Being rich with film, culture, and tourism, it’s no surprise that Orlando is one of the top domestic travel destinations in the US. While it’s known for amusement parks such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, LEGOLAND, and SeaWorld, Orlando has been home to several films like My Girl, The Waterboy, and Monster. The city of Orlando once even demolished its old city hall to not only build a new one, but also to lend the real-life demolition scene to Lethal Weapon 3. In addition to all of the tourism and filming, Orlando is the number one go-to spot for meetings and corporate events. All of the exciting things to see and do in Orlando make it a fantastic filming location for your shoot; however, all that activity can make for tricky logistics. Here are our top 10 tips for shooting video in Orlando:
10 – Being a hot spot tourist destination, Orlando has no shortage of hotels. What goes hand in hand with hotels? Conventions, trade shows, and business meetings! If your client names a major hotel (such as Hilton or Marriot) as a shooting location, there could be upwards of ten of each of those in Orlando and the surrounding areas. Be aware that these hotels do charge for parking – anywhere from $15-$20 per day. Don’t forget to ask if you can park in back and use the loading dock and service elevators, as well as checking out the clearance of the garage ahead of time to make sure your van will fit.
9 – Florida is a “right to work” state, meaning an exhibitor at a convention or trade show have the option of setting up their own exhibit without union stagehands; if needed, union labor is available for a price. There is no union jurisdiction over the use of rental dollies, flat trucks, or other mechanical equipment, but the general contractor will control access to loading docks as well as the loading and unloading of vehicles, so be sure to do a little research and know ahead of time what the potential restrictions at your location may be.
8 – Orlando is more than just Disney and Universal Studios. There’s a beautiful downtown area with plenty of local hot spots. Similar to LA, Orlando is made up of small neighborhoods and is very spread out. Getting from the parks area to downtown is not an easy 10 minute drive – the northern suburban areas of Longwood, Lake Mary, and Altamonte Springs are over an hour away from places like Disney and Universal. And rush hour in Orlando isn’t always going to be your typical 9-to-5; it more often than not can be dependent on when the parks open and close.
7 – Speaking of driving…this leads me to one of my favorite topics when traveling: TRAFFIC. Every city has its own quirks when it comes to driving in heavily populated areas and Orlando is no exception. Two main drags in Orlando include Interstate 4 and State Route 528. These roads are significant because the major theme parks run along I-4, and SR-528 is an east-west toll road that can be used to get to I-4, and subsequently the theme parks. The amount of activity on these roads can cause hours of gridlock, but fear not! There are alternatives. Both Turkey Lake Road and Universal Boulevard (which, despite its name, has no affiliation with the park) run parallel to I-4 and are great alternatives to avoiding the crunch on the interstate.
6 – Orlando is very particular about permitting. You DO need a permit if you are producing a feature or independent film, a commercial or series, or any film project that will affect city, county, or state property as well as public property. You also need a permit if you are shooting on private property and have to park your van on the street. Other instances that you will need a permit include the use of a tent or temporary structure as well as still photography. The full list of specifications can be found here. The Orlando Film Commission is great with setting up crews with everything they need, and can clarify any questions you may have about permitting.
5 – If you are using a handheld camera, no other production equipment, and the total cast and crew count is less than three you won’t need a permit as long as your shoot doesn’t impact city, county, or state property. Shooting a news segment or feature and producing in a production studio are two other permitting exceptions, but you should always check with the film commission to verify that you won’t need a permit for your shoot.
4 – Orlando weather is hot, humid, and predictable. Be prepared to protect yourself and your gear if you’re shooting outdoors because it rains almost every afternoon like clockwork. And when I say it rains, I mean it really rains:
Be prepared for all kinds of weather in Orlando regardless of the time of year; seasons are mild, but apparent. Winters can be on the cool side, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe from a humid, 90 degree day in January. A favorite saying from one of our Orlando crews: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!”
Crews Control represented Production Coordinator Scotie Hulett tells me the best time of year to shoot is either February or October. “That’s when we have the best weather,” she said. If you happen to have a shoot in or around one of the theme parks, she says “it’s also the time of year that has the least amount of tourists.”
3 –Orlando scenery is extremely diverse, and you can capture all types of beautiful imagery ranging from rolling hills, swamps, pastures, to a bustling urban downtown and everything in between. When shooting b-roll some of the best places for iconic Orlando scenery are Lake Eola, and the huge ORLANDO sign across the bridge near Millenia Mall.
2 – Are you shooting in a theme park? This is a tricky one! Our represented crews with Adrenaline Films gave me some of the best advice for it: Always keep in mind that the guest experience in the park is the number one priority with your client. People save up beaucoup bucks – sometimes for years – to be able to visit the parks in Orlando and don’t want to be held up by filming. You will absolutely need to get permission to shoot in the parks, and it’s not typically easy. There are many departments, they all have someone in charge, and they may not always communicate with each other. When you’re actually in the park, be patient and bring water. Another thing you’ll also have to keep in mind in the park is the branding. If the park sells one brand of soda, they’re not going to want you to walk around with a can from the competitor.
1 – Not so much a shooting tip, but a travel tip: ever notice the dining scene in Orlando? That’s because it’s home to the headquarters of Darden Restaurants, which is the parent company for popular chains like Longhorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden. It’s estimated that if you eat a meal at every single restaurant (three times a day), it would take over 5 years to eat at every restaurant in Orlando. With an overwhelming amount of choices, I reached out to our crews based in Orlando for their suggestions. “You’ve got to try 4Rivers BBQ,” said Hulett, “that place is famous down here.”
While Orlando is famous for its theme parks, there’s so much more to this vibrant city. From glades, to farmland, to a bustling city atmosphere, Orlando has it all. If you need a crew in Orlando, Crews Control represents the most talented and creative crews in the world. Click here for a free quote. Don’t forget we’re also on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!