Many a film and television production has left their unique stamp in New York City over the years. Whether you’re an essayist-cum-English Teacher like Girls’ Hannah Horvath, or a brooding taxi driver in the Scorsese film of the same name, it seems the allure of traipsing through hip and gritty New York locales (minus that all-encompassing urge to “do something,” á la Travis Bickle) hasn’t gone out of style.
However, if you’re a production looking to take your own bite out of the Big Apple, there’s just one more thing: you may need a permit to do it. Here at Atlantic, we’re always asked to share our expertise about permitting and while we’ll always love to help you out (with a New York smile!), it’s about time we went on the record. Expertly speaking, of course.
According to the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment, not all filming activity requires a permit. If you’re a small production using a hand-held camera, a camera on a tripod, hand-held props and/or hand-held equipment (excluding the use of City property); are not using any prop weapons, vehicles, actors in NYPD uniform; and do not require the use of any parking privileges, you do not need a permit. If you’re shooting in any of New York City’s parks, you’ll have to contact the NYC Parks Department for separate guidelines.
If you don’t necessarily need a permit, you can also apply for what is called an Optional Permit. There is no application fee. Atlantic always recommends getting at least the Optional Permit just in case a police officer, park police/official, or some type of security person approaches your crew and asks what you’re doing.
If your production does require the use of parking privileges (excluding personal cars, mini-vans, SUVs, and pick-up trucks), City property, prop weapons, vehicles, actors in NYPD uniform, and are performing stunts on set, you must apply for a Required Permit, and you must have Liability Insurance. You can apply for one here.
Once you apply for your Required Permit, you must notify the neighborhood(s) in which you are filming. To do so, you can contact any of the following: a Community Board, City Council District, or a Business Improvement District. A sample resident letter can be found here.
A very important factoid to note is that you can’t request any type of permit for just one general location in the city. For example, if you request a permit to shoot “up and down 5th Avenue,” your permit request will be denied. You must specific exact addresses (or range of addresses on a major street or streets, or even major intersections) in order for your permit to be granted.
All of this aside though, we get it – applying for a permit in New York (or any city, really) is tough and can be confusing. That’s why we’re here! Feel free to reach out to Atlantic if you ever need help with applying for a permit in any city in the US and Canada, or just need us to make your New York shoot a reality. Our team of coordinators know the city like the back of their gritty, production-seasoned hands.