Recently I was involved in a short that was shot in London. I thought I would share some things I learned about shooting in very public places. In this instance, right in the heart of the London hustle and bustle, Oxford Street! And to be clear, we did have full permission to shoot there, and it didn’t cost a penny.
Of course all situations and locations are different, but here are a few pointers for you projects.
1. Keeping your cast and crew under five means you are treated like a news crew, which is much more acceptable to the powers-that-be who control the public walkways.
2. As soon as you put a tripod on the pavement, you are more likely to get into trouble as you are blocking the public right of way. So shoot hand held, again like a news crew.
3. Contact the council and ask for permission to shoot with a crew of under five and hand held. We did this via the Film London website. It was quite easy actually.
4. Set up a unit base in a close by restaurant, pub or café – we commandeered a Pret coffee shop. They were happy as we bought all our coffee and sandwiches there.
5. Keep a crew member or two on hand, but away from the main unit. They can dash in and help should there be a problem, before retreating in order to keep your main unit cast and crew to five.
6. Be careful of what and who features in your shots. You may need to get release forms from ‘featured’ passers by. Ensure you don’t allow any unexpected logos to appear in shot too.
7. Not all pathways and building exteriors come under the control of the council, many will be privately owned and therefore you will need to contact the owners (or just move on).
8. Don’t be a nuisance, and generally you will be left alone.
9. Get in and out as fast as you can. Even though you have permission, it is still a hostile environment in which to shoot.
10. Shooting DSLR will make things easier too as it looks more like a stills camera.
11. You will need to shoot cinéma vérité (pseudo documentary style) as you cannot really use lighting or orchestrate extras etc.
A cast and crew of five is NOT much – camera operator, sound recordist, director and two actors… (with a production crew loitering some way away). It’s not ideal, but if you can tailor your story to this setup, you could shoot legally in some amazing locations for free – think ‘Before Sunrise’ and ‘Before Sunset’ as good examples.
Looking forward to launching the new movie project and it’s GREAT to be back on set, even though it was FREEZING! Check back in soon!
Onwards and upwards!
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author