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.
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.
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: 12/04/2019
International Film Commissions List
Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in North America.
Beliz Film Permits – National Institute of Archaeology
Canada Commercial Photography Permits – Parks Canada
Costa Rica Press Information – Ministry of Tourism
Dominica Filming Guidelines – Dominica Film Office
Dominican Republic Shooting Permits – Dominican Republic Film Commission
Greenland Travel/Research Permits – Government of Greenland
Mexico Film Industry – Mexican Film Commission
United States Commercial Photography Permits – National Parks Service
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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.
Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in South America.
Argentina Film Commission Representative – Argentina Film Commission
Brazil Filming Policies and Guidelines – Brazilian Film Agency
Chile Film Commission Website – Chile National Council of Culture and the Arts
Colombia Film Commission Website – Colombia Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism
Ecuador Film Commission Representative – Ecuador Ministry of Tourism
Uruguay Film Commission & Promotion Office – Uruguay Ministry of Education and Culture
Film In Venezuela – Venezuela Ministry of the Popular Power for Culture
We were unable to find verified sources of information for Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, and, Suriname.
Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in Europe.
National Cinema Center of Armenia – Armenia Ministry of Culture
Austrian Film Commissions & Funds – Film Industry Support Austria (FISA)
Carinthia Film Commission – CFC Carinthia Province Government
Cine Tirol Film Commission – Tirol Government
Cine Styria Film Commission – Styrian Provincial Government
Lower Austrian Film Commission – Lower Austrian Government
Salzburg Location Agency – Land and City of Salzburg
Vienna Film Commission – Vienna City Admistration
Azerbaijan Film Commission – The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan
Belgian Film Commission – Initiative of Belgian Federal Authorities
British Film Commission (BFC) – United Kingdom Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Bulgarian National Film Center – Bulgaria Minister of Culture
Filming in Croatia – Program of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre
Filming in Cyprus (Permits) – Managed by Cyprus Government
Czech Film Commission – Czech Republic Department of the Czech Film Fund
Film Estonia – Estonian Film Institute
Film Finland – Finland Film Commission
France Terms and Conditions for Filming – France Diplomatie (Additional info: Film France)
Film in Georgia – Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia
German Film Commissions – German Federal Film Fund (Deutscher Filmförderfonds)
Hellenic Film Commission – Greece Ministry of Culture and Sports (Greek Film Centre)
Hungarian Film Commission – Hungary Government Agency (Hungarian National Film Fund)
Film in Iceland – Icelandic Film Commission (Division of Promote Iceland)
Filming in Ireland – Irish Film Board
Filming in Italy – Italia Trade Commission
Kosovo Film Commission (KFC) – Kosovo Government Organization
Film in Latvia – Latvian Film Council (Minister for Culture of the Republic of Latvia)
Lithuanian Film Tax Incentive – Lithuanian Film Centre
Film Fund Luxembourg – Luxembourg National Center for Audiovisual (CNA)
Macedonian Film Agency – Republic of Macedonia Government Agency
Malta Film Commission – Maltese Government Division
French Riviera Film Commission (Monaco) – Division of Film France
Netherlands Film Commission – Division of the Netherlands Film Fund
Norway Film Commission – National Film Institute of Norway
Film Commission Poland – Part of the Polish Film Institute
Portugal Film Commission Contacts – Portugese Government
Romanian Film Promotion – Romania Government Organization
Moscow Film Commission – Moscow Department of Culture (Russia)
Filming in Serbia – Serbian Government Organization
Slovak Film Institute – Slovakia International Federation of Film Archives
Slovenia Film Commission – Activity of Slovenian Film Centre
Spain Film Commission – Spain Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness
Film Location Switzerland – Swiss Film Commission
Turkish Film Commission – Istanbul Governership and Ministry of Internal Affairs
Ukrainian Film Office – Ukrainian Government Organization
We were unable to find verified sources of information for Albania, Andorra, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, San Marino, and Sweden (website down).
Popular movies and shows made in Iceland.
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.
Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in Africa.
Algerian Agency for Cultural Influence (FR) – Algeria Ministry of Culture
- The English site is currently not working.
Botswana Filming Permit – Republic of Botswana Ministry of Labour & Home Affairs (MLHA)
Burundi Film Center – Burundi Non-profit Media Development Project
Ethiopia Film Permit Fees Index – Ethiopian Film Commission (EFC)
Kenya Film Commission – Kenya Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts
Ouarzazate Film Commission – Moroccan Film Authority
Nigeria Film Industry Information – Nigeria National Film and Video Censors Board
Rwanda Filming Permit – Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (Rwanda High Commission)
South Africa Filming and Photography Permits – South African National Parks
Uganda Communications Commission – Government of Uganda
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,
Commercial film and photography permits for governments located in Asia.
Abu Dhabi Film Commission – United Arab Emirates (UAE) Government Agency
Dubai Film and TV Commission (DFTC) – Government of Dubai
National Cinema Center of Armenia – Armenia Ministry of Culture
Bangladesh Film Development Corporation – Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Cambodia Film Commission – Cambodia Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts
China Work Permits & Applications – The People’s Republic of China
Georgian Film Commission – Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia
India Film Commission – Member of the National Film Development Corporation of India
Japan Filming Information – Japan Film Commission
Jordan Royal Film Commission – Jordanian Public Organization
Korean Film Council – Republic of Korea Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
Thailand Film Office – Ministry of Tourism and Sports
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.
Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” (2000) via Film Fiji
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.
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 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.