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-   -   Is a permit needed for filming in a public park? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/taking-care-business/61190-permit-needed-filming-public-park.html)

Zach Schuyler February 21st, 2006 09:12 AM

Is a permit needed for filming in a public park?
I am shooting in a public park in the next few weeks and have heard different things from different people.

I have a crew of about 5 people and will be using a crane and lights. I have been told that I will need a permit from our metroparks department which will cost us $150. Money we don't have!

I talked with the owner of a video production company, and he told me to go ahead and shoot. It is a public place and not a federal park so any photography or filming is legal and permit free.

Has anyone shot in a public park and received grief about it?

I must mention that I have never seen security or police patrolling the park and would be shooting during open hours. I would be attempting to keep other people not affiliated with the film out of the shot or blurred out through a shallow DOF.

Robert Crawford February 21st, 2006 10:05 AM


Originally Posted by Zach Schuyler
I have a crew of about 5 people and will be using a crane and lights. I have been told that I will need a permit from our metroparks department which will cost us $150. Money we don't have!

Have you heard this from the park department, or from third parties? It never hurts to ask someone who actually knows.

Zach Schuyler February 21st, 2006 10:50 AM

spoke with parks department
I spoke with MetroParks which is our parks department of sorts, and they said I would have to pay $150 to shoot in the park, which is $140 more than the city charges to shoot on the sidewalk. I have heard, though, from several other filmmakers in Louisville that the Parks Department is always short on funds and is trying to make a buck anyway they can, and that they don't enforce the actual use of permits for that very reason. It is a public park. They wouldn't charge me $150 to film my child on the swing set but if I had more than one person helping me film they would.

Richard Alvarez February 21st, 2006 11:02 AM


Different municipalities have different rules and regulations. ONLY your city parks department's response should be considered when making this decision.

IF they tell you you HAVE TO HAVE a permit for a commercial shoot, ask about a 'student' production. If they say you have to have one for that as well... then you are forwarned.

If you choose to take the "Easier to get forgiveness than permission" route, you cannot complain if your shooting is interrupted, your equipment confiscated and a hefty fine is imposed. Such are the trials and tribulations of indy/guerilla filmmaking. You roll the dice, you accept the consequences.

I have used both approaches in the past. When I knew there was going to be a long complicated set-up with gear and crew, I paid the permit. If all I needed was an establishing shot from a location, and I was sure I could 'snag' one in under ten minutes... I took it.

The permit usually is required by the city, to offset it's insurance requirements. Some municipalities will not charge a fee... but require YOU to provide liability insurance. You can imagine the problems if your boom falls or cable trips some elderly person or child. It IS a public park as you say... and a kid has absolutely every right in the world to walk RIGHT THROUGH your shot while you are shooting. It's not YOUR location, it's the PUBLIC'S.

Zach Schuyler February 21st, 2006 12:07 PM

confiscation of property
I did happen to research what they could and couldn't do if caught filming without a permit. No one has the right to confisicate property, filming or otherwise without a court order, not evan law enforcement unless making an arrest. Do do so without a court order, private party or otherwise, would constitute a criminal offense such as theft or coercion. It could likewise constitute a civil tort such as conversion.

I think I will look into it a little more. I may end up having to pony up the $150.

Guest February 21st, 2006 12:45 PM


Richard pretty much covered it all.

I have only used a park once, in my case there was a mural painting on a wall that I really wanted to use.

In Pre-Production I found out who the powers that be were, and went talked to him. Long story short, he was able to waive the fee. He also showed up on his day off, strung 100 feet of their electrical cable for us to use, opened up a building for us to use bathrooms, changing area, all for free and without me asking.

I had gone in early on and made him my friend; offered to give him a VHS copy of the production and just treated him sincerely like I appreciated his help, which I truly did.

All situations are different, but I feel that if I treat people good on the way up, then maybe I won't be lonely on the way down.

Question: Are there any wooded areas around you could use, like maybe a tree grove, or private property where you might be able to use it for free, or include the owners in your shoot? Or? I'm just thinking of what you could use for a plan "B".

Good Luck and I hope you are able to find a way.

Steven Davis February 21st, 2006 12:49 PM

Have you thought about offering them a final copy or an edited version of the park for thier use. Another thing you might try is offer a city counsel a copy of the footage in exchange for use of the park. I find that there are several approaches to any situation.

Zach Schuyler February 21st, 2006 12:56 PM

using the park
The reason we want to use the park is for a tunnel that leads from the tennis courts to the other side of the park. I have looked around for something similar and have found nothing.

I spoke with the PR person for Metro Parks and he said there was no way around it, so it looks like we will have to pay the amount.

Thanks everyone for the information.

Randall Allen February 21st, 2006 04:44 PM

Not so.....
The PR person is likely quoting rules. However the parks athority or Metro Parks as they are called in your area is likely controlled by a commission or council of city leaders who hold routine public meetings. You can ask them. I see it all the time since I film our city and county commission meetings.

Not knowing your project, approaching them may not be feasible if your project is for profit ( they will tell you you have to spend money to make money.) but for non-profit, and some educational situations they may ask the Metro Parks folks to waive the fee, and since they likely fund the Metro Parks.....they usually get their way.

Just my perspective.


Reid Bailey February 22nd, 2006 08:45 AM

Also contact your state or regional film commission. Let them know if it's for profit or not. If it's a short to build a reel, it's not for profit. They may know of otherways to help you or just the right person to call.

Yes, I agree, they can't confiscate your equipment, but they can shut down your production and chase you off.

In the grand scheme of things $150 is not a lot of money, just make sure that all you need is the permit. You may need to show proof of insurance or something else, this will vary place to place. Some permits also cover the cost of police present on site, though I doubt $150 would. If you have to spend the money you can always ask what you're getting for it.

You might also think about those location release signs "Anyone walking past this point agrees to have their image recorded" etc...

Ont he other hand: One time I did a crane shot on a downtown sidewalk (my small town) which was actually on the same block as the police stations (I never said I was smart). Not only did no one say anything, I don't think anyone even noticed or cared.

James Emory February 22nd, 2006 11:08 AM

How big is the crane?

Cole McDonald February 22nd, 2006 11:41 AM

You can also ask where the permit covers, if it is cheaper to setup your camera farther away and shoot telephoto to get the same shot, check into that. Wireless mics on the actors and the whole crew off of the area that requires the permit may make it cheaper. I recently shot in a park...the cost was $100/hr at this particular park. I asked how much real estate was considered part of the area that was charged and setup 10' outside that boundary making it free. I made sure we didn't shoot anyone without signed permission from them and if they happened into our shots, we didn't use that footage. Since my town doesn't require filming permits, we got off with a great scenic shot for free. I also used the opposite side of the park for another shot outside the expensive boundaries.

Bottom line, call the parks and rec dept and ask not just the cost, but what that cost covers and what parts of that area are not covered by the cost. Since it's a public park, they can't have your actors not walk through the park...but they can stop you from filming from within that area. Setup outside the area and work with the law...ask questions up front.

It may be easier to ask forgiveness after, but it's much more honorable to ask permission up front. It's even better if you intend to shoot in this city in the future to start getting people in the local gov't behind your projects.

My calls always start with:

"My name is Cole McDonald and I'm an independent filmmaker. Who would I need to talk to..."

The more people who know your name, the better off you are if you've dealt with them professionally and cheerfully, makes them more willing to go out of their way to help you out. It's specifically called social engineering and it applies to more than just breaking into computer systems. ;)

Travis Cossel February 22nd, 2006 06:16 PM

A bit off-topic but does anyone know how this applies to television stations? I'm pretty sure they don't apply and pay for permits when they are filming footage for sections of newscasts. Do they have special privledges or do they just shoot and get away with it.

The reason I ask is because I've seen news stories with footage from within parks, and I guarantee the news qualifies as a 'for profit' product. I am looking at shooting a television spot that involves some park shots and I don't feel that I should have to pay a fee if the news station could shoot the commercial for the client in the same place and not pay a penny.

Any thoughts or knowledge on this?

Cole McDonald February 22nd, 2006 09:45 PM

The "Press" gets special treatment as disseminators of news content. I'm not sure how that works or how you would get qualified as press, but I always got a press pass when I was shooting events (still) for the school newspaper way back when.

Travis Cossel February 22nd, 2006 10:04 PM

I kinda figured it was a 'special treatment' thing. Providing news to the masses is one thing, although they still do it to make a profit. However, I bet they could take my script and go shoot my television ad without even considering a permit application, and that is what annoys me.

It gives them an unfair advantage. And for anyone who is about to say that $150 isn't that much money, try telling that to my client who has to pay the bill. d:-)

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