Are Permits Needed for Student Film Projects?

This article was published on Dream Row’s website on June 16, 2012

Are Permits Needed for Student Film Projects?

By Nicole LaChance

For many film students, shooting a student film is the first taste of what it feels like to work on a real production. Like any movie production, it is important to ensure the proper paperwork is filled out to avoid trouble during shooting. In New York and Los Angeles, the two cities with the most film schools, this usually requires obtaining a permit. So, how can students get permits in these cities?

New York City

Film permits, for both students and non-students, are available through the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. Permits are required for most shoots, except those where only hand-held cameras and tripods will be used. However, permits are required for those who wish to have exclusive use of city property, such as sidewalks or a city park. More information on when permits are required can be found on the permit page of the city’s website.

In advance of obtaining a permit, students must submit, in lieu of insurance, a letter on official school letterhead stating their name, the dates of the shoot and confirming their status as a student. This must be signed by an appropriate school official.

Only the student listed in the letter will be able to obtain a permit in their name. Once this is submitted, students may apply for a student permit from the city. The application for the permit can be filled out online and is found on the city’s website. Permits must be submitted by noon a minimum of two days before the start of shooting.

Students fill out the same application as professional production companies with only a few differences. When students submit the form they must list their school as the production company and themselves as the production contact. Students must also submit a copy of their student ID form with the application. A $300 application fee is required for all permits. The city provides a fact sheet with information specifically for students on their website.

Los Angeles

If you are shooting in Los Angeles, even in a public area, you will most likely need a permit. The county of Los Angeles has privatized their film permit offices, so instead permits are granted through the non-profit FilmLA. Within 30 days of the start of filming, students must submit a letter signed by a school official on school letterhead with their name, program of study and a certification that the film is for non-commercial, educational purposes. They must also submit proof of insurance, which most schools have on file.

Once the letter is submitted, students can fill out a permit application and call to set up a pre-permit consultation, which must be scheduled at least 72 hours before the start of filming. During the consultation, students will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss filming and fees. Once the permit is accepted, students will be a assigned a production coordinator to help set up their film. If students are filming in a residential neighborhood, they may be required to distribute notice to residents before the start of filming.

Once all the above is taken care of, students are permitted to begin filming. A copy of the permit must be kept by at least one person on the production at all times and ready to be presented if asked. Permits typically cost between $25 and $90 depending on the complexity of the production and the equipment being used.

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