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The city of London has long been a popular location for the industry’s most brilliant filmmakers, and understandably so.
Directors love to film in London because of its wealth of incredible historical landmarks, numerous other gorgeous locales, and not to mention the fact that it is easy to find skilled film crew members and talented actors within the city.
If one is ever presented with the opportunity to film on location in London, it is a chance that should not be passed up.
London is, in many ways, a dream shooting location for filmmakers, but the experience can quickly turn into a nightmare for those who are unable to follow the rules and regulations.
To help out aspiring filmmakers who have plans to use London as the backdrop of their next movie masterpiece, we offer some frequently asked questions asked about filming in London.
When it comes to hiring employees to work on the film, the production company must make sure to follow all the current UK legislation pertaining to the national minimum wage as well as the different working time regulations.
Furthermore, the production company is also the one in charge of providing sufficient “Right to Work” proof for the people who will be involved in the filmmaking process. To do so, the company may have to prepare documents including ID cards, passports, and even certificates of sponsorship.
Yes, foreign nationals can indeed participate in the production, but the filmmakers must serve as their sponsor and supply them with relevant certification. This applies to foreign nationals who are not from the European Economic Area, excluding individuals from Bulgaria, Romania, and Swiss nationals.
The first thing filmmakers must do if they are planning to feature children in the movie is to secure Child Performing Licenses. In order to avoid scheduling conflicts, the people in charge of the filming are urged to apply for these licenses well ahead of time as they can take around three weeks to be issued.
Working hours for child performers are not the same for legal adults. Production companies can check with the Education Welfare Service in their area to learn more about how long their child performers can stay on set. Typically, the working hours are determined by the age of the child.
Animals may sometimes be necessary additions to the film crew, but what’s important to remember here is that they cannot come from just anyone.
The animals that are to be brought on set must be provided by a known industry supplier. The animals must also be properly trained so that they do not pose a danger to anyone.
In addition to the rules stated above, production companies must also comply with the guidelines set by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
The production company is tasked with creating a safe and healthy working environment for all the individuals who will be involved in the filmmaking process. This means providing “reasonable” care and measures to the film-making crew, according to Film London.
Any and all legislation related to health and safety procedures must also be adhered to by the production company.
In addition, members of the film crew who will be working along public highways are required to wear highly visible clothing as well as protective gear.
Catering is obviously important for keeping everyone in the crew fed and energised. Still, production companies cannot just lay out food on several tables as there are also rules in place for catering.
First and foremost, the production company needs to come to an agreement with the film contact regarding the general catering arrangements and where the vehicles will be located. The caterers hired are also required to use a water bowser to hold dirty water in locations where doing so is possible. Caterers must also prioritise using environmentally friendly items for serving the crew.
Production companies are also urged to work with local businesses for their catering needs.
Parking is another issue that should be discussed with the film contact.
The production company must submit parking plans to the film contact and this must detail where technical vehicles and equipment bays will be set up. If some vehicles have to be parked on the street, the plans must also account for that. As much as possible though, film crews should avoid parking any of their vehicles on the street.
Members of the production crew are also advised to park their vehicles in such a way that they do not obscure any road signs unless the street in question has been closed.
If the production company is planning to use parking cones, that matter must first be brought up to the film contact. Notably, the parking cones have no legal force that can be used to reserve spaces for parking.
The most important consideration for hiring security for the movie set is that the company providing the personnel in question must be licensed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA).
It is also important to check the kind of insurance possessed by the security company. Ideally, the security company to be hired will possess public and employers’ liability insurance going up to £10M.
The security personnel must also be capable of providing protection for the location and the studio. Should the need arise for crowd control and dog patrols, the security personnel must also be able to provide those services.
Security issues specific to the filming location must also be considered when hiring personnel.
Production companies will need to secure different forms of insurance before they are given the green light to begin filming.
According to Investopedia, indemnity insurance is a “contractual agreement in which one party guarantees compensation for actual or potential losses or damages sustained by another party.” This is something that the production company needs to obtain prior to the start of shooting.
Along with indemnity insurance, the production company must also present the public liability insurance to the Borough Film Service or to whoever is in charge of managing the filming location.
Working with the local authorities is crucial during the film-making process. For filmmakers planning to shoot scenes at council-owned properties such as public parks and schools, they must first talk to the Borough Film Service. The Borough Film Service will then decide if a license for shooting the scenes will be provided.
The Borough Film Service may also ask the production company to pay for certain fees over the course of shooting. These fees are not necessarily related to filming on public property and they are considered more as administrative fees.
The production company must indeed inform the police or whichever law enforcement officials are in charge of keeping watch over the location if filming is to be done on the streets. This is still the case if the filmmakers are planning to shoot at other public locations.
The police should also be informed if celebrities are coming to the production set. They can work with the hired security to provide additional crowd control and protection for the crew.
The authorities should be consulted by members of the film crew if there are plans to stage crimes, accidents, and elaborate students. Filmmakers should also inform the police beforehand if firearms and other weapons are going to be used.
It’s not just the local government or the police that must be consulted before the commencement of filming. The residents and local businesses in the area must also be talked to.
The production company can approach the Borough Film Service first in search for information that can help during the consultation process with the local residents and businesses.
Film London also urges production companies to “consider diversity and equality” while they are in the middle of consulting with the residents and businesses near their filming location.
The rules tend to vary from one historical/cultural site to the next, which is why it’s important for production companies to consult with their film contacts beforehand.
The film contact will provide the rules and regulations that need to be followed and those must be adhered to by the filmmakers.
If there are scenes in the movie that need to be filmed on waterways or rivers, the filmmakers are advised to plan for them well ahead of time. This entails working with the film contact in order to secure permission for filming.
Early consultation is necessary because there are typically very particular rules that apply for specific waterways and rivers. The preparations that need to be made could be plentiful, which is why handling them as soon as possible would be best.
It is also important to discuss filming inside public transport with the film contact beforehand. Notably, shooting a scene where someone is drinking alcohol or even perceived to be drinking alcohol is not allowed on several modes of public transportation.
While shooting certain scenes on London streets, there may be times when road markings, street signs, and light posts can get in the way. It is worth noting that filmmakers can do something about that, but they need to consult someone before doing so.
Once again, the production company must get in touch with the film contact to draw up an agreement if there are specific road signs and markings that need to be removed. This matter must also be discussed with the police.
The highway authority can handle removing the signs. However, the production company will have to pay for removing the signs and putting them back into place once the filming is done.
Filming on public roads and footpaths is allowed and they can even be closed down for the purposes of film production. However, any plans to shoot on or close public roads and footpaths must first be discussed with the film contact.
If an agreement is reached, the roads and footpaths in question can be closed off, but it is worth pointing out that there are limited time windows for doing so. Film crews will have to work quickly to make the most of the time they are provided.
Night filming is allowed in the city of London, but as always, the local residents and rules must first be considered before any work is carried out.
The production company needs to talk about plans to film at night with the film contact as well as the residents and businesses in the area.
Film shoots are inevitably going to be noisy. For the most part, the noises should not bother people in the neighbourhood especially during the day. However, there are times when the noise can become excessive.
Before directors pick up their megaphones to give out instructions to the people on set, they first need to clear that with the film contact. Audio playback can also only be used once it has been cleared by the film contact.
The generators being used to power the set must also be located properly. The parking locations for the generators must be discussed with the film contact.
Cables can serve as significant obstacles especially if they are not neatly bundled together and left to go all over the place. For that reason, the film contact also has to sign off on how the cables are arranged.
Film shoots may also necessitate the usage of special equipment such as cherry pickers, cranes, and jibs. Unsurprisingly, filmmakers cannot make use of those pieces of equipment without clearance from their film contact.
The cherry pickers, cranes, and jibs to be used must come with the proper documentation and they can only be operated by certified technicians.
There may also be times when highway inspections will have to be performed before cherry pickers, cranes, and jibs can be used.
Vehicles in question include low loaders and trackers.
This time around, production companies will first have to talk to the Film Unit of the Metropolitan Police Service prior to using the vehicles for filming. Additional members of the highway authority may also have to be spoken to before clearance is provided.
While filming from the vehicles, the production companies must remember to follow all the traffic laws.
Aerial filming is permitted within the city of London, but the production company must first approach the Borough Film Service to receive clearance.
The people who will be put in charge of creating the manned or unmanned aircraft must also be familiar with all the rules and regulations in place for aerial filming in London.
Unlike with filming using vehicles or aircraft, the rules for dollies are not quite as strict. Even so, the production company should still inform the film contact about plans to use dollies since they may necessitate the redirection of foot traffic.
If the scaffolding and/or lighting tower is going to be built on public property, the production company will have to request permission for it from the film contact. It is worth noting that clearance for scaffolding and lighting towers may not be provided right away.
There are instances wherein local authorities must also sign off on the establishment of the aforementioned structures. A temporary structure license may be issued to the production company for their scaffolding and/or lighting tower.
If pyrotechnics have to be used in the film being made, the production company must first clear that matter with the film contact. That is not all however.
The production company must conduct risk assessment to see what using the pyrotechnics will entail. The production company should also provide a method statement.
The police, local residents, and businesses must also be informed if pyrotechnics are about to be used.
Atmospheric effects such as rain and snow have often been used to accentuate the emotions conveyed in movie scenes. They are effectively used in storytelling tools.
They can still be used by directors in London, but they must first be allowed by the film contact. The film contact will evaluate the weather forecast before deciding whether or not to allow the usage of the atmospheric effects.
Clean-up considerations are factored into the evaluation process as well.
Similar to the procedure followed when seeking clearance for pyrotechnics, production companies also have to talk to their film contact before moving ahead with stunts. The police and emergency service workers must also be notified in advance.
The production company is again required to conduct risk assessment and provide a method statement before the stunt can be performed.
The stunts will be supervised by a coordinator from the Joint Industry Stunt Committee.
Since risk assessments are required for using pyrotechnics and special effects and also for executing stunts, it would be best if the production companies knew how to write them correctly.
For guidance, production companies can refer to the website of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
In most cases, production companies can film the exteriors of buildings with no worry. Doing so will not infringe on any copyrights and the owners of the buildings themselves cannot force the production company to pay. The production companies are not even required to seek permission when filming a building’s exterior.
However, if the building exterior features a registered company name or logo, there may be intellectual property rights that could be violated by filming. It would be best to consult with the company that owns the building in those scenarios.
Before any prop or replica firearms and/or weapons can be used during filming, the production companies must first talk to their film contact and the police. A film weapon CAD number will then be issued and this will let officers know that the weapons and firearms being used are for filming purposes.
If a live weapon is going to be used, someone with the proper license to hold that firearm or a registered firearms dealer must be on the set. Even if the weapon is only firing blanks, a license holder or registered firearms dealer should still be present.
Once the filming has wrapped up, there will likely be a significant amount of waste left behind. The production company can work with the Borough Film Service to remove all the leftover waste.
If possible, the waste materials left behind should be recycled.
The production company is required to provide the Borough Film Service with publicity materials related to the movie being made.
Also, if any issues with certain parties pop up over the course of making the film, the production companies can contact Film London to help resolve the matter.