Film Permits for Dummies

    Being an intern on the production of The Out of the Woods Project, I was responsible to get all kinds of Locations for our movie – This included getting permission to film on a street in Brisbane city. 

    My first reaction when given the task was “Sure, no problem”… Then I researched what that included, and, because it’s almost impossible for me not to look at the bright side of life, I was glad that this was yet again ‘an opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone.’ 

    But…rest assured, if an inexperienced intern was able to do it – you can do it too, and hopefully learn from my mistakes!

    Bear in mind this blog is written in regard to smaller productions and film crews. 

    1. Apply for a permit ASAP 

    Contrary to my expectation, it was a far lengthier process than I expected. I applied for a film permit 2 months before we intended to film the scenes on the street, but was only able to submit my application several weeks before the proposed shooting date. All the paper work needed to be completed, before I could submit anything. 

    To spare any hassle, apply for the permit well in advance, and if you don’t know all the details yet, let the respective Film Liaison Office know of your plans to get a film permit, which brings me to my next point…

    2.Keep in contact with the Film Liaison Office

    I was very impressed with the help and the advice he Film Liaison Officer offered. At the beginning, I avoided communication as much as possible, because I thought I had to have everything together before approaching them. Now, I wish I had approached them earlier and simply asked all the questions I had, instead of trying to figure it out myself. 

    Generally, their intention is not to prevent you from getting a permit (at least I hope so), but they are there to help you! The officer that helped me, did a fantastic job in following up on the filming progress, making sure was able to get things done in time. 

    3.How we love our bureaucracy…

    There is a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out and submitted. In addition to the online application, I had to submit the following documents: 

    • A detailed map of the location – On this map, be as detailed as possible, and mark where any of the equipment will be placed. If you are going to have to have the equipment on a road, you will be required to close the road. Most likely, you won’t have to close off the road if your equipment will be on the side of the road. 
    • Certificate of Currency for Public Liability Insurance
    • A resident/business notification letter to inform all the residents and businesses in the area that could be affected by the filming activity. You will need to include the date, times, size of crew, vehicles, warnings of any special effects that might concern the residents and your contact details.
    • Risk Assessment – this document needs to include all the possible risks connected to the filming activities

    and solutions to minimize the risks or ways you are going to handle possible problems.

    • Traffic Management Plan – If you are planning to close a road for filming, you will need to hire a traffic management company. They will close off the road to stop oncoming traffic and normally they will provide a traffic management plan which is also necessary to get the permit. Bear in mind that this is not the cheapest undertaking, expect to pay at least a couple hundred dollars
    • a completed Police service Application for General Permit – This was specifically required for Brisbane city, so it might be different depending on your location. 

     

    4.Know your stuff

    Make sure you have a good knowledge of the events in the scene, what the visions/plans of the director are, what they will practically look like and what the proposed schedule is. 

    When filling out the online application form, you will need to enter the exact dates, times, size of crew, amount of equipment, vehicles, contact details, specific equipment for special effects etc. I remember being frustrated with myself. Instead of having a good knowledge of the information I needed and approaching the director once, I had to bug the director again and again with a different question every time. Be kind to your directors, they have a lot on their minds already. 

    5.Have a backup plan

    Make sure you scout out different options for locations. We ended up having to cut a specific scene because we weren’t able to get a permit for a particular lane, and we had no backup plan. There would have probably been a different option, if we had started to look in advance and would have had several options. Bear in mind that if you are wanting to film on a single lane/one way street, you will probably not get the permit if you don’t close the road at all. 

    6.It’s all about communication

    Communication is everything. Whether it be with the director, in your department, the unit production manager, with the whole crew or your film specific contacts, make sure you communicate your progress and be honest about where you’re at – It’s so much easier to function in a team when everyone is on the same page. Also, have a way to be contacted. Have your phone on you, check your emails regularly and –obviously- respond. 

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    • Annette is part of the acting team with The Initiative Production Company. She is a German South-African, loves the smell of freshly baked bread and constantly has a list in her head of countries to visit and more languages to learn.

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