Film Permits and Location Agreements
Having a legal and approved location agreement is necessary for student productions. Students should inspect and photograph all locations to document everything that may be wrong or already broken before they sign a location agreement. Similar to renting a car, these items should be referenced in the location document.
Similar to having your SAG paperwork in early, pulling permits can take a long time and is an area that needs to be handled during pre-production. This should be handled by the producer / production manager.
A permit is required for filming in most Southern California communities. Obtaining a permit requires several steps and takes time. Allow yourself at least two weeks to get it all done.
To Obtain a Film Permit
If you are doing your thesis, the first step is to fill out a “Thesis Project Assessment Checklist”. It requires that you attach the following documents:
- Insurance Coverage Request Form(s) for each equipment rental vendor and each location site (See contract section)
- A copy of your script
- A list of locations (including addresses)
- A copy of your budget
- A copy of your shooting schedule
- A list of actors and crew members (including résumés of non-CalArts participants)
Fill out the form and take it along with your documentation to your Mentor to discuss and obtain your Mentor’s signature. Then bring to Head of Production Services for review and signature.
In addition, you will need a signed letter from the School of Film/Video office that certifies that you are a student at CalArts and that your project is for “non-commercial educational purposes.” Please see Head of Production Services.
With these documents in hand, you must go to the appropriate permitting office for the jurisdiction where you intend to shoot. For Los Angeles locations, it is the FilmLA office on Sunset Blvd. For Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita Permit office.
If you are doing a student production for class, please see Head of Production Services first to discuss your production and obtain a signed letter that you are a student at CalArts and your production is for “non-commercial educational purposes.”
Los Angeles Film Permits (FILM LA, Inc)
- For detailed information on how to obtain film permits for Los Angeles Area locations, go to the Film LA website: filmla.com/for-filmmakers/student-filmmakers
- Film LA requires that you make your application in person (bring an ID) at least 72 hours (3
work days) before you are to begin filming. However, it is important that you call them for a pre- consultation first. Once they have processed your application, you will have to return to their offices on Sunset to pay the fees (usually $25) and pick up the permit.
- Film LA is located at 6255 W. Sunset Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90028.
Filming / Scouting in LA and other areas
After you have scouted your location, you will have to determine which city or county government agency issues permits for that area. Every office will be slightly different and have their own rules about fees, fire marshals, etc.
The easiest way to find the right film office is to search the web. In your search engine of choice, type in the name of the city you want to film in then in quotes type “film permit”. Almost every city, county or state has a film permit office. Not all of them require students to get permits. If you shoot in a community that does not issue filming permits, get an email or a memo from them to that effect for the School of Film/Video.
Film LA offers a comprehensive scouting service called LocoScout: locoscout.com. This scouting service is first rate and can help student productions find locations online and speed up pre-production.
The California Film Commission also offers a scouting service called Cinemascout: ca.reel-scout.com/loc.aspx. This scouting service is also first rate and can help student productions find locations online and speed up pre-production.
Filming on State Property
If you want to shoot on California State Property such as a state park, state historic site or state beaches, you will have to contact the California Film Commission to obtain a permit. They are located at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard Suite 900 Hollywood, CA 90028, (323) 860-2960, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm film.ca.gov
They do not charge any application or permit fees. However, you will be required to pay the wages of any State Employees required on your set.
Additionally, if you want to film past the normal operating hours for a facility, you must pay the employees for their extra time on the job. The CFC accepts checks for the payment of services.
The State permit office requires 2 days (48 hours) to process permit requests.
The State requires $500,000 dollars liability insurance for hired and non-owned vehicles. CalArts does provide automobile insurance but student must see Production Services for to access. A DMV record and copy of driver’s license is necessary. The approval for auto insurance may take a couple of days, so do not wait to the last minute!
There are many parks in the greater LA area and they fall under a number of different jurisdictions. For information, contact:
City of Los Angeles
LA City Park Office
The City Parks office has been extremely helpful to students. Call them one or two weeks before your shoot for information. They generally waive fees. However, if your shoot requires the presence of a Ranger, night shoots, generator, restricted areas or more than 19 people, you will be required to pay the Ranger’s wage.
Los Angeles County Parks are handled by Film LA.
California State Parks are handled by the California Film Commission.
National Parks have several offices:
Angeles National Forest
Santa Monica National Park
National Park Service
600 Harrison Street Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94107
If you want to film in a park located in a city or area other than those listed above contact the permit office of the city in which the park is located.
Most beaches are handled by Film LA or The California Film Commission. If anyone is in the water, or if you have a large-scale production, they will require that a Lifeguard be present. Film LA or the California Film Commission will help you coordinate with the Department of Beaches and Harbors.
As of this printing, we are strongly recommending that students not film in the following cities due to the inordinate hassle, cost and delay: Alhambra, Burbank, Culver City, Glendale, Hawthorne, Vernon, Big Bear, Santa Monica, El Segundo, Pacific Palisades, San Francisco, Covina
Filming in Santa Clarita
City of Santa Clarita
This site also offers a wonderful resource location library found here: filmlib.santa-clarita.com/index.aspx?page=10.
In the past, students used to pay for certain types of monitors on city property. Production Services has worked out a pilot program with the Santa Clarita Permit Office that waives these fees.