Teach Me Tuesday: Filming in locations you don't own


(Bri Castellini) #1

Welcome to Teach Me Tuesday! Today’s topic:

Have you filmed in businesses or schools or spaces you don’t own? How did you get permission, and what tips do you have for others to film outside their own homes too?


(Bri Castellini) #2

For the school we filmed a lot of Brains at, we didn’t ask permission unless we had to be in a place behind a locked door (the rooftop scenes and the dorm scenes, mostly). For those I had to go through the school’s activity department and fill out paperwork and lie about only using students and not off campus people and then snuck the non-students onto campus to film with them anyways. Having non-students would have required us to show proof of insurance which we couldn’t afford so we just, well, lied.

For outdoor shoots I’ve been on, we just tried to stay out of the way of regular foot traffic so no one got upset and called anyone on us.

I actually haven’t had a ton of experience asking like cafe or bar owners for permission, so I’m curious about everyone else’s process for that.


(Herman Wang) #3

I don’t mean to sound flippant, but you just ask them. The worst they can do is say “no”.

What I’ve generally done is ask for a day or time when they’re normally closed anyway. That way, they’ll be less resistant to the idea, because it won’t disrupt their normal business, plus they can make some extra money from you on the side.

What also helps is if you get film shoot insurance and let them know that you have it, plus give them pertinent details about how long you’ll be, how many people, etc.


(Bri Castellini) #4

I think I’m always worried that if I ask and they say no, I can’t then also do it anyways haha. Obviously a bar or a school is different, but I recently shot a short film in a hotel room and we toyed with the idea of asking them then remembered that our room reservation was nonrefundable so if they said no we’d be screwed AND out 400 bucks.


(sam lockie-waring) #5

have you found they would rather let you in when they aren’t open? places i’ve talked to will prefer you to come in lighter hours so they don’t have to pay anyone to be there when the place isn’t open.


(Herman Wang) #6

My take on hotel rooms specifically is that what you do in the room once you’ve paid for it is none of their business, so long as it’s not illegal (obviously) and it doesn’t violate their codes.


(Herman Wang) #7

The nightclub we shoot in is fine with us using it during the day, as what we pay them is more than what they have to pay someone to babysit us.

In the end, go with whatever they’re going to be most comfortable with - they’re doing you the favour, after all.


(Melissa Malone) #8

We had a hard time finding a high school. Specifically because we needed to use it A LOT for 'Golden Rule." I spent a lot of time to sending out mass emails to schools within a certain distance and hoping someone responded. After getting some responses I either made appointments to speak with them over the phone. When we finally had a school that was more than happy to let us film there (after proof of insurance, etc) we made a visit to confirm it would work for the shoot and then had them sign a location agreement.

For other locations that aren’t ours- business, we ask about times they are closed.

With all locations, we made sure to leave the places cleaner than we found them.

With outdoor shoots, we tend to just shoot and hope for the best!


(Jonathan Hardesty) #9

A long time ago I shot a movie in the small town where I lived (it’s not good, but was good practice). Was able to get a lot of permissions and leeway because we all knew each other and the town had a population of about 300. I was able to use our one gas station during off-hours, and I was able to film in the streets. We had a random person show concern at some of the activity going on, but enough people knew me and knew what was going on and they just kinda shrugged it off.

Obviously this isn’t everyone’s circumstance, but we were very transparent with everyone we worked with and asked for what we wanted.


(Meg Carroway) #10

What about if you can’t pay (aside from buying food from the establishment, for example) or have insurance (like @OSTSG mentioned)? We can give shout outs to the business in the episode or credits or whatever, but is that enough?


(Herman Wang) #11

Think about it from their point of view - if someone asked to borrow property you own without paying and without insurance, what would your answer be?

If you’re a regular or a friend, that might have some influence over them.


(Bri Castellini) #12

Yeah I was just gonna say- being a regular helps a LOT. I’ve had places I’m a regular at offer their location for me before- haven’t taken any of them up on it yet, but all my usual coffee shops and bars know I’m a filmmaker which is fun


(Melissa Malone) #13

It depends on the establishment, I think and if you happen to know the owners personally, etc. As far as insurance goes, it varies. Some places don’t require it and some do but it’s much safer (expense wise) to have it in case anything happen on set that damages their property, etc.


(Kyla) #14

I’m using my school & like… it’s been a time. the only reason it works is that on occasion I’m a good student and there’s a couple teachers who like me enough to stay after school to “supervise” or to lend us their classrooms. one of our teachers also let us take over her classroom for a P.A. day after first semester exams, which was so helpful. administration is vaguely aware that there’s filming happening, but they don’t know it’s me and they don’t really care much anymore so as long as we aren’t in the hallways/destroying school property.

I’ve also acted in a music video for a friend’s art project, and we just set up shop on the side of a road and tried to avoid getting hit by cars!


(Carlo Delmar) #15

These kinds of topics will be covered in a free panel next week called “Production 101” at the Cinema Village Theater in Manhattan. Topics for this panel include budgeting, transportation, permits, insurance, music, copyrights, publicity, editing, and others.

This free panel is part of the Winter Film Awards International Film Festival, which does accept some web series.

Additional free panels they have next week are “Celebration of Women in Film,” “All About Distribution for Indie Filmmakers,” “SAG-AFTRA Low Budget Workshop,” “Understanding Legal Issues for Indie Filmmakers,” and “Camera Hacks for the Frugal Filmmaker.”

This is the complete schedule:


(Barbara Mc Thomas) #16

I found a perfect location for the “home base” of my series. It’s an AirBNB. I’m going to message the owner and see if he’s okay with our renting it to film there. I may offer to pay a larger deposit since we’ll have 20 people in there at once.

I have a friend who is a Realtor and she has offered to hook me up with any of the commercial properties on her roster that aren’t sold yet. I’m crossing my fingers that the bank doesn’t sell before we have the funding to start filming!

We have also used a couple of different offices and a restaurant. We’ve always had an “in” - someone knew someone who knew someone. The AirBNB guy is going to be my first attempt at getting a total stranger to let us film.

Even with the people we knew, it was important to:

  1. know exactly how long you need to use the place
  2. work with their schedule, whenever works for them
  3. Give them the script so they know what’s going to happen in their space
  4. promise to put everything back where it was (we took pictures before so we would know exactly where!)
  5. Thank them a gazillion times in person and send a written thank you afterward

(Carlo Delmar) #17

It’s interesting that you mention commercial properties that aren’t sold yet. That reminds me of the web series “Solace,” a comic book store drama. The location in which it was filmed was a UPS store in the City of Yonkers that had closed, but the business operator still had a few months left on the lease, so he let the filmmakers decorate the space to look like a comic book store and film in there before the lease expired.

Here is a photo of this office space: https://www.facebook.com/solacewebseries/photos/pcb.616729281775449/616728585108852/?type=3&theater

Here is the web series if you want to see it: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyI8RMpdahx9so-nGCnikgA/videos


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #18

Just cause I don’t want to omit any pertinent info