Location scout notes: Information Every Film / Photo Production Shooting in New York City Needs
If you are planning on shooting on location in New York City on city property (i.e. streets / sidewalks / curb spaces / parks / in city-owned buildings or if you are shooting on private property and will be running cable across same …or need to park trucks or vans…), you will need a City of New York Mayor’s Office of Film Theatre & Broadcasting (MOFTB) film permit. “New York City” includes the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.
Permits are required for any filming or photography on city property with production values beyond handheld / general tourist photography (i.e. lights on stands / electrical w cords / production vehicles, etc.). NYC currently charges a $300 filming / photo project fee. That means paying one $300 administrative fee covering processing one or multiple permits for a given project.
The MOFTB website contains complete information needed for obtaining film / photo permits. Permit requests are made online using a user-created MOFTB account. The permitting process can become a bit involved, you should probably consider hiring a local NYC area Location Scout or Location Manager or Location Coordinator to complete this paperwork for you.
In many instances location scouting, including checking availability of parking and local parking regulations, existence of schools, hospitals, churches, fire dept. / police stations etc in the area, availability of holding areas as well as other details are appropriate and necessary steps in the preproduction process. Consult with your Location Scout, Location Manager or Location Coordinator for professional, knowledgeable advice regarding these matters.
Currently, there are a few documents that location scout or location manager will need for you to complete that will contain basic info he / she needs to get you going as well as info you need:
- Certificate of Insurance | The wording needs to be pretty exact, per the linked info. Best to check and make sure your insurance agent did it right! MOFTB will NOT issue a film permit unless your certificate of insurance is on file with their office and complies with their requirements.
- Keys to the City | This is a form that MUST be signed and returned to MOFTB.
You should also call MOFTB at 1-212-489-6710 and request a Hotzone List, which is a frequently updated list of areas in New York City where filming is currently restricted or prohibited.
Processing time must be allowed for permits. If you do not have a valid certificate of insurance (coi) on file with MOFTB, you must allow up to 48 hours for verification. This is an important step, no part of the permitting process can move forward till insurance is verified. Once insurance has been verified, film / photo permit requests require a minimum of 48 hours processing time; it is wise to allow a longer turnaround time as well as consider alternatives in case your request is refused. There are many reasons a permit request might be refused i.e. scheduled construction, conflict with an existing permit…
Parks Film / Photo Permits, including Central Park are processed by MOFTB in collaboration with NYC Parks. Proper procedure: Make a filming request via NYC Parks website. Processing time for NYC Park filming requests including MOFTB processing can take 7 days or longer.
Perks for shooting in New York City
- NYC offers FREE Police Assistance
- NYC is, if not THE safest, one of the safest large cities in the U.S.