Videotaping at malls(legal?) at

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Old January 31st, 2003, 04:08 PM   #1
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Videotaping at malls(legal?)

Can I "legally" walk around the mall and practice my dv skills. I'd practice outside but it's too cold & don't want my new camera to break. I know that the local news uses footage from the malls when the do stories but as a non media member i don't know if I'd recieve that courtesy.

Has anybody done this and gotten in trouble?
Would a security guard bother me?

I realize that i could ask the service desk or the corporate PR division but we have this great discussion board to ask questions!

The paper i work for published this article today on photo related legal/security issues:
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Old January 31st, 2003, 04:10 PM   #2
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A mall is private property. They can ask you to leave. They probably won't bother you if they figure you are just a tourist. However, someone with a camera the size or an apparent complexity as an XL1 would attract attention.
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Old January 31st, 2003, 05:41 PM   #3
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actually, i doubted very much (unless you got the proper clearance of course) that vendors or mall staff would let you walk around videotaping. for obvious security reasons they don't know if you're a robber looking to case out the mall or specific stores. or you that you maybe work for their competition and are taking footage of their store setup, displays, etc.
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Old January 31st, 2003, 05:52 PM   #4
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I did once. Never had a problem... was there for like 8 hours.
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Old January 31st, 2003, 08:45 PM   #5
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It depends on the mall and the individual stores. Most chain stores will not let you video in the store. period. Malls will generally let you in the common areas if you a) appear to be a home/hobbiest taping the kids or family, b) ask permission.

However, in some cases, you can tape in a store if you make your case to management and get permission. For smaller chain stores this means calling the home office. Larger stores may be able to provide permission on the spot. Give up on Disney or Victoria's Secret. There's no way unless they hire you for a project, and that's a corporate office thing. (My wife worked for Disney...)

BTW, it is all about attracting attention. As Keith says, the more you look like a tourist or just a home/hobbiest, the more likely you are to get away with it. I tried taping in a local mall without permission and got kicked out. We handed the camera to an actor's Mom and they walked all over the same mall with nary a problem (except for Victoria's Secret)... She just didn't look like she was a pro.
Michael A Westphal
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Old January 31st, 2003, 09:13 PM   #6
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There are some basic rules of thumb, and the first one is to never ask a PR person for permission to do anything. They exist for the purpose of stopping people from doing anything interesting in a mall. Or anyplace else, for that matter. Everytime I've gotten involved with a PR person at any company or organization, it has been a problem--I always had to go over their heads to get clearance, and getting clearance has rarely been a problem, except when dealing with PR people. I think PR people are sort of at the bottom of the corporate food chain, and if they get a chance to tell you you can't do something, that gives them a feeling of power, which they enjoy because it's so rare for them.

Second, as someone else mentioned, look like a tourist. If you take a shoulder mount camera or a tripod into a mall, they'll bust you before you get your shot. But if you walk around looking like a tourist, chances are they won't bother you. One time I needed a still photo of an escalator and made the mistake of using the Hasselblad on a busted in less than 2 minutes. I went back the next day with a hand-held Nikon and got the shot.

Malls are private property and have security guards. But, show me a mall that didn't get built with public tax breaks and all sorts of freebies, financed by the taxpayers, and I'll show you an alternate universe. Which is irrelevant when the gendarmes come, but still, I feel that they are public places and I have the right to take pictures there just as I do on a public street. But that's just my opinion. Guerrilla Video R Us.

Government buildings are the same way. I got busted way back in college for shooting in a post office. Hell, it doesn't get much more public than a post office. They threw me out anyway. Yep, I had made the mistake of using a tripod. I waited a couple of days, went back and got the shot with a hand-held Bell & Howell 16mm (the kind with the 3 lenses on the turret). You would have thought I would have learned then to lose the tripod when doing guerrilla productions, but sometimes it takes awhile for things like that to sink in with me.

I have done some things in downtown Chicago, sans tripod, hand held with a big camera...but when I see a cop, I stash the camera in the bag and take a walk...then go back, whip it out real quick and get the shot. But forget the tripod--that would get you busted in no time. If you've got a little handycam type camera, use it and you can get by most of the time these days. It also helps if you have a female with you, or if you are female yourself. People who like to withhold permission or hassle you are usually a bit sexist, and they won't kick a woman out quite as fast as a man.

These comments are based on my experiences; yours may be totally different.
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Old January 31st, 2003, 09:58 PM   #7
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I tried to film in my local mall, and we litteraly walked like 30 feet into the courtyard with the camera by my side, not even on, and a security guard came up and told us that people were complaining that we were filming.......Apparently my vx-2000 cloned itself and was running rampant in "SIMON" (thats the name of our mall, isnt it cool?)........
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Old January 31st, 2003, 10:50 PM   #8
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I wouldn't even try shooting in a mall with an XL1. You might get away with a PD150, or GL1 for a few minutes longer. That's assuming you are just taking a quick shot here and there. I did an interview shoot in a mall for a local news show with a betacam once. We contacted mall management directly and they had no problem with us there, because we asked first. Skip the mall PR guys, its not their jurisdiction. Just go to management.

Like people said, it's all about image if you want to run 'n gun it. Grab a ZR50 and hide it between some WalMart bags, and most likely no one will ever notice, except for the sound boom guy, the grips, make up artists, and other hangers on... ;)
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Old February 1st, 2003, 06:59 AM   #9
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take someone with you and pretend to be shooting them, if stopped say its their birthday! - be nice!

use a small cam, leave tripod at home - monopod maybe

adjust the neck strap to chest height but slung over one shoulder with LCD out - draws less attention than held at head height

dont linger in one spot - remember they have you on screen all the time

look innocent and avoid certain clothing - camouflage ripped jeans etc which can make security judge you adversely
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Old February 1st, 2003, 10:13 AM   #10
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I got kicked out of a mall before after I had been kicked out of a few of the stores. It was a bunch of Christamases back and my buddy and I where going through doing a Christmas report and tried interviewing shoppers and store folk. It was fun until security got involved. Upfront permission from mall security and any store you intend to shoot is your best bet.
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Old February 3rd, 2003, 08:22 AM   #11
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You'll never get permission from the security department or from PR. Go all the way to the top and find out who the manager is for the whole operation. That person is usually easy to get along with and will probably give you permission if you can guarantee you won't interfere with any shoppers or shoot anybody without their permission. My experience is that it's always the middle level types in Corporate America who cause trouble. I'm not sure why. Just is.
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Old February 12th, 2003, 10:59 PM   #12
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i did

I made a short film at my local mall, we had to get clearance from security, and then we went back and they were extremely anal, and wouldnt let us, we used a GL1, we figured the XL1s would be a little ridiculous
-Riley Florence
SLC, Utah.
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