Filming in London Guide

London stands as a centrepiece in the global film industry, celebrated for its iconic skyline and the sheer variety it offers as a filming destination. From the historic streets of the City of London to the modern architecture of the Canary Wharf, the capital presents a dynamic backdrop suitable for a range of cinematic endeavours. Whether it’s the bustling markets of Camden or the serene vistas of Richmond Park, filmmakers find a city that can morph to fit any narrative, era, or mood in London.

Film London is central to nurturing and promoting the city’s film sector. As the capital’s screen industries agency, Film London is crucial in connecting ideas, talent, and finance. Its efforts aim to sustain and enhance London’s status as a premier global hub for content production. Through initiatives supporting everything from major international productions to emerging local talent, Film London ensures that the city’s film landscape is diverse and inclusive but also accessible and successful.


Why Choose London for Your Film Production?

London’s appeal as a filming location lies in its extraordinary diversity and the depth of its historical settings, which can serve as the backdrop for an expansive range of film genres. The city’s landscape is a tapestry of the old and the new, offering filmmakers the cobblestone charm of streets like those in Greenwich, juxtaposed against the steel-and-glass modernity of the Shard and the Gherkin. This architectural variety allows directors and producers to transport audiences across different eras and regions without ever leaving the city.

Moreover, London’s rich cinematic history plays a significant role in its modern film industry. The city has been the setting for countless films, from classic British cinema to large-scale Hollywood blockbusters like Harry Potter and James Bond. This heritage not only enriches the cultural fabric of London but also provides a well-trodden path for production companies, complete with a robust infrastructure and a seasoned pool of local talent.

From iconic landmarks such as Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace to lesser-known gems like the Art Deco interiors of Eltham Palace, London offers film locations that can evoke grandeur or grit with equal ease. The city’s role in seminal films has also helped establish a network of support services that understand the nuances of film production, from logistics and transportation to catering and post-production. Choosing London for film production means tapping into a city that provides picturesque settings and enhances the filmmaking process through its storied tradition and comprehensive support system.


Film London Your Go-To Resource

Film London supports the screen industries in London, providing a comprehensive array of services designed to facilitate the success of film, television, animation, and game productions within the city. As a strategic agency, it focuses on connecting creative ideas and talent with the financial backing necessary to bring projects to fruition. By doing so, Film London ensures that the city remains a competitive player on the global stage of multimedia production.

Film London’s offerings are extensive, covering every aspect of production support. They provide crucial guidance on navigating the logistical challenges of filming in London, including securing locations, obtaining necessary permits, and ensuring compliance with local regulations. Film London connects filmmakers with funding opportunities and potential investors for productions that require financial assistance. Additionally, the agency is instrumental in offering troubleshooting support during production, helping to resolve issues quickly and efficiently to minimise disruptions.

Film London also champions sustainability within the industry. Their initiatives aim to reduce the environmental impact of film productions in the city and promote sustainable practices, ensuring that London’s film production contributes economically and conservatively to the environment.

The impact of Film London’s work is reflected in the robust health of the city’s screen industries. International feature productions filming in and around London have generated substantial economic returns in recent years. For instance, in 2019 alone, these productions brought in over £1.3 billion in inward investment, underscoring London’s pivotal role as a global content production hub. This financial influx supports thousands of jobs, boosts local tourism, and elevates London’s international profile.

Moreover, Film London’s dedication to cultivating new talent is evident in its various filmmaking schemes and partnerships. Since 2018, they have supported hundreds of emerging filmmakers through initiatives that guide them from creating short films to developing feature-length projects. These programs enrich the individual careers of up-and-coming filmmakers and contribute to the diversity and vibrancy of the global film landscape.

By leveraging its position within London’s dynamic environment, Film London continues to foster a pioneering creative culture that attracts and retains top-tier talent and productions worldwide.


Permits, Permits and Permits

Securing the necessary film permits is a critical step in the pre-production process for filming in London. Understanding and complying with local borough requirements ensures that your production proceeds smoothly, without legal impediments, and respects the community’s norms and public spaces. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the permit process in London effectively:

1: Determine the Need for Permits

Initial Assessment:
Identify your filming locations and determine whether they are public or private. Public places like streets, parks, and specific landmarks typically require a permit, while private properties may require permission from the owner.

Special Locations:
Some areas, such as the Royal Parks or the Transport for London (TfL) network, have specific permitting processes and their own sets of rules.

2: Contact the Relevant Authorities

Local Boroughs:
London is divided into several boroughs, each with its own film office. Contact the film office in the borough where you plan to shoot to discuss your project and understand their specific requirements.

Special Agencies:
Contact their respective offices directly for filming in places managed by specific agencies like Film London, TfL, or The Royal Parks. They will provide guidance tailored to their venues.

Step 3: Submit Your Application

Prepare and submit the necessary documentation, typically including a detailed project description, the script, a site plan, your intended schedule, and proof of insurance. The specifics may vary based on the location and project scope.

Pay any applicable fees, which can vary based on the location, the size of your crew, and the length of time you will be filming.

4: Compliance with Local Regulations

Legal Requirements:
Ensure your production adheres to local laws, such as noise ordinances, traffic regulations, and public safety measures. If your filming significantly impacts public areas, this might involve coordinating with local law enforcement or community services.

Community Relations:
Communicating with residents and businesses about your filming schedule is advisable. This fosters good relations and can mitigate any disruptions your production may cause.

5: Approval and Documentation On-site

Permit Approval:
Once your application is approved, keep a copy of the permit on-site during filming. Local authorities or property managers will request that you present this document.

Inspections and Monitoring:
Be prepared for occasional inspections by local authorities to ensure compliance with the terms of your permit.

Complying with filming regulations in London is crucial for the legality of your project and its public acceptance. Respect for local guidelines helps maintain a film-friendly environment in the city, preserving opportunities for future productions and contributing positively to the local economy and community sentiment.


Filming on Public Transport and Iconic Locations

Filming in London offers an opportunity to capture some of the world’s most iconic public transport scenes and architectural marvels. Transport for London (TfL) oversees many unique properties, including buses, the Underground, and historical stations like the disused Aldwych Station.

Securing Permissions for TfL Properties:

  • Start by contacting the TfL Film Office. This is your first step in understanding the specific requirements and guidelines for filming on TfL properties.
  • Submit a detailed application that includes the type of transport or location, filming dates, times, and the nature of the scenes being filmed. You’ll also need to provide a copy of your script, storyboards, and a certificate of insurance with a minimum coverage that meets TfL’s requirements.
  • Filming on TfL properties involves fees that vary depending on the filming’s location, duration, and nature. TfL will provide a quote once they review your application.
  • TfL requires that all filming activities comply with their safety regulations. This may include supervising the shoot by TfL staff, especially if you plan to film in operational areas like the London Underground.

Iconic Filming Locations:

Aldwych Station:
This station offers a perfectly preserved slice of history, ideal for period pieces and productions needing an authentic early 20th-century underground station look. The station has been used for various films, music videos, and television dramas, offering settings that include old platform tiles, vintage signage, and classic wooden escalators.

Charing Cross Station:
Available for more contemporary urban scenes, Charing Cross Station features modern platform designs and working escalators. Its accessibility on weekends and certain weekdays makes it a flexible production choice.

London Buses:
For scenes that require dynamic street-level shots, London’s buses, including the classic Routemaster, provide a moving set through the city’s thoroughfares. Filming on a bus involves coordinating routes and schedules to minimise disruption to public services.

Tower Bridge and The Royal Exchange:
These landmarks serve as powerful symbols of London and are frequently sought after by filmmakers from around the globe. Permissions are managed by the City of London, separate from TfL, and require early planning to secure.

Canary Wharf:
As one of London’s modern financial districts, Canary Wharf offers a sleek, contemporary backdrop ideal for high-stakes drama and action sequences.


Filming in The Royal Parks

The Royal Parks of London, including Hyde Park, Greenwich Park, and others, offer stunning natural landscapes and historical settings ideal for various film productions. However, filming in these parks is governed by specific regulations designed to protect the environment and ensure minimally disrupted public access.

Application Process for Filming in The Royal Parks

  • Contact The Royal Parks’ film office to discuss your project and determine feasibility. Early communication is crucial to understanding the specific requirements and restrictions of the intended park.
  • You must complete a detailed application form on The Royal Parks’ official website. This form should include your project details, such as the type of production, proposed filming dates, and specific areas of the park you intend to use.
  • Along with your application, submit a copy of your script, a detailed site plan, proof of public liability insurance (with a minimum cover specified by The Royal Parks), and any other documents supporting your project proposal.
  • The application will be subject to a fee that varies depending on the scale and impact of your project. The Royal Parks will provide a quote based on the details submitted.

Special Considerations and Seasonal Restrictions

  • Royal Parks are protected environments, and all filming activities must consider potential impacts on wildlife and plant life. Certain areas may be off-limits or require additional safeguards to prevent ecological damage.
  • Filming during sensitive times, such as bird nesting seasons or the flowering of particular plant species, may be restricted or require additional precautions. Typically, restrictions are most stringent during the spring and early summer months.
  • Filming must maintain public access to the parks. The Royal Parks will assess the likely level of disruption and may stipulate specific times or areas where filming can occur to minimise impact.
  • For scenes involving large setups, special effects, or stunts, additional permissions may be required. This might involve closer coordination with The Royal Parks and other local authorities or emergency services.

Many Royal Parks are historically significant, with monuments, statues, and culturally important landscapes. Filming near these sites may require special handling and adherence to guidelines that ensure their preservation.


Filming That Requires Metropolitan Police Involvement

Filming in London often involves complex scenes that may require the presence of the Metropolitan Police or at least their prior notification to ensure public safety and compliance with legal standards. This is particularly crucial when scenes involve replica weapons, police uniforms, or the staging of crimes.

When Police Supervision or Notification is Required

Use of Replica Weapons:
The Metropolitan Police Film Unit must be informed of any scene involving firearms, even replicas. This ensures no public alarm and that scenes are conducted safely.

Police Uniforms in Filming:
Using actors in police uniforms or featuring replica police vehicles requires careful handling to avoid public confusion or impersonation claims. The production must notify the police to avoid legal issues related to the impersonation of police officers.

Staging Crimes:
Filming scenes that depict criminal activities, especially in public or busy areas, requires notifying the police. This ensures that the public recognises the staged action for an event, which could lead to unnecessary distress or emergency calls.

Filming with Police Involvement

  • Filmmakers must submit detailed plans of the scenes involving any of the above elements to the Metropolitan Police Film Unit. This includes specific details about the location, time, type of activity, and the nature of the props used.
  • Depending on the complexity and potential impact of the scene, a permit might be required from the police. This permit will specify any conditions under which the filming must be conducted.
  • For scenes with significant public impact or potential safety risks, the police may require that officers be present during filming. This is particularly common when filming involves firearms or significant disruptions in public areas.

Using Replica Weapons and Police Uniforms

Control Measures:
Proper control measures must be in place for transporting, storing, and handling replica weapons. Productions are required to employ a professional armourer who manages these aspects.

Visibility and Communication:
Maintaining high visibility during filming is crucial to ensure the public knows a film production is in progress. This involves using clear signage, barriers, and possibly public announcements.

Public Safety and Sensitivity:
Productions must take extra care to respect public sensitivity to scenes involving violence or crime. Adequate measures should be taken to inform residents and businesses about the nature of the filming ahead of time.


Safety Protocols and Ensuring Public Compliance

Ensuring the safety of both the public and production crew during filming in London is paramount. A well-managed set not only complies with legal safety regulations but also fosters a positive relationship with the community.

Health and Safety Measures on Set

  • Before filming begins, conduct thorough risk assessments (UK HSE) to identify potential hazards associated with the location and the scenes’ nature. These assessments should inform all safety protocols implemented on set.
  • All cast and crew should receive safety briefings, particularly focusing on specific risks identified in the risk assessments. Regular training sessions should be held for crew members handling specialised equipment or involved in complex scenes.
  • Ensure that all on set are aware of emergency procedures. This includes having clear evacuation routes, designated safety officers on set, and access to first aid. Emergency contact numbers and a plan for incident management should be readily available.
  • Regular checks and maintenance of all equipment on set are essential to prevent accidents. Secure physical set elements and props to avoid hazards, especially in dynamic filming environments or when working in public spaces.

Communicating with the Public

Advance Notices:
Before filming, distribute notices to residents and businesses detailing when and where filming will occur, what it will involve, and how it might affect them. This serves as a courtesy and can reduce disruptions by informing the public of potential noise, traffic changes, or temporary access restrictions.

Visible Signage and Information:
During filming, use clear signage around the filming area to inform passers-by that filming is in progress. Signs should also direct the public away from potential hazards or closed areas.

Crowd Management Strategies:
Employ professional crowd management personnel for scenes that attract large crowds or are filmed in busy areas. These individuals can help ensure that the public remains safe and that filming can proceed without interruption. They can also act as contact points for any public queries or concerns.

Liaison with Local Authorities

Permit Compliance:
Always adhere to the terms in your filming permits, especially those related to public safety measures. Non-compliance can result in fines or the revocation of filming privileges.

Ongoing Communication:
Maintain open lines of communication with local authorities throughout the filming process. This includes the local council, police, and emergency services if necessary. Informing them about the filming schedule and any potential impacts can help mitigate any issues arising from the production’s presence.


Supporting Emerging Talent in London’s Film Industry

London’s dynamic film industry is known for its major international productions and its robust support network for emerging filmmakers. Film London plays a pivotal role in nurturing the next generation of talent through various schemes and initiatives. These programs are designed to provide opportunities, funding, and guidance to help new filmmakers find their footing in the competitive landscape of film production.

Film London’s Initiatives for New Filmmakers

Film London Lodestars:
This annual accolade recognises the brightest upcoming talents in the city’s film scene. It is part of Film London’s commitment to celebrating and promoting new filmmakers who demonstrate exceptional promise and innovative vision.

London Calling and London Calling Plus:
These short film schemes aim to propel the careers of London’s most exciting new filmmakers. They offer funding, industry support, and the opportunity to showcase their work at the BFI London Film Festival. Participants receive comprehensive training and mentorship, covering aspects from development to post-production.

Film London’s Microwave is a micro-budget feature filmmaking scheme that provides funding and a tailored training programme to develop executive skills and achieve commercial success. It’s mainly geared towards projects demonstrating originality and a viable production path.

Equal Access Network:
Recognising the importance of diversity, this network aims to ensure that London’s screen industries represent the city’s richness. It provides training, mentoring, and networking opportunities to individuals from under-represented groups, facilitating access to jobs across all levels of the film industry.

Additional Resources and Community Engagement

Build Your Own Film Night:
This initiative encourages community engagement through film. Film London supports local groups to host film screenings, fostering a culture of cinema across London’s diverse neighbourhoods.

FLAMIN (Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network):
FLAMIN supports London-based artists working in moving images, whether it’s through funding, commissioning or offering bespoke advice. The programme is dedicated to developing unique voices and experimental visual narratives.

Partnerships and Collaborations

BFI NETWORK Partnership:
As the London partner for the BFI NETWORK, Film London works to identify and support emerging filmmakers ready to leap from shorts to feature films. This partnership facilitates workshops, funding, and professional development that are crucial during the early stages of a filmmaker’s career.

Collaborations with Higher Education Institutions:
Film London collaborates with universities and colleges to provide students with practical experiences and entry points into the industry through internships and participation in Film London projects.


Additional Resources and Contacts for Filmmakers

Navigating the film industry in London can be complex, but a wealth of resources and dedicated contacts are available to assist filmmakers throughout their projects. Knowing the right contacts can streamline the production process from borough film services to specialised advisors. Below is a comprehensive list of essential resources and contacts, links to further reading and detailed guides from Film London and other influential organisations.

Key Contacts and Resources for Filmmakers in London

  • Film London: The primary agency for filmmakers in London, offering resources, funding opportunities, and guidance on local filming regulations.
  • Borough Film Services: Each of London’s boroughs has a dedicated film service that manages permissions and provides local filming information. Some of the key contacts include:
  • Specialised Advisors: For specific production needs such as legal advice, location scouting, or health and safety, specialised advisors can be contacted through Film London’s network.
  • Transport for London (TfL) Film Office: Manages filming on London’s transport network, including buses, the underground, and major roads.
  • The Royal Parks: Manages filming permissions for London’s major parks such as Hyde Park and Richmond Park.

Further Reading and Detailed Guides

  • Location Filming in London Code of Practice: A guide to best practices for filming in London, ensuring productions meet the highest professional standards.
  • Film London’s Production Finance Market: An annual event connecting filmmakers with financiers, an essential resource for those looking to fund their projects.
  • British Film Institute (BFI): Offers a range of resources, including funding, education, and archival services.

These resources are designed to support filmmakers at every stage of their production in London. Whether you seek funding, need detailed guides on the regulatory environment, or seek specific local contacts, the resources offer comprehensive support to navigate London’s dynamic film landscape efficiently.


That’s a Wrap

Choosing London as a filming destination offers unparalleled advantages. With its iconic landscapes, historic and modern architecture, and vibrant cultural scenes, London provides a backdrop suitable for diverse cinematic narratives. A robust infrastructure catering to large-scale productions and independent filmmakers alike supports the city’s dynamic film environment.

Diverse Locations:
From the historical elegance of the Royal Parks to the urban modernity of Canary Wharf and the iconic structures like the Tower Bridge, London offers locations that can dramatically transform to match any storyline or aesthetic requirement.

Robust Support Network:
Film London, along with borough film services and specialised advisors, offers extensive support to filmmakers, including help with logistics, funding, permits, and local regulations.

Cultural Hub:
London is a melting pot of cultures, providing access to a vast pool of talent, from actors to production crews, and a rich array of storytelling opportunities.

Economic Incentives:
Competitive financial incentives and a supportive regulatory environment make London an economically viable option for domestic and international productions.

Filmmakers considering London for their next project should fully utilise the comprehensive resources available. Engage with Film London and local borough services early in your planning process to maximise what the city offers. Utilise the detailed guides and contact networks provided to navigate the logistical aspects of your production smoothly. By doing so, you benefit from London’s rich cinematic landscape and contribute to its storied filmmaking tradition.

London’s film industry continues to thrive because of the city’s commitment to supporting creative endeavours and its ability to adapt to the evolving needs of filmmakers. Whether you are shooting a feature film, a short, a documentary, or a commercial, London provides a comprehensive toolkit to ensure your production is booming. So, embrace the opportunity to bring your creative vision to life in one of the world’s most film-friendly cities. That’s a wrap on why London should be your next filming destination!


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