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10 Tips for Shooting Video in LA

Posted by Rebekah Toth Burns on October 28, 2014

Los Angeles is synonymous with the Hollywood film industry, but this metro area is also home to one of the busiest seaports in the world and corporate giants like Bank of America Home Loans, Edison Industries, Health Net, and Mattel. There are two logistical themes that come up repeatedly on video productions in Los Angeles, permits and traffic. Here are some tips from LA video production insiders.

TEN: Crews Control represented DP Tony Peck says, “Want a beautiful LA beach shot? Best advice: get a permit. If you want to shoot on any beach in Los Angeles area, you need a permit. Even if you are planning on just a quick B-roll shot on the beach, you will be surprised how quickly an official will come up and ask to see your permit. Most of the time, they will just close your shoot down, but there is the potential for a very large fine. Also, different beaches are under different jurisdictions and require different permits. For example, you could be on a city, county, or state beach all with different filming permit issuers.

NINE: In addition to acquiring permits the organization in charge of a filming location may also need to be notified. For example Dickie Rigdon Principal at RPM says, “…to obtain a film permit for the 3rd St. Promenade the Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. requires to be notified prior to obtaining a film permit through FilmLA.

EIGHT: Los Angeles County residents are used to a long commute but they are not used to driving in the rain. If the weather report shows rain there will be epic freeway delays.

SEVEN: If the video production requires filming outside Los Angeles County the state of California also provides great resources and clear guidelines for filming permits that are needed.

SIX: As of September 25, 2014 the FAA ruled that drones or unmanned aircrafts will be allowed on film and TV shoots if operated by six approved companies with another forty companies under review. Aerial MOB LLC, Pictorvision Inc., RC Pro Productions Consulting, LLC dba Vortex Aerial, and Astraeus Aerial are five of the six companies granted exceptions by the FAA and are all located in CA.

FIVE: Experienced DP’s in LA know how to cater to the rich and famous. Peck gives this advice, “When shooting celebrities it is not uncommon to have last-minute and repeated schedule changes. I have shown up at a celebrity’s home for pre-arranged shoots and been asked to come back in 3 hours or the next day, or the next week–or not at all. Special requests for make-up artists are not uncommon or a specific type of make-up, lighting style, even specific lighting gel requests.” Tony recalls a funny story from a past Crews Control shoot “… at a celebrity’s home, a personal assistant asked that I should not print or write down the directions to the location either for myself or any other crew member. Instead, I was told to memorize the directions, share them with my crew verbally only, and then forget them after the shoot. I was also told that the crew cannot be late. Sometimes you have to just roll with the punches.

FOUR: “Los Angeles is fortunate to have a lot of excellent equipment rental houses. You can fill almost any last minute request, for practically any gear you might need. Rental houses are located in many locations around town, although certain areas like Hollywood and Burbank have the greatest number. A lot of Los Angeles rental houses require you to open an account by filling out paperwork and having insurance on file. Depending on the rental house, it could take a couple hours to a couple of days to be approved. Plan ahead says Peck.

THREE: “The traffic here is notorious and travel time should always be factored in to the shooting schedule. The combined Los Angeles metro area has 18 million people. LA County is bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and the city of Los Angeles itself is nearly 500 square miles. A 20 mile one way trip can easily take an hour and a half or longer during morning and evening rush hour(s). If possible, schedule call times earlier than the morning rush hour. Consider crew parking and location loading/unloading logistics. Otherwise, there is no such thing as a quick shoot” says Rigdon.

TWO: Crews Control Represented DP Troy Kurimsky shares, when shooting at large colleges or hospitals allow yourself extra time. By the time you find the parking garage, the correct building, the contact person, and the room, it might take an extra 30 minutes to get there.

ONE: Kurimsky knows it bears repeating and reminds Video Producers once again to “Make sure you have permits. The closer you get to Hollywood and downtown LA the more likely you will need a permit. They have security and store owners watching for video crews that are shooting near their shops and they will call the police to check and see if you have a permit.” All Los Angeles permits are handled by Film LA a private non-profit organization. They assist in the coordination and process of film permits for commercial, TV, and films shot in Los Angeles City and County. You do have to sign up online and it takes about 15 minutes just to fill out the online application to get registered to apply for a permit.

Do you produce video regularly in Los Angeles? What tips would you share for getting the best shot, setting up a location, or handling a celebrity? We would love to hear from you on our blog, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.


  1. Just curious. Would I need a permit if I'm just filming my daughter for a YouTube video? Crew would consist of me and my camera. Let's say on a public beach in Redondo Beach or something like a public park or on the street. Just curious. I do music videos of my daughter but mainly in our house and in the backyard. I'm thinking of venturing out into the world as I get a little more into videotaping my daughter's stuff. We make no money off of these videos so there is no money to be made; it's just mainly for fun. Also, if a permit is absolutely needed, how much are permits typically??

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