Five Mistakes to Avoid for First-time Permit Applicants

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Five Mistakes to Avoid for First Time Permit Applicants - FilmLA

FilmLA is proud to serve the Greater Los Angeles film community. As part of the support we provide, we aim to make the permit process as straightforward as possible. With that goal in mind, here are the top five mistakes made by first-time film permit applicants, and how you can avoid them on your next shoot.

(1) Missing Permit Application Deadlines

FilmLA works with several different jurisdictions, which can make knowing when to apply for a permit confusing. Generally, the more time you can give FilmLA for application and review, the better. Waiting until the last minute (that is, allowing just three business days for processing of simpler permit requests) is a risk you should avoid if you can.

To know when to apply for a permit based on the filming days and locations you require, visit the Area Requirements section on our website or contact Solution Services to discuss your plans.

You can also sign up to receive Production Alerts by email and follow us on social media for updates. We also place pop-up notifications on our website when an application deadline is affected by a holiday or some other event.


Sign up for FilmLA Production Alerts and always be in the loop on application deadline changes.

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(2) Mistaking "Reservations" for "Permits"

FilmLA has a helpful online tool called Reservations that allows Los Angeles filmmakers to reserve specific beaches, parks, and government buildings for filming.

But making a reservation is not the same thing as applying for a permit to film there. Having both a reservation and a permit is often necessary in order to secure access to the most sought-after government properties.

Unfortunately, some applicants will apply for a permit without first securing a reservation, only to find out the date they had in mind is not available. Conversely, others may make a reservation, only to later realize that they also needed to apply for a permit, but now it's too late.

If the deadline has passed, then FilmLA will not be able to accept your permit application, even if you have a valid reservation. To avoid this situation, follow carefully the information available on the Reservation website and in the email confirmation we send you. You can also reach out to our Solution Services team with any questions.

Reservations Tip

  1. Check permit application deadline first to make sure you have time to apply.
  2. Then make your reservation.
  3. Apply for the permit.

For a step-by-step guide on how to obtain a film permit, visit this page.

(3) Not Planning Ahead

The first two mistakes on this list can easily be mitigated by planning in advance. What are some other factors that should be determined in advance to make the permit application process faster and smoother?

Issues that arise during the permitting process often concern budget, the scope of your activity, and specific neighborhood sensitivities. You can discuss these ahead of time by contacting FilmLA.

The Production Planning team in our Solution Services department is available Monday-Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. These helpful team members can provide rough cost estimates for permits, look up locations of interest, and let you know of potential problems you and your crew may encounter on-location.

In some cases and with enough time, they can also help you pre-clear certain requests, like street closures. This just scratches the surface of the support that FilmLA’s Solution Services team provides at no additional cost to you! To take advantage of this support, plan ahead and contact us as soon as possible.

(4) Not Obtaining Permits for Still Photoshoots

Not everyone is aware that still-photography for commercial purposes requires a film permit. In some instances, even team, class, family, and engagement photoshoots can require permits. Although this does not apply in Los Angeles and is rare, a few jurisdictions that FilmLA serves enforce these stricter rules. Fortunately, still-photography permits are easy to obtain from FilmLA and often fairly inexpensive.

If you are uncertain whether you need a permit for your still-photography shoot, please don't hesitate to contact our Solution Services team. Based on where the work will take place, they will inform you of what you need to make your photoshoot legal and hassle-free.

(5) Believing Permits Aren't Necessary

There are a lot of myths in circulation about when film permits are required and when they are not. It is commonly assumed, for example, that a film permit isn't needed if a production takes place wholly on private property. Other rumors maintain that permits are not needed based on the size of one's cast, crew, or budget, or because of the type of project one is filming.

The truth is, in most areas served by FilmLA, permits are required for commercial filming. The rules are often different here from other states or countries. So in cases where you may not need a permit in New York or London, you may still need one in Los Angeles.

All filmmakers are encouraged to contact us to discuss their projects and see if a permit is required. We'll take the time to explain the limited exemptions that do exist and how to avoid the negative consequences that arise from unpermitted filming.

Contact Solution Services

Call: (213) 977-8600

Our team is available M-F 8am - 6pm to assist you.

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