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No, we’re not talking about shoe sizes here, but the increasing difficulties of filming on London streets, or indeed on the streets of many UK Cities these days.

It may be a case of burnt earth syndrome, where maybe one of the big broadcasters or production companies have been along and left without clearing their mess; or it could be that getting money for ‘Licenses’ to film is a motivator for local Councils; or maybe even it’s the health and safety elf getting his or her pen out to regulate things. What we do notice is that you can no longer guarantee being able to shoot a short bit of video on a London street without being asked by an ‘official’ to show proof that you have permission to be there.

So, we’ve been doing a bit of research on the Film London website http://filmlondon.org.uk/filming_in_london/planning_your_shoot/permissions_and_boroughs and found what we think is the appropriate information:

Street Filming
Provided filming or photography does not cause an obstruction, there is no restriction to filming on London streets. No licence or any form of official permission is required.
Common law rights allow users of public highways to “pass and re-pass… and to make reasonable use of it”. Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 restricts these rights where the use of the highway causes an “obstruction” to other users right of free passage. If a production is considered to be causing an obstruction then they risk being stopped from filming.
If you think you are likely to cause an obstruction then you need to submit a Filming Application via the appropriate Local Authority, however we recommend that any production planning to film on the street contact the relevant Borough Film Service or local authority.

So, generally, filming from a tripod with a crew of less than three (hence the small crew) is deemed to be non-obstructive. There is no mention of what or for who you are filming, but obviously commonsense should prevail with most small production unit.

Of course if you want to film at Trafalgar Square, outside City Hall or the Tower of London and many other central locations including open air shopping centres, you will still be stopped because those areas are not official public streets and belong to someone else!

One of the issues we find is that local authorities don’t really know how to handle a small production unit. As soon as you say you are going to be filming they assume there will be lots of disruption with huge lorries, extra lighting and mountains of rubbish left behind; the fact that you are going to be there for maybe half an hour at the most, there are 2 of you in an MPV and you’ll leave no sign of having been there when you’ve gone, well it just doesn’t compute I’m afraid. We actually got asked to provide full sized rubbish bins by one Council, who shall remain nameless, just so we could take 20 seconds of general street scenery in a residential area!

You’ll find a map of the places you can and cannot film on the Film London website – certainly worth looking at if you want to film anything around the central area without incurring Licence costs and hassle from local officials. Happy filming for 2014!




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