The Legal Ins and Outs of Filming in Florida

video production servicesOne of the most consistent requests we get from filmmakers is about all the legal ins and outs of shooting a film or video production in Florida. We always start our reply by talking about the most essential piece of paper you may need: the location permit.

Film permitting process

Every location-based shoot, even for professional still photography, requires a shooting permit to be legit. A permit is merely a document from local, city, or federal governments, giving you permission to be shooting in public places. The permitting process can admittedly be a little intimidating, but if you know the basics it’s rather easy and, fortunately, is similar from agency to agency and location to location throughout Florida.

In Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami Beach facilities, as well as most other local municipalities, permitting is handled by FilMiami.

In Broward County and the City of Fort Lauderdale, permitting is handled by Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward Office of Film & Entertainment.

A minimum of 24-hours’ notice is necessary for permits unless you require police, fire, or special permission. Your locations and the complexity of your shoot determine permit approval turnaround time.

Certificates of insurance

You’ll need a certificate of insurance that additionally ensures the county and/or cities you want to shoot in. The policy must be for $1,000,000 of liability and contain the following information:

  • Detailed information on each location
  • Dates and times
  • Budget information
  • Information about any other special arrangements your production requires

When is a permit needed?

Aside from shooting on public property, if your film or video production will have an impact on others and/or the environment, a permit’s required.  Ask yourself these four simple questions to determine if you need one for your shoot:

  1. Is this shoot for commercial purposes?
  2. Will filming interrupt traffic or pedestrian right-of-way?
  3. Will there be tripods, a generator, dollies, or other equipment in public streets or on sidewalks?
  4. Would you use public space in a way different from its normal intended use?

You only need one yes to any of these questions to head on down or go online for your permit. It’s typically the producer or location scout who handles permitting, but another great option is to use the Production Services of a third party to manage the permitting for you. Not only does this save you a lot of time, but you’ll also be working with a local company who is familiar with and up-to-date on all location permitting rules and regulations.

Legal counsel for production companies

If your budget allows for it, retaining a production lawyer to advise you on your film or video production can be beneficial. Indie filmmakers or low budget features may be able to obtain free production legal services.

Some of the typical legal advice and services a production attorney can offer includes:

  • A pre-production checklist that helps you take advantage of any tax credits, organize a single purpose production company, review, and finalize all agreements, and prepare investor agreements.
  • A development checklist helps secure rights to underlying materials such as books or scripts. This checklist can include handling chain of title documents, obtaining and reviewing copyright reports, optioning literary properties, obtaining publisher releases, and negotiating writer and non-guild agreements. It’s essential, whether you use an attorney or not, to ensure you have all rights, approvals, and consents before starting production.
  • A production checklist that includes opening a bank account, performing necessary credit checks on co-producers, registering your production company as an employer, entering into agreements with payroll services, and handling any registration needed to leverage available tax credits.

You must also comply with all agreements and requirements of the WGA, DGA, IATSE, and other guilds. Many require posting security deposits or other security agreements.

Completion bonds, location agreements, other third-party product clearances, sound facility agreements, post-production editing agreements, and dealing with equipment and other suppliers may also require agreement review.

How MPR can help with all your video production needs

If you take a quick look at the FilMiami one-stop permit page, you’ll see there’s a lot that goes into making sure you’re legally covered while shooting in Florida. They cover temporary tents, permits for filming at the airport or public parks, regulations regarding fire hydrant meters, tree removing permits, and details about shooting on local roads and bridges.

There are also special permits required for student films. In other words, it’s a lot to take on, especially if you’re new to or not familiar with shooting in Florida.

MPR does a whole lot more than camera and lens rentals, film lighting packages, post-production rentals, and grip truck rentals. From crewing to sound stage rentals and marine services, we’re in the business of helping your South Florida video production go as smoothly as possible.

Besides helping you figure out the legal ins and outs of shooting in Florida, we’ll also help you locate and hire people who can help you finalize your budget, secure locations, create schedules, obtain insurance, and work with talent. We’ve been proudly serving Miami, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Naples, Fort Myers and the surrounding areas since 1987. Connect with us today to learn more.