What permissions do you need for Guerilla Filmmaking in London?

Awhile back I wrote an article detailing my adventures guerilla filmmaking in London. This short post will mention the types of permissions you need to film in London.

Preparing to shoot on the Southbank for our short Ledbetter Blue. We paid for a few hours permission here and just as well since as soon as we rocked up the security guards approached us.

Can I Film Anywhere?

Short answer to this in a word is no. Are you filming on private property? If so you will need permissions from the landowner. If it is public property then you will need to approach the local council of the area. Many councils now have a dedicated Film Office, the questions they will ask will be the size of your production, how many crew members are involved, what type of equipment you will be using, the power sources you require etc.  Certain types of cameras immediately attract attention and if you set up a tripod or filming rig be sure to expect either a security guard or authority figure approaching you at some point. The good news is that with the advances of technology, DSLR’s in particular look like just any other ordinary camera albeit with your mighty filming lenses attached. Remember to keep copies of all email communication, as an agreement in email can be legally binding.

Public Liability Insurance

If you’re filming in a public location then it’s a good idea to get Public Liability Insurance, this covers you should say a member of the public happen to trip over a cable on your set and sue you etc. When you approach councils for permission many will ask if you have this in place. It’s also a good bit of paper to carry around with you on set should you get questioned by the authorities. Of course it doesn’t cover your need to attain permissions to film on location but it does make your production seem more professional. In the past I have used Allan Chapman and James Insurance, but there are many of these companies and its well worth researching a few.

For this violent scene involving a firearm in a parking lot we definitely needed to inform the local police of our actions. You can actually just make out in the background dead centre one of the police we hired.

Informing Local Police

If you’re filming a scene that involves a firearm you will need to inform the local police of your actions. This is so that they can inform the local public, and often provide a police presence on set whilst filming in the event that a local member of the public will mistakenly alert the police of your actions thinking it to be the real thing! Hiring police isn’t cheap, I have done this in the past and they charge by the hour (late nights are often double rates!) it certainly adds pressure to your filming and trying to get all your shots within time. My advice would be avoid it; don’t use guns if you don’t have to, they’re expensive to hire, and if they are firing you will need to hire an armorer as well as the police.

Be sure to visit Film London, they provide in-depth advice on all aspects of filming in London.

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