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Filming in NYC


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#1 Roman Alexander

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 04:09 PM

I haven't shot in the city in over five years. Has anything changed markedly vis a vis permits etc. ? Can students still run and gun as long as they don't impede traffic? Is Central Park still an option? If anyone knows the drill or has any recent experiences please advise. Thank you.
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#2 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 09:07 PM

Running and gunning is OK, once you bring out sticks it's a different story. Don't know about Central Park. I am probably not the best person to ask about this as some of our shots were stolen and for the rest, we had legit permits, so I couldn't really tell ya...
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#3 timHealy

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 09:55 PM

Call the Mayor's Office for any questions

http://www.nyc.gov/h...dex/index.shtml

also some explainations:

http://www.nyc.gov/h...ting_home.shtml

The city is great in terms of helping filmmakers. Permits are free and they provide police when you need them for free as well. Even to student films. However police are not provided to student films for weekend shoots.

Best

Tim
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#4 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 06:25 AM

The Mayor's Office is incredibly cooperative. The NYC police unit assigned to cinema are very experienced and reallydo their best to make things work. Just be clear about the needs of your film and be precise about where and when things are going to happen. What they don't like (and rightly so) is "maybe's" and "uhm, like"...
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#5 Chien Huey

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 07:13 AM

The city is great in terms of helping filmmakers. Permits are free and they provide police when you need them for free as well. Even to student films. However police are not provided to student films for weekend shoots.

The one catch with the free permits is that you need to carry at least $1M of general liability insurance and name New York City as additionally insured. You can have that through your school - I believe the procedure involves getting an official letter from your school/professor that indicates that you're an enrolled student and you will be covered under the school's policy. You can get parking permits which are really handy too.

Roman wrote "Is Central Park still an option?"
My friend in the NYPD Auxilary (CP Precinct) has told me that the CP officers are generally cool with filming w/o permits as long as you're not seriously obstructing the public. He added that it's the Parks Dept people you have to watch out for - they're really strict (not sure why) and they can issue summons.

Annie wrote "once you bring out sticks it's a different story."
Definitely, earlier this year I did a day with Kodak down in Battery Park City for their "Stop By Shoot Film" promotion and a dozen people called the police on us. We had an A-Minima on sticks and we shot some of the NY and NJ skyline. The cops told us the calls said that there was a group of people on the promenade with a "bazooka" or a "missile launcher". :D

A couple days later, we had the same A-Minima on the sidewalk doing a time lapse shot. Two NYPD officers walk by us - hardly even gave the camera a glance - and kept on walking.

Extreme examples for sure - your experience will probably be somewhere in between. If the scene(s) are long, complicated or important, I wouldn't chance it - get the permits.
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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 10:19 AM

I shoot all over the globe and I never get permits. Now in most cases it's just me and the camera on a tri-pod, and I'm not there long. Which is quite different from having actors out and a crew etc.

As for....

"He added that it's the Parks Dept people you have to watch out for - they're really strict (not sure why) and they can issue summons."

Here's the 1-2-3 method of dealing with a summons.

1) Hold summons.

2) Insert summons into garbage.

3) Done.

What are these cities going to do come after you?

R,
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#7 Mitch Gross

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 01:06 PM

Many municipalities have connecting jurisdictional agreements with other places, so if you get a ticket in LA and tignore it, the bench warrant that is eventually served could be enforced in NY. You could lose your driver's license or even be jailed. How likely these outcomes are is another matter, but they can occur.

Likewise, if you're a jerk to the NYC Police or Parks Department, they can not only issue a summons but also CONFISCATE YOUR EQUIPMENT pending a hearing on that summons, which can easily take up to three weeks to occur. If you are renting the gear for a day you suddenly renting it for three weeks if not more.

That said, if you are a reasonable and nice person then you generally will be treated as such. The first thing I usually do when a police officer drives by is wave. I always do my best not to impeed traffic or business of any kind. In the park I try not to cause any damage in any way, and I do not try to shoot there on the weekend since that is when most people come out to enjoy the space.

The police and other authorities don't really get their jollies by stopping filmmakers. They invariably have something better to do with their time. Act responsibly and sociably and they won't bother you.

On the flipside is post-99/11 security concerns. This means that you won't get into any tall buildings for scenic shots without plenty of prior permission, you cannot shoot in or near any transit hubs such as train stations, Port Authority, bridges & tunnels, airports, etc. without first getting prior permission. And yes, to get said permission you will need to have insurance.

If insurance is such a big deal to you then perhaps you should consider another line of work.
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#8 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 03:30 PM

"Many municipalities have connecting jurisdictional agreements with other places, so if you get a ticket in LA and tignore it, the bench warrant that is eventually served could be enforced in NY. You could lose your driver's license or even be jailed. How likely these outcomes are is another matter, but they can occur."

I suppose that's a possibility in the USA, since ending up in jail is possible in the USA for very minor things. I did shoot in the New York subways last year with no permits, inspite of the signs saying not to. No one batted an eye.

As for me, once I'm back across the border into Canada, there is nothing that can or could happen to me any way. So I guess I can be more liberal in my approach to tickets etc. Of course I've never been given a ticket for shooting without a permit in a US city, so it's a moot point for me at this stage.

But if I was given a ticket, into the trash it would go.

The US has a hard time getting murderers extradited from Canada, I'd love to see what they'd do for a guy who owes the city of New York a $100.00 fine.

R,
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#9 Chien Huey

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Posted 11 January 2006 - 10:29 AM

Many municipalities have connecting jurisdictional agreements with other places, so if you get a ticket in LA and tignore it, the bench warrant that is eventually served could be enforced in NY. You could lose your driver's license or even be jailed. How likely these outcomes are is another matter, but they can occur.


On a show last month, my electric who was designated the grip truck driver got neg'ed by the rental company because he had an outstanding parking ticket from 2 years ago. He wasn't jailed, he didn't lose his license. But I wasn't too happy with him... This messed up our plans and I had to drive the truck (sounds trivial but it's a long story why he HAD to drive the truck). He did the same as you would Richard, he tossed the ticket and figured he got away with it.

If insurance is such a big deal to you then perhaps you should consider another line of work.


Insurance is a big deal from a liability standpoint - things go wrong all the time. I demand that the producers buy equipment/general liability insurance if they don't have it through a school or production company. The last thing I need is to get sued because someone on set doesn't pay attention and runs into a 2K stand, brings it down and burns himself or someone else. I've seen it happen (minus the burn) on a properly bagged stand.

Lastly, I'd say that your somewhat flippant attitude towards the law and regulations as it pertains to filmmaking concerns me. I've been shut out of locations because they've had prior bad experiences with uninsured productions. And this is AFTER indicating that we HAVE insurance. I don't mean to be harsh but I'm not sure that telling a student filmmaker to skirt the law is the best way to advance our profession.
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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 11 January 2006 - 06:02 PM

"Lastly, I'd say that your somewhat flippant attitude towards the law and regulations as it pertains to filmmaking concerns me. I've been shut out of locations because they've had prior bad experiences with uninsured productions. And this is AFTER indicating that we HAVE insurance. I don't mean to be harsh but I'm not sure that telling a student filmmaker to skirt the law is the best way to advance our profession."

Some one once said, "The law is an ass." And they where right.

He should get permits if he's doing a full on shoot that involves a crew and actors.

But being given a ticket for grabbing a few pick up shots with nothing more than a camera and tri-pod is stupid. The ticket should be ignored. What is this the Third Reich?

R,
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#11 Robert Edge

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Posted 11 January 2006 - 07:38 PM

Some one once said, "The law is an ass." And they were right.


That someone was Jonathan Swift, best known for Gulliver's Travels and an essay called A Modest Proposal, in which he proposed that the problem of poverty in Ireland be solved by selling the children of the poor as food.

The rules in New York are a little arbitrary. According to the rules, it is illegal to use a still camera on city streets without a permit. If one is using a still camera, such as a Hasselblad, one does not need insurance, but if one is using an A-Minima or any othe motion picture camera, one must be insured to the tune of one million dollars. The effect of this is that anyone using a still camera without a permit, or a consumer video camera without third party liability coverage, to make personal or vacation photos, is breaking the law.

Then there are the local organisations that want more than the city requires. For example, if one calls the office of New York's Greenmarket organisation, which controls all of the city's open-air food markets, one will be told, as I have, that they require, for the use of a 35mm Nikon still camera, both a permit and one million dollars in liability insurance. When asked to explain, they say that the Food Network has this kind of coverage and they don't understand why anyone else wouldn't. Of course, this means that the vast majority of people who take photos at the Union Square Market, and all of the rest of the greenmarkets, are acting, in the opinion of the greenmarket managing authority, illegally.

On top of this, there is the problem that photographers have been affected by increased security. In some cases, the position of security guards and the police has been hysterical, not just in New York but elsewhere. About a year ago, the New York city council planned to enact a by-law that would have made it an offence to take any photograph on the New York subway system. After agitation and demonstrations, the city relented. For some reason, the photographers who were active on this issue and who are active generally on the issue of balancing security and freedom of expression are almost invariably still photographers. With few exceptions, cinematographers are nowhere to be seen. In saying this, I want to make it clear that I am not just talking about New York, or even just about the US.

My personal approach in New York and elsewhere is to act discretely. I have not had a problem with the authorities. That said, there is something fundamentally wrong when a set of rules that leave people who are acting in an innocent manner completely at the mercy of the discretion of a security guard or police officer. The problem isn't getting a summons, the problem is being prevented from engaging in innocent activity and, potentially, getting arrested in the process.
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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 11 January 2006 - 10:18 PM

"The problem isn't getting a summons, the problem is being prevented from engaging in innocent activity and, potentially, getting arrested in the process."

Yes exactly.

"For example, if one calls the office of New York's Greenmarket organisation, which controls all of the city's open-air food markets, one will be told, as I have, that they require, for the use of a 35mm Nikon still camera, both a permit and one million dollars in liability insurance"

And how do they enforce this on the thousands of toursists that come through each year with their stills cameras?

R,

PS: Pretty soon we'll have to limit our shoots to places like Antarctica where the politcal dick heads have no authority.
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#13 Mitch Gross

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Posted 11 January 2006 - 11:10 PM

Rules are put into place so that they may be enforced when deemed necessary. If someone causes disruption or safety issues at a greenmarket, then they certainly have every right to make sure that they are properly protected. But if a person is holding a still camera, camcorder or frankly even a Panaflex if his or her hand and not disrupting human traffic flow or business, then no one will bother because no one cares. But if you ASK them what the rules are they will tell you what is on the books. Because to do anything else is stupid and wrong.

I don't understand why this is so hard for people to fathom.

One or two people grabbing scenic shots with just a camera on a tripod will pretty much NEVER be bothered as long as you don't get in anyone's way and don't try to shoot in restricted areas. That means don't block the intersection in Times Square and don't expect to waltz into Grand Central Terminal or even onto the sidewalk of the Murrow Federal Building without asomeone with an M-16 tapping you on the shoulder.

There was an incident a few years back involving some planes and some tall buildings that have caused an increase in surity, or have you not heard?

I have shot just about everywhere and anywhere one could think of in this fine town, and trust me I know when I know I need a permit or not. It is pretty much common sense.
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#14 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 12:12 AM

"There was an incident a few years back involving some planes and some tall buildings that have caused an increase in surity, or have you not heard?"

I did hear. And now it seems people all over NYC are paranoid and chasing shadows. The guys I see holding the machine guns in Times Square are going to do what exactly? They are there so the politicians can be seen to be doing some thing, nothing more.

Fact is the terrorists can easily whip out a small digital camera and shoot any thing they want as many times as they want, and then e-mail the pics to their HQ in the Middle East in a matter of minutes.

No amount of assinine laws will prevent that.

R,
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#15 Robert Edge

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 12:41 AM

There was an incident a few years back involving some planes and some tall buildings that have caused an increase in surity, or have you not heard?


I gather that this is directed at me...

I was living in Paris when my local train (RER) station was bombed during the evening rush hour in the last of a long series of terrorist attacks. I will never forget getting off the bus, which I took instead of the train that day, to hear nothing but sirens, and to walk into the nearest brasserie to ask what had happened, to be told "une bombe". For the next three months, taking public transportation in Paris was extremely stressful. All train and RER stations, and key metro stations, were patrolled by several teams of three, invariably a 30 yr old and a couple of 18 yr old boys, armed with machine guns. Every trash can in the city was sealed. Most importantly, people eyed one another on the train or the metro with suspicion on racial grounds. It was a hard time to be Algerian. You can read about it here: http://www.cnn.com/W...bway.explosion/

On the date about which you are speaking, and asking whether I am ignorant, the person with whom I lived in Paris was living in New York. During that day, I played communications central because none of his family could get through to him, or he to them, except through me, because for some reason my cell phone and his were able to communicate throughout the day. He was fine, which is better than I can say for friends in Battery Park.

As I write this, I am looking at a poster, signed by Sir Ian McKellan and Helen Mirren, which I bought a few weeks after what happened in New York at the end of a performance of Strindberg's Dance of Death that they gave to a largely empty Broadhurst Theatre. I bought the poster in order to make a contribution to New York actors who had been affected by what happened, and I will never forget McKellan and Mirren and the rest of the cast coming out on stage, at the end of the performance, and thanking the audience for coming to support the theatre in difficult times.
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#16 Robert Edge

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 08:04 PM

I have a question.

Are there standards of civility on cinematography.com and, if so, what are they?

How is it that there can be an entire thread about the experience and personality of an individual participant in this forum?

Why, in the last couple of weeks, have there been threads about something called Ultra 16, whatever it may be, and about whether a particular video camera does or does not do 24p, in which almost all of the participants have conducted themselves in a way that is, to an non-participant observer, embarrassing?

Why is it that someone who expresses his or her view on a political or aesthetic, or even techical question, in good faith, can wind up being subjected to condesension, ridicule or worse, sometimes in what develops into a pack mentality?
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#17 Mitch Gross

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Posted 12 January 2006 - 08:47 PM

First off, my comment was not directed at you, "R. Edge." (Sorry, I don't know your actual name. I'm Mitch.) I certainly did not mean to offend you and as I see that I did, I am truly sorry. I for one live in New York and did during 9/11 and I have chastised others for what I perceived as flippant or obnoxious comments in those regards.

My comment was made out of exasperation after having explained the same concept repeatedly in what I considered to be a civilized and thoughtful manner. After getting responses repeatedly that I found both obnoxious in attitude and irresponsible in content, I was trying to get my pint across in a way that perhaps went to far.

People should behave civily in a forum just as they should in all aspects of life. In essense this is what I was trying to say, but I suppose I did not practice what I preached.
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#18 Robert Edge

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 12:28 AM

Mitch,

I'm not surprised at your reaction to some of what has been said in this thread and, as you point out, in related threads. There is something called provocation, and it is real.
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#19 Chien Huey

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Posted 13 January 2006 - 08:16 AM

In the same spirit, sorry if I crossed the line. I can think of one comment I made that probably should have been sent as a PM.

Let's just try to keep politics out of the forum - Please!
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