Film London aims to make filming in the capital as straight-forward a process as possible.
They hold a library of over 10,000 London film locations, a comprehensive database of crew and facilities in the region, and can also provide information and advice about the filming process. Please note however that they do not provide permits for filming.
This 'Guide to Filming' will help explain the basic rules and regulations for filming in London. It will also highlight the resources available to help you make your shoot possible
Do I need permission to film in London?
It is important that wherever you plan to film you get the appropriate permission. Locations may either be privately owned, or public property (including street filming) - please see below for a definition of each category.
Please note: to film in all the locations addressed in this document you will need Public Liability Insurance.
How do I get filming permission?
Prior to entering into any contract, it is important to contact the Borough Film Service to inform them of your filming. They will be able to inform you of any rules / regulations that may apply to your specific location and assist with any parking requirements.
Privately owned locations
To film in private locations such as residential properties, you will need to apply directly to the property owner.
Remember – if you are filming in a flat or on an estate, it may be owned by a Housing Association, or by a Council, so you will need to contact ALL relevant parties.
Street filming and filming on public property
To film on almost all streets in London you will need to contact the relevant Borough Film Service (BFS). London is divided into 33 separate boroughs and each has its own BFS that deals with filming requests for all Local Authority managed locations (e.g. streets, estates, commons, town halls, some schools, shopping and leisure centres etc.)
Film-makers are encouraged to seek guidance from the Borough Film Service (BFS) at the earliest possible point of preparation of the location as for large, complex shoots the amount of notice required can be in excess of 10 working days.
It is usual practice to invite the BFS to join both the initial recce and the technical recce. www.filmlondon.org.uk/boroughs
To film in Council locations you are likely to have to complete an application process. You can contact the Borough Film Service directly for a Filming Application Form or use the generic form directly from Film London’s website (except in the case of filming in Westminster – please go directly to Westminster’s website for this information -www.westminster.gov.uk/filming. ). Please note: Westminster has the longest application process (up to 10 working days).
The BFS will confirm receipt of your Filming Application Form within 48 hours and may give you written permission for the filming to go ahead. This may be a confirmation email or a contract, depending on the nature and location of your shoot.
Where filming/photography is taking place across a borough or boroughs, without specific times or locations you will need to contact the Met Police Service Film Unit on email@example.com in order that your information is disseminated to the relevant people. Where you are informing the Metropolitan Police of filming/photography with less than 1 days notice, contact the borough police station directly (see Contacts under www.met.police.uk/filmunit) giving all the relevant information to assist in preventing police interventions.
There are certain additional criteria which will mean you must inform the Metropolitan Police
(see later under “Do I need to contact the police?”)
The impact of failing to inform relevant authorities could result in unnecessary police resources being deployed, and disruption to the community and to your filming. This is particularly important when you are filming in Westminster, Camden, Lambeth and in the City of London (covered by the City of London Police), or near any other location that may be of iconic, religious or government importance.
Please refer to Film London’s online Popular Locations section for more general information.
In addition, there are a number of other public agencies which look after some of London's iconic locations, such as The Royal Parks, Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square and London Underground. There is a very useful Organisations and Agencies list online which is a good point of reference.
If you are a crew of under 10 people, using hand-held or tripod cameras only and have no parking requirements then you can use the Small Crew Application Form (available online).
You can include all of your street filming locations on one form, so using Film London's application form will save time if you are planning to film in multiple boroughs. You should aim to apply at least 3 days before you plan to film. You will need to give at least 3 working days notice if you plan to film in Westminster.
How do I find a location?
There are over 2,000 location images in the Film London online Directory and over 10,000 in their office library. You are welcome to visit the library during office hours (Monday - Friday, 9am - 6pm). This is a free service.
Will I have to pay for locations?
Privately owned locations:
There will almost always be a fee for filming in a privately owned location. You will need to negotiate this fee directly with the location owner. Fees are generally charged on a case by case basis depending on your specific requirements.
Street filming and public properties:
To film on street there is unlikely to be a filming fee unless your project involves complex requests, however the Borough Film Service may charge you an administration fee and you will be charged for any additional services that the Council provides (such as waste disposal, parking suspensions and dispensations and set visits from the Film Officer where required).
To film in other areas, for example Council Parks, Housing Estates, Town Hall forecourts etc. there is likely to be a fee and a license may well be required.
Do I need to hire a location manager?
For most productions Film London strongly recommends you hire a location manager. A location manager will find locations, negotiate with owners and agree contracts. They will have a thorough understanding of the requirements of Local Authorities when seeking permission to film in public spaces and of the application process (which can sometimes take up to two weeks). An experienced location manager will have the expertise to ensure your filming is done in the most cost effective way.
They may also be trained in UK Health & Safety regulations and may have experience of liaising with the police. Film London runs an availability service for location managers and scouts.
What are location agencies?
There are several commercial location libraries covering London. They act as agents publicising locations to film-makers. All services offer an online photo library of locations.
Parking, restrictions and charges
Charges, restrictions and parking arrangements vary between the 33 London boroughs, so please refer to the BFS list for further details, or call the relevant officer directly for a breakdown. Borough boundaries are shown in many A-Zs.
The BFS is likely to be able to suggest good places for parking, especially unit bases, so it is worthwhile calling them for general information. Please refer to the boroughs map or BFS list for further information (see above). Film London also has a list of borough unit bases online.
Do I need to contact the police?
It is recommended that you inform local police of ALL exterior location filming. Once you have applied to a Borough Film Service to film, they will normally request that you contact local police. They will inform you if there are any community issues which may impact on your activity.
It is essential that you contact the Met Police Service Film Unit (MPSFU) by email firstname.lastname@example.org and refer to their website (www.met.police.uk/filmunit) if you are featuring:
• Fake police/military uniforms
• Fake police/military vehicles
• Recreation of crimes
• Use of firearms or other weapons (prop / replicas included)
• Nudity / perceived nudity
Should you be filming on the move please seek the advice of the MPSFU.
If there are stunts taking place or management of traffic flow is required then police supervision may be requested to assist and the permission of the local authority / traffic authority will be required.
What is Public Liability Insurance and do I need it?
Public Liability Insurance covers the legal responsibilities of your production should your activities cause injury to a third party or damage to property. You will need to have this cover to film in any location in London.
The amount of cover that is required varies, depending on the size of your production, where you are filming and what the filming will entail. You can check with the location owners or the relevant Borough Film Service to find out exactly how much cover is required for your location.
As a general rule you will be required to have a minimum of £2 million cover for street filming, although several boroughs require all productions to carry a minimum cover of £5 million. If you are a student film-maker and your project is part of your course, this should be covered by your college / university. You will need to supply confirmation from your college / university to this effect.
To be insured by a UK insurance company the production company must be based in the UK. If you are not a UK film-maker you will need to get insurance through a broker in the country in which you are based. You will need to get this document translated into English.
pictures to courtesy of Film London / Jamie Lumley
For more details visit the Film London website
Please email email@example.com or call 020 7613 7683 with any general location enquiries. Film London is the capital's film and media agency. We sustain, promote and develop London as a major international film-making and film cultural capital. This includes all the screen industries based in London - film, television, video, commercials and new interactive media.
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