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10 Tips for Shooting Video in Philadelphia
Philadelphia: The Cradle of Liberty. The City of Brotherly Love. A city that can lay claim to Ben Franklin, the Declaration of Independence, and arguably the most heated sandwich debate of all time. Whether you’re a Pat’s or a Geno’s fan, Philadelphia’s diverse range of architecture and landscape make it a great setting for any video production. If you’re traveling to Philly for an on-location film shoot, here are ten tips to help you out before you go:
10. The National Park Service controls the entire Independence Hall area. The rangers are experts at telling the difference between tourists taking pictures and a professional film crew. They take pride in shutting you down before you can even say ‘are you rolling?’ The same goes for locations outside the city like Valley Forge National Historical Park. The best way to ensure your shoot around these areas is to obtain a permit, which you can apply for at http://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/permits-for-filming-and-photography.htm.
9. While we’re on the subject of permits – if you’re a small ENG style crew shooting B-roll, you won’t need one for tripods on sidewalks city wide…with one caveat. “There is no permit in general for B-roll on city streets,” says Erin Jackson Wagner, Production Coordinator for the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. “However, we do ask that you have production insurance naming the City as the additional insured, since the streets are technically city property.”
8. The best spots for B-roll? The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Eakins Oval, and Boathouse row. A park service permit is required to shoot in these spots, but they offer endless amounts of classic Philadelphia images, including the famous “Rocky” steps, city leisure and lifestyle movements, and numerous fountains, flags, and public art. There is also a skate park within a short walk to the river side, which is great if you’re looking for a younger crowd to film in a public park atmosphere.
7. One of the most iconic shots to get in Philadelphia is the skyline. Most people will place their sticks at the top of the “Rocky” steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but that particular view is quite common and somewhat overdone. If you’re looking for an angle you don’t see on basic cable every night, consider heading to Belmont Plateau in beautiful Fairmont Park. It’s only a 10 minute drive from downtown but well worth the time to get there. The perch is on a high hill, so it puts you at eye-level with the spectacular skyline and there is plenty of space to park your van.
6. Take advantage of Philadelphia City Services. They are available to film crews for assistance with various aspects of filming to ensure shoots run smoothly for both the city and the production company.
5. There are a ton of incentives offered in Philadelphia as well, including film production tax credit, fee free locations, lodging tax exemptions, and free security site assessments from Executive Protective Services. Be sure you know what’s available to you and your crew to help cut down costs.
4. If you’re creative (and we know you are!), Philadelphia can be shot as a stand in for New York City, and it’s nowhere near the hassle that it is to film in NYC.
3. Philadelphia was the city subject for the original season of the reality show Parking Wars…that should be enough of a warning! Be careful, and read signs TWICE. We recommend using parking garages and parking on the top floor. Another tip? Travel in a mini-van, which is compact enough to fit into any indoor parking garage. Frequently larger vehicles, like an Explorer or full-size van, will be turned away. Leave enough time after you off-load to drive to the nearest garage and jog back.
2. Try to avoid using I-76 during rush hours. It’s the only major artery directly to and from the western suburbs. Being undersized and over-traveled, it turns into a parking lot at both ends of the work day.
1. If your call sheet includes any work inside any of the major performing arts theaters, including the Pennsylvania Convention Center, be aware that the local labor unions have jurisdiction over these facilities and frown upon non-union crews working there. Often times you may be assigned stagehands that will move your gear in and out of the building. The stagehands will shadow you the entire time and move your gear from location to location. There are pros and cons to these union workers. The good news? The stagehands are nice people and very easy to work with, and they are excellent at handling equipment properly. The bad news is that you or the client will have to pay a premium to shoot there. Be sure to utilize The Greater Philadelphia Film Office; they can help securing proper procedures for shooting in these facilities.
BONUS: Just for fun, we polled our Philadelphia film crews on whether they prefer Pat’s or Geno’s. Though most said Pat’s, one DP surprisingly said neither. “Everyone from Philly knows John’s is the best!” he said. “While the rest of the world seems to be fixated on the cheesesteak, real Philly natives have another sandwich that is just as beloved. Try the Hot Roast Pork with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe at Johns if you want to experience a whole new side to the world of Philly sandwiches.” And in another plot twist on the food poll, crews recommend The Bourse Food Court across from Independence Hall, or the Food Court at the Bellevue in the center of downtown. Both places offer lots of options, plenty of seating, and you can get in and out quickly.
Philadelphia is a fantastic place to film, and is a known favorite of directors like Michael Bay, Peter Jackson, and M. Night Shyamalan. Next time you find yourself in The City of Brotherly Love, bring your appetite, get your permits, and watch out for traffic and parking!
Let us know what you need to shoot in Philly – we can guarantee the perfect crew for your shoot…and a great lunch recommendation. Also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.