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Filming in public in Los Angeles legality


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#1 Lance Tang

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 04:58 PM

What are the laws regarding filming in public, such as on street corners, etc. for LA.

Also, let's say you're filming outside an apartment complex, is that legal?

Thanks.
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 October 2010 - 05:39 PM

I've always been told that all but the very smallest scale stuff - one person and a handycam - is very likely to attract unwanted official attention, although I've been lucky on a few occasions.

It's high irony that the best place in the world to shoot professionally is probably the worst place in the world to shoot on a shoestring. Anyone who controls a decent location is very savvy, government agencies have seen it all before, police know and enforce the rules, and expectations are high. In general, I get the impression that filmmaking is so prevalent in LA that the gloss has - quite understandably - worn off it for almost everyone in town. As such the usual level of blind-eye turning, favor giving and excitement at being involved that may exist elsewhere is in extremely short supply and people generally want proper paperwork and proper payment for everything.


Not a complaint, just an observation, this is all entirely understandable.


P
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#3 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 02:04 PM

If I where you Lance and had a tiny no budget crew I would use the "better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission" technique.

Let's face it, tons of small scale indie stuff is shot in cities all over the world every day with no permits. Did the guy that shot Monsters get a permit for every place he shot? I'm guessing he got zero.

R,
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#4 K Borowski

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 02:52 PM

I agree with Richard (and the late, great Ed Wood). . .

"Hey it's the cops."

"We don't have a permit! RUN!" (And they did it with a heavy Mitchell on a tripod :-)
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#5 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 06:43 PM

What Richard said: Beg forgiveness if you get caught... and move on to your next location. I find that there is so much production going on all the time that people mostly ignore it, especially if it involves only a small crew and limited equipment. Be super polite, keep a low profile and be considerate of others (as I think all location production people should be!) and you probably won't have any problems.
If you're a student, a letter from your department head stating you are working on a student film may be helpful too.
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 10 October 2010 - 11:31 PM

I find, and this is on the opposite coasts, mind you, that inviting anyone who is giving you grief to come and "talk with the AD" or whomever, and moving them over to the craft table and getting them some food, and coffee, and actually having people to listen to them can be quite quite helpful. Perhaps even letting them "sit in the chair," on occasion.
I could tell you a story, a long one, about a really pain in the ______ neighbor banging the wall everytime we said "speed," and the remedy to that solution was to walk her over and let her look through the camera for a shot. She hung 'round most of the day at the craft table talking about "when i was young," to a very cordial PA who I bought a 6 pack for later on.

Ok anecdote over.
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#7 Lance Tang

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Posted 11 October 2010 - 11:23 PM

No I completely get the idea of film first, beg forgiveness. I think my question more has to do with, if I make my film and it goes to the festival, then some guy sees his property in there, can he sue me or make me get shots of my footage out of my movie.
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 09:00 AM

that's pretty unlikely, but my general understanding, and I am in no way a lawyer, is that if it's in public, it has no right to privacy, e.g. you park your car on the street, and I am shooting on that street and I catch a shot of your car, or you drive by, it's in public and you have no reasonable expectation of privacy, but again, someone seeing say their house, the front of it, or the like in your movie and then taking you to court is so unlikely, especially since they probably couldn't get much of a settlement from an indie filmmaker.
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#9 Robert Lewis

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 09:12 AM

Hi.

I am not sure whether this contribution to the discussion will be helpful, but here in the UK we have had a major issue with the police when taking photographs or film in public places. The police were causing difficulties by trying to use anti terrorism legislation. They were stopping both amateur and professional photographers and saying things like it was illegal to take pictures without permission. Some photographers who were involved took the matter to the European Court of Human Rights, because our own Courts were not prepared to protect the individuals concerned and the European Court of Human Rights found in favour of the photographers. Eventually it was acknowleged by the Police that we in this Country have the right to take pictures in a public place of anything which one can see from that public place (with some exceptions such as places of particular significance from a security point of view). The Labour Government, recently put out of office, tried to appeal the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, but went out of office before the question of an appeal could be decided. The present Coalition Government then found that they faced a refusal by the European Court of Human Rights to consider an appeal, and this led to the Government accepting that the legislation under which the Police had been purporting to act was contrary to our human rights. Now, if the Police stop any photographer they have got be able to show that they had reasonable grounds for believing that the person they had stopped had been doing to so to aid a terrorist or terrorist organistion. This is, of course a simplified statement, but it shows how now it has been established in general terms (a) that we have a right in the UK to take photographs in or from a public place, and whilst the police do have power to stop and question a photographer, that power is greatly constrained.

Now, my limited understanding is that the Constitution of USA provides for the protection of the rights of citizens. I was wondering whether, therefore, the issue outlined in the earlier messages had been considered from the angle of the Constitutional rights you have. Of course it is possible that a balance has to be struck between competing rights.
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#10 Tom Jensen

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 09:25 AM

Call the permit office and tell them that your a student and ask them if you need a permit and see what they say. I believe students might be exempt. At one time they were. Now, I don't know since some student films have sizable budgets. If you do decide to run and gun, just say you are a student. Always been on the hush-hush, down low. Avoid the police is always a good idea. Be fast, get the shot and go. If you are setting up craft service, you are as good as caught. They will fine you.
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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 10:13 AM

No I completely get the idea of film first, beg forgiveness. I think my question more has to do with, if I make my film and it goes to the festival, then some guy sees his property in there, can he sue me or make me get shots of my footage out of my movie.


Bit of a grey area when it comes to private property. If some guys house appears in a street BG with other houses and is not the sole focus of the shot, that's not a problem. If you use a private home as a sole establishing shot, then yes, a property release would be required.

However the odds that your movie will be seen by the masses world wide and therefore trigger legal action is near zero.

R,
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#12 Ian Choplick

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Posted 27 October 2010 - 10:05 PM

If you are low budg, take the risk, act like you are supposed to be there, but don't be arrogant. If you can afford being shutdown compared to paying for permits, then that's what you do.

Other way is...

Do your research. Federal land is easier to get permits for, and cheaper, compared to state land or private. Talk with the LA Film Commission, they are very helpful. And yes, if you are in public and shoot background, no one can dispute, thus paparazzi.
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#13 Trevor Mack

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 12:57 PM

If you are low budg, take the risk, act like you are supposed to be there, but don't be arrogant. If you can afford being shutdown compared to paying for permits, then that's what you do.



Yeah, that's what I was thinking; just act like you have a permit and make it seem like you ARE allowed to be there. Maybe if you're on a lower budget, bring some props you can use to make it seem like you're allowed there?
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#14 Anton Papich

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 04:09 PM

Reading you guys, I must say I never thought about it from your view. As someone wrote, it is true irony, that in LA you have problems with that ( or California in general ). What about other states? Does your legislative is pretty much same for this issue across whole USA, or every state has particular law? And as for UK, I read also that you had problems after those attacks in London. I will write from my experience of photography.
To be honest, in Croatia I have no problems with this, except when I'm taking photos of railway stations, on street I never had problems to this date ( that could change, but I hope not ).
Also, believe it or not, least problems I had in Iran - yes Iran. I took photos there with no problems, what was forbidden to take pictures police or military would just show me "no-no" with finger and that was all.
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#15 Glen Silva

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 04:51 PM

Los Angeles Film School student here. We are encouraged to go through Film LA for any major shoots we do - but - get the proper permits at a heavily reduced cost. (I think all students have this benefit if you can prove you're a student). Small side projects are generally done without permits though. I've found just having identical ID lanyards among all the crew involved makes you look like a legitimate setup and the only thing you have to worry about is random people constantly coming up to you and asking what you're shooting.

Always respond, "A mayonnaise commercial."
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#16 K Borowski

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Posted 15 January 2011 - 07:09 PM

Haha, Glen, that's true here on the East Coast too. Never fails!
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#17 Michael Kubaszak

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 12:19 PM

Haha, Glen, that's true here on the East Coast too. Never fails!


Same in the midwest...
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#18 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 12:29 PM

Always respond, "A mayonnaise commercial."




Noted.


However, in London you will be hassled regardless of whether you have, or need, a permit or not. Maybe the mayonnaise line will help.
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