  • $1,000,000 for motion picture

However, depending on the jurisdiction where you are filming, additional coverage may be necessary. Learn more about insurance requirements at FilmLA.

When Do I Need to File My Application?

The film permit application must be filed at least three working days prior to first proposed date of filming. However, if your film requires any street closures, then the application may require more time to process.

What Information Do I Need to Provide in the Application?

The application will require that you provide information about your film, the individuals responsible for the film, and any other special filming needs. This information includes:

Film Information:

  • Production Title
  • Prep and Strike Dates
  • Filming Dates
  • Summary of Scene(s)
  • Filming Locations (Using Thomas Bros Guide Grid)
  • Equipment on Set
  • Personnel Information (Cast, Crew, Extras, & Audienc)

Name and Contact Information of Involved Parties:

  • Production Company
  • Location Manager
  • Producer
  • Director

Special Filming Needs:

  • Gunfire
  • Special Effects (Fire, Explosions, Breaking Glass etc.)
  • Crew Parking Needs
  • Closed Street Needs

How Much Does a Film Permit Cost?

Obtaining film permits can be expensive. First, all film permits require non-refundable application fees, including:

  • $625 for filming
  • $60 for photography

Then, additional fees may be tagged-on depending on your location needs and filming activities.

What Are the Penalties for Shooting without a Permit?

In Los Angeles, it is a misdemeanor offense to film without a permit. If caught, your film production will be shut down and you may be subject to significant fines and costly court appearances. You may even be subject to arrest and equipment confiscation.

Thus, it is far more costly to get caught filming without a permit than it is to obtain a permit for legal filming. Still, many cities and states don’t require film permits at all, so if you are looking to save money, you can seek to find areas where you can film for free without a permit.

Contacting an Attorney

To help ensure you have all permits necessary to film and are in compliance with other jurisdictional laws, it can be very helpful to have an experienced entertainment attorney in California working to facilitate your film production.