Filming a movie in the wilderness, even on the grounds of national parks, often requires far less hassle and permits than filming in a city. And New York City is not exactly an exception. If you want to complete your filming project in NYC without running into issues with the law, you need to be familiar with all the rules that govern the process of shooting in the area. To this end, so that you may quickly and easily get the prep work out of the way, here are the NYC film permits explained.
No permit needed
If you approach your filming project the right way, you might actually not need to concern yourself with NYC film permits at all. Namely, you must not use prop vehicles, actors, or uniforms. You may not perform any stunts, dangerous or not. You may also not use the city’s property in a way that would disrupt everyday functioning. This, of course, includes any intrusive use of walkways, city parks, and bridges. If you want to cut down the production costs, this particular tier of filming even allows you to get away with buying simple, used gear. Note, however, you would be limited to a camera on a tripod or a hand-held camera for your filming purposes. As well as the fact that filming within the interior of city buildings, subways or tunnels will definitely require the acquisition of proper permissions.
If your filming will not bother anyone, you do not need a permit.
If you are unsure whether your use of public property will be intrusive but are confident it will be subtle, you are looking at what is typically classified as optional NYC film permits.
Drawing from their experience, the moving experts from bestmovers.nyc database note that this is typically where people need their services to safely get all the equipment to the location. Interestingly, at this point, you are still limited to the same equipment as before. However, there is most often more equipment and people involved in the project. Know that, for optional permits, you are not required to pay any application fees, nor do you need to provide insurance details to have them approved. Since most TV station filming falls in this category, note that credentialed media members are not required to submit even the required permits.
It is still smarter to keep well off the road when working with an optional permit.
This leads us to the final level - the required NYC film permits. This is typically the point where you would need to find a crew and vendors for your project and notably increase its scope. If you plan to use production vehicles or apply for parking privileges, use props such as uniformed actors or weapons, or even perform stunts, you need to apply for a required permit. The same logic applies if you plan to use public city property in a way that would disturb the day-to-day goings of others. And doubly so if your filming project interferes with traffic in any capacity. Know that each such application comes with a non-refundable fee of $300. You would also need to take out a suitable insurance policy to cover the potential dangers of filming.
If you will be blocking a passage, your work definitely requires a permit.
New project applications
Interestingly enough, if you are starting a large new filming project, you are required to make a “New Project Account application” by law. You need such an application if:
- You are starting a brand-new project that has never had any applications or permits taken out in the past.
- You are filming a new season of a television series that you had previously submitted an application for.
- You had previously submitted an application for a project, declared work over, and then decided to revisit the location for more filming.
The application fee is not hefty ($300.00), and you can pay it by credit card. It might, however, make juggling various expenses, such as the cost of hiring local movers in NYC, a bit harder, and you might need help creating a budget. In fact, for such a large project, it is wise to look for such assistance anyway.
While discussing NYC film permits previously, we had touched upon required insurance. This refers to liability insurance. Such insurance covers bodily injuries, health impairment, damage or destruction of a third party’s property, or, in extreme cases, death. In other words, it ensures you can pay off any damage you cause to other, uninvolved parties. And it is generally a good idea to take it out even if it’s not required. Even more so if you are going to do something relatively risky such as shooting snow on film during hazardous weather in the city. An interesting fact is that filmmaking students can fulfill their liability insurance obligations through coverage under their school’s insurance program.
If you are planning to film in a residential district, some common courtesies ought to be fulfilled even though they are not really covered by any permits. You should personally inform the residents of the buildings around your shooting site. Finding a community board and posting a notice is also advisable. Finally, you want to approach the City Council District representative for the particular area.
Now that the NYC film permits have been explained, you should be ready to get your project off the ground. Carefully consider which of the permit tiers would be suitable for your needs. In fact, it might even be smart to shoot for a level above what you think you will need! You never know where creativity might take you. And it would be frustrating to have to choose between fulfilling your vision and getting in trouble with the law.
About Deril Sendar
Deril Sendar has worked in the film industry for over twenty years. As such, he is perfectly familiar with the various laws and regulations that govern the process in the city. He likes to share his insights through blog posts to make the profession more accessible to beginners.