For more than 100 years, Los Angeles has served as the backdrop of countless films, commercials, and television shows. Where else are cityscapes, beaches, mountains, and suburbs all just 20 minutes apart without traffic?
However, if you’re going to film in Los Angeles, then you’re going to need permission for shooting in the form of a Los Angeles film permit.
In this post, we cover how to get Los Angeles film permits, work with Film LA, and budget film permit cost. Although if you want the full picture, we recommend checking out our free ebook on LA film permits below.
Like NYC film permits, a Los Angeles film permit is an official certificate from a municipality that gives permission for filmmaking activities to take place. Film permits are an essential tool that municipalities like Los Angeles use in order to balance the needs of on-set film production with the needs of the surrounding community.
More than just permission for shooting, film permits also grant productions access to city resources, like street closures and L.A.’s extensive community notification program.
Permits aren’t one-size-fits-all. Certain actives like stunts may require additional scrutiny. Other actives may require the assistance of city personnel.
Most permits take a minimum of three business days to process your permit, and more for exceptional activities. Because of this, it is in your best interest to start the permitting process early so you can budget time and money accordingly.
Representatives at FilmLA, as well as, your local insurance broker can help make getting a FilmLA permit a smooth process.
FilmLA is the official film office of Los Angeles, as well as, an ever-expanding group of neighboring communities.
FilmLA provides permits for film production and coordinates with city departments to make sure that your production has what it needs to be successful.
However, FilmLA provides much more than Los Angeles film permits. The Greater LA area is a metropolis of more than 18 million people that work and live surrounded by production.
Because of this, FilmLA strikes a balance between enhancing the on-set experience of production companies and the local communities who live and work there.
In addition to awarding film permits, FilmLA provides many other services that you need in order to shoot in Los Angeles.
Yes! Commercial filming without permission is illegal in Los Angeles. If you’re filming with a Los Angeles film permit, FilmLA provides numerous resources to make your production a success. Without a permit you risk your production being shut down by the police.
A permit is required whether you’re shooting the tiniest chamber piece or a Hollywood blockbuster. However, a tiny, two-location film will require much less extensive permitting than a summer tentpole with lane closures and car crashes.
To ensure your permitting needs match up with your favorite locations and your production’s budget, it’s best to start the permitting process early and keep an open conversation with your FilmLA Production Coordinator, as well as your insurance broker.
There are two exceptions to the permit requirement: for productions of no commercial value, as well as studio-based productions with no impact on the surrounding community. Making a smartphone video of your family on vacation? You wouldn’t need a permit. Making a YouTube video? Since YouTube is considered commercial, you would require a permit. Student and non-profit productions also require a permit, though they may qualify for a special lower rate.
Likewise, if you’re shooting in a certified sound stage you may not need a permit. Need a place for your crew to park? You may need a permit. (The city of Santa Monica has a similar arrangement, which you can learn about on [insert link to new blog post here]). Not sure if your sound stage is certified? Give FilmLA a call at (213) 977-8600 to make sure.
Basically, unless the production is very small-scale and private, or entirely enclosed within a studio, you should assume you’ll need a permit. And if you have any questions, ask the helpful folks at FilmLA!
In Los Angeles, you can only get a film permit by working with FilmLA. You can do everything online via their Online Portal System (OPS). You can easily create an OPS account on their website.
Once you’ve created an account, the permit process takes place in five steps:
Found the perfect location? Before you write the check or make any commitments, give FilmLA a call to discuss the location and your filming plans. FilmLA’s Production Planning Team will walk you through permit requirements, as well as any special conditions regarding the location.
FilmLA requires insurance for all permitted productions. Though FilmLA has general requirements, your permit may require additional coverage. Be sure to let your insurance broker know ahead of time what coverages the permits require so he or she can match them exactly, which ensures a smoother permitting process.
Once you have secured your location and insurance coverage, you are ready to submit your permit application. You can do this easily via the Online Portal System (OPS). Once you receive confirmation that your application has been accepted, you will be assigned a Production Coordinator. Your Production Coordinator will be your point person for the rest of the production, and will guide you through any additional steps your location or unique production situation requires.
FilmLA will help you by distributing official “Notices of Filming” two days before the start of production, either by paper or their online e-notification system. It’s always a good idea to accompany their outreach with outreach of your own, either with a letter on production company letterhead, or in person.
Making a payment is the final step before you can receive your finalized permit. You can easily do this via the OPS system or through a FilmLA representative. You can choose email delivery, free in-person pickup, among other options.
A film permit from FilmLA generally has a maximum timespan of two consecutive weeks. Your assigned FilmLA Production Coordinator can help you arrange permits for any time period you require.
Generally, a LA film permit from FilmLA covers up to ten locations. Since FilmLA represents many different municipalities in and around Los Angeles, one permit can cover a lot of ground. However, since communities’ permit requirements differ, you should read up on the requirements of each community to make sure your permit application meets their requirements.
Specific locations like schools, municipal buildings, or structures associated with the port of Los Angeles may have their own requirements. An example of these requirements may be completing a license agreement with a local school district in addition to FilmLA’s requirements.
L.A. County beaches, harbors, and the Angeles National Forests also have their own requirements, and may have rules that allow or disallow certain film activities.
So even if you fall in love with a one of these location, make sure you read up on its requirements and communicate with your FilmLA Production Coordinator make sure all your planned filmmaking actives will be allowed.
One of the biggest mistakes filmmakers make when applying for permits is not meeting FilmLA’s film insurance requirements.
After all, if you’re shooting on someone else’s property and something goes amuck, FilmLA wants to ensure you can pay for any damages or injury that may occur.
Whether you already have an existing insurance plan or trying to find a FilmLA compliant policy at the lowest cost to you, FilmLA requires your insurance policies to cover:
This covers third parties affected by your film, whether it’s a deliveryman tripping while bringing lunch, or a grip truck leaving a deep rut in a neighbor’s yard. It also provides some legal coverage.
FilmLA requires General Liability coverage of 1M/1M, which means $1 million for any one occurrence, and $1 million in coverage overall.
If you only have film equipment insurance in Los Angeles, you might want to consider upgrading to a FilmLA compliant short term policy.
This covers medical and legal expenses resulting from an accident in one of your covered autos. Covered autos include rental cars and grip trucks, but also employees driving their own autos on official production business (i.e. not commuting).
FilmLA requires Auto Liability of 1M/1M, which means $1 million for any one occurrence, as well as $1 million in coverage overall.
If you aren’t using autos for your production, this requirement may not apply.
FilmLA requires a certificate of insurance listing their directors, officers, agents, and employees to be listed as additional insured.
This is is a simple process that covers their representatives working with you under your General & Auto Liability policies. FilmLA also requires an “Additional Insured Endorsement” as a second page to this Certificate of Insurance. Your insurance broker will complete both of these tasks for you.
A Waiver of Subrogation is an additional level of coverage on a liability policy that states, in the event of a lawsuit, that the suit must end with your insurance and cannot extend to your collaborators, like FilmLA.
FilmLA requires Waiver of Subrogation affixed to your General and Auto Liability policies.
Workers Compensation (“Workers Comp” for short) covers work-related injury or illness to your employees, and on many policies also to unpaid volunteers.
FilmLA requires Workers Comp except in special cases. Even if your cast and crew do not qualify for Workers Comp – if they are all independent contractors or unpaid volunteers—you may still be obligated to carry Workers Comp. This is because your permit may require the presence of police officers or FilmLA monitors, and FilmLA wants to make sure that all representatives are covered in case of production-related injury or illness.
If you are uncertain whether your particular permit will require your production to carry Workers Comp, call FilmLA and reference your permit number.
More often than not, workers comp insurance can be provided through your entertainment payroll company.
Now that you’ve got the basics of the film insurance requirements needed for a Los Angeles film permit, let’s get into the specifics needed for Los Angeles and its surrounding areas.
To find a full list of every neighborhood requirement, please refer to our free ebook on Los Angeles film permits.
Depending on your Los Angeles film permit, your production may require a filming survey or the services of a FilmLA monitor. All required neighborhood notification.
School districts requires a license agreement with the school district (available through FilmLA) in addition to your film permit. When filming in a school, production activities must be secondary and must not disrupt any school institutional programming.
The permitting process is not a quick one, but it can be smooth. That goes for insurance brokers too.
There are different insurance requirements for FilmLA, the City of Los Angeles, as well as the County of Los Angeles, and the beaches are different too. While you may file just one permit application, your insurance broker may have to work with two, three, or even more municipal entities in order for your permits to be approved.
Because of this, it is always a good idea to start the permitting process early, as well as notify your insurance broker up front about any insurance requirements you need to meet. This will ensure that the permitting process moves smoothly as well as prevent costly surprises on the eve of production.
A Los Angeles film permit has several different costs associated with it, which vary depending on your locations and the extent of your production activities. Your FilmLA Production Coordinator can work with you and your budget to meet the needs of your production while minimizing these fees. Some of the fees associated with your film permit are:
The application fee for a motion photography with FilmLA is $699 per permit. One permit generally covers production activities for up to ten locations for up to two continuous weeks. If you’re looking for still photography permit in Los Angeles, the service is cheaper for a basic permit at $66 per permit.
Whether you’re getting a film or still photography permit in Los Angeles, the application fee in non-refundable.
A “rider” is required whenever a change is made to a permit after it has been finalized. For motion photography a rider costs $111, and a rider for still photography permit costs $22. Rider fees are non-refundable.
FilmLA works to notify the local community on your behalf regarding your production activities. The minimum notification fee is $173 per location, though it may increase depending on the location and the notification radius.
Depending on your permit, you may require a FilmLA Monitor. FilmLA Monitors ensure compliance with permit terms from the production company as well as on-set mediation between production companies and the local community. If required, FilmLA Monitors earn $32.50/hour, and earn overtime if working more than 8 hours.
If you are a student or certified non-profit organization, you may qualify for special reduced application and notification fees. To see if you qualify, inquire at email@example.com.
Yes and no.
The City and County of Los Angeles, as well as, many of the surrounding municipalities are covered by FilmLA. You can learn more about these communities, as well as special districts like LA County Beaches, at FilmLA’s area requirements for Los Angeles film permits.
If the area you are filming in is not listed, consider reaching out to FilmLA to see whether or not the location is under its authority.
The FilmLA permit does cover most of Los Angeles, but not all of it. You’ll notice on the map of Los Angeles below, places like Beverly Hills and Burbank are excluded from the LAFilm permit zone.
In order to shoot in these places, you’ll need to visit each city’s sites. However, you should always start your Los Angeles film permit search on the FilmLA site, as they often coordinate with outlying cities.
For many filmmakers, applying for a Los Angeles film permit on top of all their other production responsibilities can feel like jumping through hoops.
However, planning to get a FilmLA permit as soon as possible and understanding the FilmLA jurisdictions ahead of production will make the process as smooth as possible. The permitting process is the city’s way of ensuring that productions and local communities will continue to benefit each other for years to come.
At Wrapbook, we're all about providing the very best free resources to producers and their crews. However, this post is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Answers do not create a company-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice. Seek the advice of a licensed attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction before taking any action that may affect your decisions or rights.
Sign up for the Wrapbook monthly newsletter where we share industry news along with must-know guides for producers.