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Old August 4th, 2007, 05:30 PM   #1
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One more question on film permits

I've read through recent threads on film permits. There is an issue I didn't see addressed:

Has anyone ever been approached for a film permit after the fact? In other words, if footage is released, is it likely that a government agency would ask to see if a permit was issued, or is it something only needed while taping?

Thanks!

Last edited by Jason Sovey; August 4th, 2007 at 07:47 PM.
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Old August 4th, 2007, 07:56 PM   #2
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Does this answer your question?

Former NFL running back Larry Csonka was fined $5,000 by a federal magistrate in Alaska for running afoul of the U. S. government by failing to obtain a special use permit to film national forest service land for his television show. Csonka had reached an agreement with officials last January to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of filming on government property without the proper permits, but that wasn't enough. "The National Forest Service and the prosecutor's office wanted to make an example out of it," Csonka said. Federal Magistrate John Roberts fined Csonka the maximum $2,500 on each of the two counts and ordered him to pay $3,887 in restitution and placed him on probation for one year. Assistant U.S. attorney Retta Randall admitted: "[T]he fine is basically to sort of get his attention, but more importantly, it's to send a message to other film makers who use this land." Audrey Bradshaw, executive producer of the show, NAPA's North to Alaska, explained that 26 episodes have been produced annually over nine seasons and the company Zonk! has always obtained the necessary permits. The two incidents in question were unintentional. "There was no intention of skirting the law," she said. Csonka's attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald asked Judge Roberts to impose no fine, but Roberts refused saying, "The way of doing business does not give you license to disregard the law," he said.
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Old August 4th, 2007, 09:00 PM   #3
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I don't know of any instances where people I know have been approached after the fact. However, those that I've known have always gone and gotten the appropriate permits BEFORE they went out and shot. It's better to play it safe than to take a chance, even though I personally think a lot of this permitting stuff goes too far. In this lovely day and age where so many people and government agencies are literally salivating at the prospect of litigating or imposing fines, I would think it best to not take the risk!
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Old August 4th, 2007, 09:54 PM   #4
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For me, it's not about "taking a chance" really.

I just like it when the Park Ranger or the Forrest Service folks pull up and instead of them asking "What are you doing and do you have your permits?" they approach and say - "Oh, you're the video crew they told us about in the meeting on Monday - welcome to the park and did you know there's an easier route across the stream about half a mile back?"

That kind of interaction (my experience 6 months ago shooting 3 days in half a dozen locations in and adjacent to a national forrest) is WAY worth a few phone calls, filling in some forms and having a copy of my insurance certificates faxed somewhere.

For what it's worth.
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Old August 5th, 2007, 01:18 AM   #5
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I asked this question of the film commission where I live, and the answer was no - for a high profile use of park land, as David mentions, it's probably different.

Unfortunately, film permit requirements sometimes doesn't just mean getting liability insurance, but also an awful lot of additional provisions, such as funding off-duty police officers, cost of renting their Black and White, etc., to the point where the filmmaker needs to make a value judgment about the viability of the scene on a low/no budget production, or going guerrilla.

Most filmmakers that I know aren't anarchists by any means, but the kinds of provisions specified in the standard city film permit shows little delineation between regular commercial projects and something a lot less than that. As the bar is lowered on costs of equipment entry point to filmmaking, this issue will likely become a lot more of an issue.

My 0.02c worth.
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Old August 5th, 2007, 03:46 AM   #6
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"Dude, Where's My Forest?"

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Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
For me, it's not about "taking a chance" really.

I just like it when the Park Ranger or the Forrest Service folks pull up and instead of them asking "What are you doing and do you have your permits?" they approach and say - "Oh, you're the video crew they told us about in the meeting on Monday - welcome to the park and did you know there's an easier route across the stream about half a mile back?"

That kind of interaction (my experience 6 months ago shooting 3 days in half a dozen locations in and adjacent to a national forrest) is WAY worth a few phone calls, filling in some forms and having a copy of my insurance certificates faxed somewhere.

For what it's worth.
I agree, it's the best route to take. I don't mind filling out forms and making a few calls to get a permit. Even carrying insurance is a good idea. But paying $150 a day for the permit is over-the-top.

As an avid hiker, I was planning on taking my camera along and capturing some of the scenery as I went.

I can understand the need to require permits for large scale productions, such as feature films or commercials requiring a crew and large amounts of equipment. But in my case there would be no crew, just me hiking, only taping what can be viewed from the trail. As such, I can shoot all the video I want to, for my personal viewing pleasure. But if I try to sell some stock footage of a chipmunk eating a pinecone, then I'm liable.

So if I were to spend a month out hiking, I'd have to fork out $4500 in advance for a permit, even if none of my footage is usable. That's in addition to carrying liability insurance, waiting and wading through piles of red-tape while an environmental impact study is conducted. I'll have to file a specific plan as to where I'll be everyday, since I don't have a specific set location. Hopefully I won't sprain an ankle and be sidelined for two days, or that's $300 down the drain.

I'll call my local ranger district on Monday to see if they provide waivers for non-impact, low-budget productions, but I'm not hopeful.
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Old August 5th, 2007, 07:31 AM   #7
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Don't phrase it as wanting to go into the area to shoot a video. That makes it sound like you're going in with a cast and crew, truckloads of equipment, etc in a commercial project. Instead present it to them that you're a hiker visiting the area in question who happens to be a professional videographer, you're planning on taking a camera along with you, and you're hoping that if you happen to bring home some really great scenic footage there won't be a problem incorporating it into some future production. After all, though he's of an earlier and simpler, free'er and less regulated age, I doubt Ansel Adams had to get expensive special permits to do his work in Yosemite. An individual with a camera and tripod, be it a still camera or a video camera, has no more impact on the area than any other hiker with a walking stick. So you're not going in to make a video, you're going in because you're a nature lover who likes to take pictures and are hoping you might be able to use them. Sometimes it can be all in how you word the request. At any rate it would be worth a shot.
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Old August 5th, 2007, 08:44 AM   #8
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Well, most everything I've read indicates that most commercial still photography not involving a model, sets or props doesn't need a permit, while all commercial filming does. Commercial being the key word.

I was orginally under the presumption that the type of activity I planned was exempt, based on the following:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood/Filmi...lm3_Permit.htm

"Permits are not required for filming activities, such as:
· News, and gathering of news related stories.
· Other types of documentaries not requiring the use of actors, models, sets, or props."

Who knows, maybe I'll luck out.
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Old August 5th, 2007, 09:58 AM   #9
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I am not in business for myself.....

I am not employed by anyone...

I am a hobbiest with a camcorder, who has given his footage away, at no charge to others to use as they wish.

However,

I have been told by enforcement officiers here in Alaska on two seperate occasions, that even if "I give" my footage that has been filmed on public lands, to another person, TV station, or Business, and they use my footage in any way, in any commercial endever, "I am liable" for the permit and all costs associated with it.

Whether you are a big production team, or a single operator, and your footage ends up in any commercial venture, according to the law, you are liable for the permit.


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Old August 5th, 2007, 10:13 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Sovey View Post
Well, most everything I've read indicates that most commercial still photography not involving a model, sets or props doesn't need a permit, while all commercial filming does. Commercial being the key word.

I was orginally under the presumption that the type of activity I planned was exempt, based on the following:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood/Filmi...lm3_Permit.htm

"Permits are not required for filming activities, such as:
News, and gathering of news related stories.
Other types of documentaries not requiring the use of actors, models, sets, or props."

Who knows, maybe I'll luck out.
Sure sounds like you'd be covered by that last exemption.
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Old August 5th, 2007, 10:29 AM   #11
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"Other types of documentaries not requiring the use of actors, models, sets, or props."

The above exemptions are determind by the local USFS, NPS, or BLM Regional Supervisor. Which means that you still need to contact the appropriate agency "in advance" to determine whether you need a permit or not.

While filming, you may still be asked to stop filming, until the local enforcement officer has determined you status.

The local enforcement officers, whether they wear brown shirts, green shirts, or black shirts, all carry big guns. Which can be rather intimidating.

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Old August 5th, 2007, 03:09 PM   #12
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I wish the link to the Forest Service website and information held true for all Forest Service areas but this link is just the rules for Mt. Hood. It seems each unit of the FS can come up with thier own rules some of which can be much more restrictive.
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Old August 5th, 2007, 07:21 PM   #13
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I wish the link to the Forest Service website and information held true for all Forest Service areas but this link is just the rules for Mt. Hood. It seems each unit of the FS can come up with thier own rules some of which can be much more restrictive.
In my experience, that's probably a good thing.

I say this as having been the narration voice of the Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix Training Center for more than 20 years.

I certainly HOPE that the rules are going to be different for someone videotaping from an established trail system/campground in a developed park area then would be the rules/exclusions for someone who wants to tramp across unspoiled riparian areas where their individual footprints/path could literally change the area watershed during the next rainy season.

I know it's tempting to see "government" as something big, impersonal and set up only to keep individuals from doing what we all think we should be able to decide for ourselves.

But over my 20 years doing BLM VOs, I've been ASTONISHED by the number of times I've read scripts written by geologists, environmental managers, rangeland specialists and the like who've devoted their LIVES to trying to figure out what helps and what hurts public lands - and found that my "civilian" thinking on issues had no scientific support - while some of the stuff I considered "stupid" made perfect, scientifically supported sense after the issue was studied by someone with more expertise.

In my direct experience, most of the agency pros - be they Park Service, BLM, Forest Service, or whatever - make better decisions than civilians OR politicians, precisely because they STUDY the issues more than we do.

Here's my plea. If you just want to be a casual camcorder tourist - do that and enjoy yourself. If you're going to shoot professionally, SHOOT PROFESSIONALLY. If you're going to work in the middle of those extremes - do your best to push yourself to the most professional behavior you can - in the long run that will keep you moving TOWARD the goals of professionalism rather than sliding back.

FWIW
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Old August 6th, 2007, 01:16 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
In my direct experience, most of the agency pros - be they Park Service, BLM, Forest Service, or whatever - make better decisions than civilians OR politicians, precisely because they STUDY the issues more than we do.

Here's my plea. If you just want to be a casual camcorder tourist - do that and enjoy yourself. If you're going to shoot professionally, SHOOT PROFESSIONALLY. If you're going to work in the middle of those extremes - do your best to push yourself to the most professional behavior you can - in the long run that will keep you moving TOWARD the goals of professionalism rather than sliding back.
FWIW
I totally agree that we should all strive towards professionalism. As I see it, that's not the issue here.

A crew of 10 filming a truck commercial are subject to the same daily fee as a lone videographer on foot. I don't mind paying a reasonable amount for a permit, but $150 a day is not. If I were producing the commercial, I'd gladly pay that amount, plus the additional administrative expenses. For time spent, that's a bargain. For someone who could potentially spend months acquiring footage, it's prohibitive.

I too worked for a land management agency, as a firefighter for the USFS. I am familiar with their inner-workings. :-)

Eighty percent of Nevada land is federally administered. Most western states have comparable numbers. With the increased demands placed upon public lands, the district managers would do well to ally themselves with responsible, professional videographers who can potentially reach a wide audience. It's my hope that they see it that way as well.

I guess this thread is more appropriate in UWOL.
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Old August 6th, 2007, 09:34 AM   #15
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It's not about protecting the environment, it's about collecting fees and money$. Every summer day over 1,000 people come to my small community of under 9,000 people. Most of the visitors walk through the small local National Parks or Forest Service Lands. They erode the trails, leave garbage and trample the flowers. All at no cost to them. But if I walk onto the Forest Service land "alone" and film something, and give the video to our own local TV Station, who broadcasts it at anytime, then I need to obtain a $150 permit.

The law as written, requires a single videographer, with one small camcorder, and no tripod, to obtain the same permit as a Hollywood Production Team of hundreds of people.

Oh, don't forget the million dollars in liability insurance that some of the Federal Lands Managers are now requiring!

Dave Rice
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