A Guide to Location Permits for Beginning Filmmakers

In 2019, the American film market made approximately $41.7 billion. In the pre-COVID-19-era United States, people regularly flocked to the theaters to be entertained. Behind the scenes of all these spectacles are filmmakers. Before getting to this level, though, many film creators start off making small films at scenic locations across their cities. We'll focus on how film students can receive location permits to film at such locations.

State Film Commission

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Filmmakers move into the film industry because they love telling stories. Whether it's shooting commercials in a production facility or working with a big-name film studio to bring the latest blockbuster movie to life, directors enjoy the filmmaking experience. When starting out in this field, you often don’t have access to large-scale production studio rentals or studio space. You might find yourself filming at a friend’s house, using their kitchen as a backdrop for a certain scene.

Let's say you’ve located that awesome outdoor filming location that provides everything you need for a special moment of your production. Maybe there’s a nearby park that provides the best natural light during a certain part of the day. Or maybe there’s a free parking area that can set the stage for a climactic action scene for your video shoot. Wherever the perfect setting, there’s one thing that you’ll need to film in any of these locales: a location permit (or film permit as it's also known).

Location permits allow a filmmaker and their team to film in a state and city. One of the first places you’ll visit to get this permission will be a state film commission. These government offices work with every size of filmmaking entity. Whether it’s a large-scale film studio with an expansive production facility or a first-time filmmaker just starting out, they’re the organization to seek out. They’ll provide you with the paperwork that you’ll need so that you won’t have to deal with any hiccups as you film your next production. Consult your local state film commission before beginning filming on your project.

Other Filmmakers

Another resource that you have for seeking out location permits is fellow film directors. Hunt around through your cabal of fellow directors and film-studies friends and see how they went about obtaining permits for their own video productions.

You might meet other people who went all “fight the system” and conducted a guerilla-style film production with no permit in hand. Don’t do that. You need permission to film at public and private locations, and more experienced directors will understand that. Follow their advice. For example, don’t just find the perfect space for filming at some of the hotels on Fremont Street, Las Vegas, and just shoot. An experienced filmmaker with years of experience will recommend that you contact those hotels before filming there. Maybe they’ve even had experience filming in these locations and have built up a good rapport with these very businesses.

If you follow the instruction of fellow filmmakers who have done things correctly, then the skies are the limit for your filmmaking opportunities. When you obtain your location permit from these hotels, you might be able to get access to some of Las Vegas’ luxury hotels. You can incorporate such hotel features or amenities as their full-service spas, live music, high-energy casinos, and seasonal outdoor pools into your film. And all of this can happen because you followed the advice of your fellow filmmakers on how to properly receive your location permit.

Film School

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Your film school will have the tools to help you obtain a location permit. In some cases, they can even work directly with the state film commission and some private businesses to get these location permits. Your educational institution has a personal stake in helping you achieve your goals, so definitely consider asking your film school for aid.

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