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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:39 PM   #1
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Filming without film insurance? Police help without permit?

I want to film in Detroit, with some airsoft guns in unpopulated outdoor areas, but when I contacted the city's film office they told me in order to get a permit I needed insurance. They also told me in order to film anywhere outdoors, I need a permit. Great, thanks police state.

Well, that looks like $500 minimum for the non-scam film insurance agencies (one company I keep seeing is 'wildcard' insurance - not legit) and this is an out-of-pocket production so that's not happening.

I'm wondering if this would be possible: having the crew wear neon orange vests, hold up signs saying "FILMING IN PROGRESS," using megaphones to tell the crowd we're filming AND going into any shops in the area and alerting them to our presence - then calling the police department and asking if an officer would kindly check out our equipment and tell the dispatchers that we are just some poor film-makers who don't want to fork over half a grand. Having a cop on-scene and a bunch of forewarning that we are only a film crew, no worries, would that be enough?

Some quick info about the production: The spring airsoft guns in question are probably all going to be broken, and all effects will be added in post. It's a big chase scene between the main character and government agents - these agents are actually, in the story, ordered not to use their firearms in public places - only back alleys and unpopulated areas. That means mostly running around, occasionally agents will be rounding corners and pretending to shoot down some alleys. I just want to know my options, I don't want any lectures - I'm in my 20's - and before you offend me no, the scene will not be cut from the movie. Thanks for any (good and helpful) advice!
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Old February 8th, 2011, 07:20 PM   #2
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I'm somewhat sympathetic both to the city and to the filmmaker. I mean, waving around guns, back alleys and unpopulated areas?

It does seem like you're also sensitive to cop perceptions of such actions, good! You'd hate for there to be any serious misunderstandings between cops and people holding guns. Doesn't matter if they're actually broken airsoft guns, if they look like guns, they are guns.

Can you get out of Detroit? Is there a nearby small jurisdiction that has the backgrounds you need, with less hassle?

Is there a state film agency that might have suggestions?

Can you enroll in a college course and have some coverage there, and be able to say to agencies "this is a student production"? That can help with the cop drive-by.

But, I do think the basic problem is guns. Is there any way to get this onto private property? Then, you just call the non-emergency police number, advise them that you have the property owner's permission, and that you'll be waving around what look like guns. No insurance, no jurisdiction problems, cops don't do anything more than check in with you, unless they get a complaint.
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Old February 8th, 2011, 08:24 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
Can you get out of Detroit? Is there a nearby small jurisdiction that has the backgrounds you need, with less hassle?
Well, it's kind of the big-city look we're aiming for. Perhaps some of the gun stuff can be elsewhere, but the chase really does need the big-city look.

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Is there a state film agency that might have suggestions?
I've contacted the Detroit Film Office

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Can you enroll in a college course and have some coverage there, and be able to say to agencies "this is a student production"? That can help with the cop drive-by.
Hmm... very interesting idea... I was actually going to take classes anyway, I wonder how much leeway this could get me...

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But, I do think the basic problem is guns. Is there any way to get this onto private property? Then, you just call the non-emergency police number, advise them that you have the property owner's permission, and that you'll be waving around what look like guns. No insurance, no jurisdiction problems, cops don't do anything more than check in with you, unless they get a complaint.
I wonder if I could extend this, say that a nearby private property said it would be OK... just call the emergency number you say? How much do they do when they "check in" with you I wonder?
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Old February 8th, 2011, 09:10 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Alex Pomorski View Post
...I wonder if I could extend this, say that a nearby private property said it would be OK... just call the emergency number you say? How much do they do when they "check in" with you I wonder?
The non-emergency number! That's probably what you meant. But no, I suggested private property because then you're no longer on the turf where they have direct responsibility and the city has liability. I don't know anything about how much it would help if you were able to say "we're close to private property, and they don't mind...". If you're on city streets, it's on them to do due diligence (insurance, permits, etc.) to make sure you're legit, and the city doesn't end up being liable in case of an accident.

These police check-ins and drive-bys are pretty straightforward, in my experience. They want to know that you're taking elementary safety precautions, you're not high, you're not doing stupid stuff, you're not scaring the public, you respect their authority & their job. I don't know anything about Detroit police in particular, but that's generally been my experience with cops on the west coast.

Now, if you're un-permitted, and you've painted over the orange cap on an airsoft, they're going to be doubly unhappy with you on public property.
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Old February 8th, 2011, 09:37 PM   #5
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Oops, yeah I did mean non-emergency!

I see... well I'll give credit to what you say. I like that you said you've done it before and you say it's pretty straightforward. That's what I like to hear; I think I will attempt to do the private property thing, seeing if nearby businesses (say, when shooting behind a business' building or in their alleyway) will give me their approval before shooting. In the story, the agents aren't allowed to have guns in public anyway - the public areas are more for chasing, running around. When people aren't around is when they would be pulling out the guns anyhow.

Interesting, that is very helpful info.
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Old February 9th, 2011, 10:09 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Pomorski View Post
I want to film in Detroit, with some airsoft guns in unpopulated outdoor areas, but when I contacted the city's film office they told me in order to get a permit I needed insurance. They also told me in order to film anywhere outdoors, I need a permit. Great, thanks police state.
....then calling the police department and asking if an officer would kindly check out our equipment and tell the dispatchers that we are just some poor film-makers who don't want to fork over half a grand. Having a cop on-scene and a bunch of forewarning that we are only a film crew, no worries, would that be enough?
If Detroit requires a filming permit you will not want to call the police. They will ask you if you have a permit. If you have one must likely they will help you. If you don't have one must likely they will shut you down. That's their job.
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Old February 9th, 2011, 10:22 AM   #7
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If Detroit requires a filming permit you will not want to call the police. They will ask you if you have a permit. If you have one must likely they will help you. If you don't have one must likely they will shut you down. That's their job.
And if they DO help you by dedicating an officer for traffic control, etc, it's very likely that they will charge you for the service.
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Old February 9th, 2011, 10:37 AM   #8
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Two more reasons to hate Detroit
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Old February 9th, 2011, 01:27 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Alex Pomorski View Post
Two more reasons to hate Detroit
Not unique to Detroit. Cities don't always provide police coverage for special events like filming, etc, for free since it requires detailing officers away from their regular duties, hence adding to the department's overtime costs.
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Old February 9th, 2011, 06:18 PM   #10
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Well then just make me a junior deputy then. Problem solved!
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Old February 9th, 2011, 10:00 PM   #11
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You could come to Arizona where it's almost obligatory to carry a (real) gun while wandering around. Don't even need a permit for concealed carry anymore. I think there was a car dealer here who gave a free gun rack and rifle to anyone who bought a new pickup truck!
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