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How to Obtain Permits for Commercial Photography and Filming

A guide to the various film commissions and government agencies around the world. Find out how to obtain permits for commercial photography and filming.

Producing large-scale commercial audio and visual content requires a number of moving parts. From the production team to the location and legal aspects, there can be a lot going on.

One key component of commercial photography and film projects is obtaining permits.

When Do You Need a Permit?

If you are planning a commercial photo or video shoot on lands deemed as national parks and/or government land you will need to obtain a permit. There are also plenty of other instances in which you would need a permit. Some examples include: filming movies and commercials in government buildings and major cities, destination wedding photography, nature and wildlife documentation in exotic locations, etc.

Valley in Colorado

It is always a good idea to check the rules and laws for a location you are thinking about using for a shoot beforehand. In some locations, smaller shoots (1-10 people) with minimal equipment are free, but still require a permit and/or written permission. For larger projects it can become costly depending on the location and specific fees you need to pay to the appropriate government. You also need further documentation, insurance, and licensing contracts in place the larger your project gets.

Be sure to always consult with a lawyer for the specificities of your project/location. You don’t want to deal with the legal repercussions in the future if you fail to obtain the proper permits.

How to Obtain Commercial Photography & Filming Permits

To obtain a commercial permit for photo, video, and/or film production you will need to contact the government agency responsible for the location you are looking at. You may also need to contact the local representatives.

For example, here is Boston where I live, you need to contact the Boston National Parks Service specifically when producing commercial film/media projects in parks and protected regions. In France, the Diplomatie website recommends reaching out to your Paris correspondents (if you have them) and their embassy for commercial information.

france diplomatie

This can often be a complex and confusing process so we wanted to put together some information to help you out. Below you will find a list of Film Commissions and government agencies specifically set up for managing commercial productions.

Commercial Film/Photography Permit Links

This list includes links to various government agencies from all over the world that grant permits for commercial shoots. The rules vary greatly from location to location, so be sure to find the specific location that applies to you.

If a government is not listed below it is likely that we were not able to find significant information on commercial photography/filming guidelines. Leave a comment below if you are looking for a location that you can’t find on the list and we will do our best to find out more information. Film Commissions and Permit List last updated: 05/31/2018

International Film Commissions List

International Film Commissions List

North America

Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in North America.

Antigua and Barbuda

We were unable to find an official page about commercial permits, but you can contact the office for the Ministry of Trade here. From there you should be able to gather more information about obtaining permits for commercial film and photography projects in Antigua and Barbuda.

Bahamas

The Bahamas Film and Television Commission has information on applying for commercial production permits. This page lists the official procedures for permits in the Bahamas.

Finally, you can apply for a Bahamas film permit online here.

*Please note that while Bahamas.com and Bahamasfilm.com are not .gov websites. The official site of the Government of the Bahamas links directly to both sites in their commercial production documents, so they can be trusted as authentic sources of information for the matter.

Barbados

The Barbados Film Commission shares official guidelines for filming in Barbados. The Government of Barbados website also has information and contacts on the Ministry of Tourism page.

As there is no application form online, so you will have to contact the responsible party at the Ministry of Tourism to apply for a commercial production permit in Barbados.

Dominica

Dominica.dm is the official tourist site of Dominica where you can find specific pages about filming permits along with other related information for press and media. You can also visit the Dominica Ministry of Tourism website for more information and the government contacts.

Greenland

The Government of Greenland has a page of local contacts with Greenland media professionals. Film.gl is a site that was put together by Visit Greenland, the official tourism website of Greenland. The site is home to the film community of Greenland and serves as a helpful resource for media and production teams looking to produce projects in the Danish Territory.

You can also find information about general travel permits required in Greenland from the Government of Greenland website.

Puerto Rico

The Department of Economic Development and Commerce is responsible for the management of the Puerto Rico Film Commission. You can view Puerto Rico’s Strategic Plan for growth, and this page also contains links to the Film Commission website (currently inactive/down). Unfortunately the site is not working right now and the page describing the film and media production incentives is also down. If you are looking to obtain film permits for Puerto Rico your best chance is to contact the Puerto Rican government directly on this page.

South America

Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in South America.

We were unable to find verified sources of information for Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, and, Suriname.

Europe

Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in Europe.

We were unable to find verified sources of information for Albania, Andorra, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, San Marino, and Sweden (website down).

German Film Commissions website

German Film Commissions

Popular films and television shows produced in Iceland

Popular movies and shows made in Iceland.

Denmark

The City of Copenhagen offers guidelines for filming in Copenhagen on their website. For specific purposes, you need police approval and other documents. You can contact the Excavation Permits department if you need advice in English. This is also the best place to call for major motion pictures information. If you are from Denmark, you can apply through the government website.

copenhagen film permit application process

Africa

Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in Africa.

We were unable to find verified sources of information for Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea,

Kenya Film Commission Staff Photo

Kenya Film Commission Staff

Asia

Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in Asia.

 

Australia

Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in Australia. Permits are granted by the Australian Government. You can find the specific requirements for each Australian state below.

Fiji

Film Fiji is the dedicated website for film production in Fiji. On the website you can find information about incentives and rebates, view a locations showreel, and apply to the Film Fiji Office for a film permit.

Castaway Fiji major film production with Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” (2000) via Film Fiji

New Zealand

You can obtain film permits for New Zealand through the New Zealand Film Commission, a government agency managed by the Ministry for Arts, Culture, and Heritage. The New Zealand Film Commission offers a wide variety of funding and support for your project. You can get assistance on project development, post production, interactive/virtual reality projects, distribution, and more!

We were unable to find verified sources of information for Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Antarctica

Think it is hard to get a permit for commercial production in other continents? Think again. Because Antarctica is not officially controlled by one single country, there are a variety of challenges for obtaining a film and production permit. (let alone any permit to visit the continent)

The Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty website has a page related to Tourism and non Governmental Activities.

The ATS states: ‘ National legislations establish a permitting regime for activities in Antarctica, and eligible visitors are required to obtain the necessary permits in advance from the relevant Competent Authority of each Antarctic Treaty Party.’

Basically, depending on where your production company is located, you will need to contact the government responsible for both a permit to Antarctica and the commercial production permit.

For example, the Government of the UK allows you to specifically apply for a permit to visit Antarctica. They also state that you do not need to obtain a permit through them if your expeditions are organized and authorized in writing by another contracting country to the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty.

Cover photo features background image by Gordon Wells.


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