Guerrilla Filming: Skipping Permits to Pinch Pennies Can Cost Big Bucks

FilmLAFor Communities, For FilmmakersLeave a Comment

With the economy as it is, budgets are tight.  Everyone is looking for ways to “tighten the belt” and save money.  If you’re a filmmaker, it may seem like that’s always the case; cameras and lights cost money, crews cost money, production insurance costs money, etc., and of course you need to maximize every dollar.

There are right and wrong ways to go about it, though.

In an attempt to stretch the budget as far as possible, some filmmakers are choosing to forgo getting permits to film on-location and are instead deciding to “go guerrilla”.  In the process, these scofflaws damage relations between the industry and neighborhoods and place themselves in significant personal and financial peril.

Guerrilla filming needlessly causes grief for local residents and merchants because filming without a permit circumvents basic neighborhood protections.  When guerrilla filming occurs, community members receive no Notice of Filming and are prevented from sharing their concerns about filming before it happens.  As a result, illegal filming shuts down industry/community dialogue and undermines the balance FilmL.A. strives to achieve between filmmakers’ and communities’ needs.

But there are legal and financial ramifications to getting caught without a permit, too.  The Los Angeles Police Department can confiscate guerrilla filmmakers’ equipment and charge them with misdemeanor violations of Section 41.20 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC).  A court visit is required for the return of equipment; hopefully, it wasn’t rented by the day!

When filming without permits, guerrilla filmmakers also run the risk of losing liability protections provided by their insurance companies.  Film insurance policies differ, but acts of illegal filming could be used by insurance carriers as grounds for rejecting insurance claims.

By observing film permit rules and showing respect for communities, we can together sustain local production and keep crews welcome in local neighborhoods.

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