Filming Without a Permit Could Really Cost You

FilmLAFor Communities, For Filmmakers2 Comments

In tough economic times, individuals, families and businesses find ways to slash budgets, streamline and “go without”.  One such risky ploy to save money seems be happening more frequently — production companies “going without” a film permit.  While pinching pennies is prudent, filming without a permit is illegal and can be costly.

It’s been two years now since the Los Angeles Police Department’s film permit enforcement powers were clarified under a revised Special Events Ordinance.  Passed into law in the fall of 2009, the ordinance revised section 41.20 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) to make it a misdemeanor offense for production companies to film without a permit or engage in activities not covered by their permits.

Since the ordinance’s passage, the LAPD’s Contract Services Section Film Unit has made arrests and filed charges against film producers for section 41.20 violations.  As recently as last week, the LAPD unit arrested a filmmaker for such an offense.  In addition to arrest and fine, the LAPD may also confiscate filming equipment until a court hearing — a pricey penalty if that equipment is rented.  Moreover, insurance companies will refuse to pay any claims made for accidents on unpermitted productions, because the activity was illegal.

Balancing the needs of filmmakers with those of the community hosting on-location production is tricky.  Filming without a permit causes unnecessary grief for local communities because it circumvents basic neighborhood protections established through the permit.  With no advance Notice of Filming given to residents (and merchants), community members are unable to share any concerns about filming before it happens.

Many of us are passionate about keeping film production local and work to become as film friendly as possible.  This, however, does not mean we should look the other way when film productions shoot illegally out of a desire to keep the industry here.  Failing to hold the industry to its professional obligations to neighborhoods is not in the industry’s long-term interest.  If we can’t protect neighborhoods, we can’t keep them available for future generations of filmmakers.

If you encounter unpermitted filming activity, please call FilmL.A. immediately.

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