Producer's Guide: NYC Film Permits | Wrapbook

Producer's Guide: NYC Film Permits

04 August 2020 | Adam Darragh

Appearing in countless films, from Spike Lee’s Brooklyn to Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, New York City is as much a character as it is a location. But before you can shoot your next commercial, music video, or feature in this iconic city, you’ll likely need an NYC film permit.

In this post, we cover all your essential questions about the NYC film permit — what it is, what it covers, how to apply for one, and how much a film permit costs in New York City.

If you’re interested in getting a Los Angeles film permit, we recommend checking out our free ebook on LA film permits below.

What is an NYC film permit?

A 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 New York City use in order to balance the needs of on-set film production with the needs of the surrounding community.

If you’ve ever applied for a Los Angeles film permit you may be surprised to discover handheld shoots do not require filming permits in NYC. However, if you have larger equipment, need parking privileges, or will utilize stunts, you likely will require a permit.

An NYC film permit grants access to city resources, like collaboration with the NYPD’s Movie & TV Unit, parking for honeywagons and production vehicles, and location assistance with government buildings, public parks, and some privately owned locations such as the Rockefeller Center.

That said, filming in city parks, bridges, subways, tunnels, or the interiors of city buildings may require additional permissions, like an NYC Parks film permit. For more information about NYC Parks film permits and other special cases, check out the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services’ website.

Permits aren’t one-size-fits-all. Certain activities like stunts may require additional scrutiny. Other activities may require the assistance of city personnel.

How long have NYC film permits existed?

In the early 1960s, it was famously difficult to film in NYC. Producers had to apply for upwards of 50 permits per shoot, with many of the city’s most iconic locations impossible to access for all but the most resourceful productions.

But in 1966, Mayor John Lindsay completely overhauled the system, simplifying the New York City film permit process in order to stimulate film production and bring more jobs to the city by creating the Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting.

This NYC film permit office was the first of its kind in the world and it still oversees the NYC film permit process today.

What is the Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting?

The Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting (OFTB) is the official film and television permit office for all of New York City’s five boroughs. Unlike other municipalities like Los Angeles, which have several different jurisdictions for film permitting, the OFTB is a one-stop-shop for everything involving television and filming permits in NYC.

The OFTB is one of the four divisions of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), the office that oversees the entirety of New York’s creative economy.

Do you need a permit to film in NYC?

It depends.

If your production contains stunts or if you’ll be filming in a park, yes. If you need parking for production vehicles, probably. If you’re a small crew with handheld equipment, maybe not.

Current NYC film permits are required for any production:

  • Utilizing non-handheld equipment like dollies and jibs (“handheld” includes a camera on a tripod, bounce boards, boom mics, etc.).
  • Requiring parking privileges for production vehicles (personal automobiles do not require a permit). The OFTB asks that applicants for an NYC film permit list all vehicles that need a parking pass in the permit application.
  • Requiring exclusive use of City property.
  • Involving stunts, prop vehicles, prop weapons, or actors in police uniform.
  • And filming in a City park, city building interiors, bridges, subways, or tunnels. These shoots also require additional permissions from the controlling entities.

You can also apply for an “optional permit.” An optional permit, as you might expect, covers productions that would not otherwise require a permit (i.e. a photoshoot by a credentialed member of the media).

Why bother with one? Unlike most anything else in the film industry, an Optional Permit is free, and gives you access to parking for production vehicles (an invaluable resource), access to the NYPD Movie & TV Unit, and other entitlements that you would get with a full permit.

If you have any doubt about whether or not your production requires an NYC film permit, lookup more detailed information on the NYC film permit office’s website.

One of the most valuable benefits of having an NYC film permit: guaranteed parking.
One of the most valuable benefits of having an NYC film permit: guaranteed parking.

How do you get an NYC film permit?

The application process for an New York City film permit breaks down into five steps.

1. Secure Insurance

Applying for a New York film permit begins with securing insurance for your production.

At least 48 hours before you submit your online permit application, you’ll need to submit a Certificate of Insurance (COI) to the OFTB via email at insurance@media.nyc.gov. However, the COI cannot come from you; it must come directly from yourinsurance broker.

You’ll also need to validate this information later in the application process by providing your company name and insurance policy number. Since it’s important they exactly match the name and policy number your insurance broker submitted in your application for an NYC film permit, lookup both beforehand.

If you’re a student in New York City, the OTFB may have your school’s insurance information on file. If they do, in lieu of a COI you can submit a letter from your school on the school’s letterhead stating that you are a student in good standing. If your school is outside of New York City, or you aren’t sure if your school’s information is on file, check with the OTFB.

2. Set Up a Pre-Production Meeting

The OFTB requires narrative features and television, as well as, elaborate music videos or commercials shooting outdoors to schedule a pre-production meeting.

The purpose of this meeting is to review production schedules and shooting plans. Generally, your Locations Manager and Production Manager should attend, as well as members of the OFTB, and representatives of other relevant agencies.

The OFTB prefers that you schedule this meeting three weeks before the start of your shoot. However, it must be scheduled at least five business days before shooting begins.

This meeting will help you to know exactly what to request on the permit application, so your production will have the logistical and municipal support it needs to be successful.

3. Complete the New Project Account application

After the pre-production meeting, it’s time to submit your New Project Account application.

Completing the application is a relatively straightforward process. You’ll need to provide information on your production including the budget, size of the cast and crew, and your insurance policy number.

The OFTB also asks that applicants for an NYC film permit list all locations that will be used on the day of production, along with production contacts, vehicles that will require parking, and whether or not your production will require police assistance, among other production details.

Once the application is finished, it will take 2 to 3 business days to process. If you’re applying to shoot in Times Square, it can take up to 7 business days. So start early!

4. Pick Up Your Permit

You’ve secured a NYC film permit. Congratulations! Now make sure you get a physical copy of the permit to keep in your wrap binder and have on hand during your shoot.

Be sure to also take a picture so you always have a digital copy handy on your phone and your production’s shared storage folder. You can easily store a digital copy in the Documents Tab of Wrapbook.

5. Notify the Community

When filming in a residential neighborhood or a business district, you’ll need to properly notify each merchant or neighbor that is directly affected by your production (including base camp, parking, and catering areas). This needs to be done at least 48 hours before you begin filming at the location.

In order to notify the community, OFTB recommends using this sample resident letter as a template, and personalizing it for your production.

In addition, you’ll need to reach out to the local Community Board, City Council District, and Business Improvement District. Reaching out to these organizations doesn’t just make production smoother, it helps connect your film to a long-term plan for bettering the lives of the community’s residents and businesses.

6. File for DCAS and Park Permits

If you’re filming in the Manhattan or Brooklyn Municipal Building, other municipal or borough properties, or in certain public parks like Central Park, you’ll need to file a separate Parks or DCAS (“Department of Citywide Administrative Services”) permit application. A DCAS permit is different from a typical OTFB required film permit, so when filling out the application make sure you select “DCAS Permit” from the permit type.

For other public properties, like bridges, tunnels, or the subway, there is not a separate permit, but you will need to seek additional permissions.

7. Optional Permits

If you are running a small, handheld shoot and you need to film on sidewalks and city property, you can apply for an optional permit. These are free and give you access to many of the privileges that current NYC film permits grant to the productions requiring them, including parking and support from the NYPD Movie and Television Unit.

To get an optional permit, you can apply either by fax or in person by using this form. If you choose to apply by fax, fax your application to 212-262-7677 (you must provide a fax number in order to receive the approved permit back). You can also apply in person at OFTB at 1697 Broadway, 6th Floor, Monday through Friday from 9am - 4pm EST.

How long does a NYC film permit cover?

A New York film permit covers one day of filming. Shooting multiple days? That means you’ll need to get a separate NYC film permit for each day of your production.

Do you need a separate NYC film permit for each location?

Nope. You can list multiple locations on the same permit, as well as parking for those locations. So long as it’s within the same permit day, you can list them all!

The one exception is public parks and City property. As both have their own permit process mentioned above, productions at these locations require an additional Parks Permit or DCAS Permit, respectively.

What are NYC’s insurance requirements?

Insurance coverage is mandatory for productions that require an NYC film permit.

Likewise, productions that do not require an NYC film permit are not required to have insurance. This includes productions that choose to apply for a free optional permit. (Keep in mind that while you may not need insurance for your city permits, you likely need insurance for your locations and equipment rentals).

The insurance requirements for New York City film permit are simple: productions must have at least $1,000,000 in General Liability insurance and must name The City of New York and OFTB as additional insured, a standard requirement for any production insurance policy.

How long does it take to get an NYC film permit?

It can take up to five business days to get a permit if you need to shoot in New York City, up to six days for complex productions if the NYPD needs to be involved, and it can take up to nine business days if you need a permit to shoot in Times Square.

If you’re shooting scripted films or TV, or elaborate music videos or commercials, you will not be able to apply for permits until you have scheduled a pre-production meeting with OFTB, at the latest five business days before the start of filming.

All things considered, getting a film permit requires time: time to get an insurance policy that works for your production, time to write a quality application, and time to allow OTFB to review your permit application. Starting early, and working with a knowledgeable production insurance broker can make the process a breeze.

How much does a film permit cost in New York?

A required New York film permit costs a non-refundable fee of $300.

Parks permits and DCAS permits cost substantially more — a Central Park NYC film permit costs $3,200.

However, as mentioned above, optional permits are free, and many small productions don’t require permits at all.

Finally, if your film requires a permit, but you can demonstrate that the permit fee presents an unreasonable hardship, you can apply for a waiver of your permit fee. You can include the waiver when you submit your permit application, and OTFB will review the waiver to see if they are able to waive the fees in your case.

A Central Park NYC film permit costs significantly more than an OFTB NYC film permit.
A Central Park NYC film permit costs significantly more than an OFTB NYC film permit.

Wrapping up

Getting an NYC film permit is a fairly straightforward process meant to ensure film productions and local communities have a mutually beneficial relationship, now and for years to come.

By leaving ample time to go through the NYC film permitting process, you can make sure your next Big Apple production is sufficiently and officially sanctioned.

Have more questions about getting an NYC film permit? Give us a shout.

And be sure to check out our guide on Los Angeles film permits and download our free ebook, which covers everything you need to know about the LA film permit process.

Adam Darragh

Adam is a production insurance broker at Wrapbook. Before getting into production insurance, he was an Assistant Director on non-union films, as well as, a nonprofit director in Baton Rouge. He is also an avid creative writer, home brewer, and fan of his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars.