July 15, 2008

Plan to shoot in the Big Apple? Read this.

Finally, the New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting has clarified the rules for film and video production that requires shooting on location — especially when shooting on the big city's streets.

From the Associated Press, via Google:

The rules, which were to appear Monday in the City Record, now state clearly that productions must have permits and at least [USA] $1 million in insurance if they plan to take over a lane of traffic or leave less than eight feet of open space on a sidewalk.

Permits and insurance also are required for shoots that involve vehicles or use equipment other than hand–held devices or cameras on tripods — items like props, sets, lights, dolly tracks, screens and microphone devices.

Go ahead now and read about the rule changes, which includes one major clarification for the guerilla moviemaker or casual photographer:

A permit is not required for filming that uses hand–held cameras or tripods and does not assert exclusive use of City property. Standing on a street, walkway of a bridge, sidewalk, or other pedestrian passageway while using a hand–held device and not otherwise asserting exclusive use of City property is not an activity that requires a permit.

In addition, activity that involves the filming of a parade, rally, protest or demonstration does not require a permit except when equipment or vehicles are used. The rules also provide that press photographers, who are credentialed by the New York Police Department (NYPD) do not need to obtain a MOFTB permit.

You may remember that New York Police Department officials committed a faux pas in 2005 when they picked up award–winning documentary producer Rakesh Sharma only because he was operating a hand–held camera on a Manhattan sidewalk. The incident lead to a lawsuit which ended when Mayor Michael Bloomberg agreed, as part of the settlement, to get the filming rules a rewrite.

The last rewrite prompted outrage among so many people, your Projectionist included, because if you and a few of your friends were taking pictures or filming (or, these days, shooting digital video) for more than a half–hour on NYC property, you'd need to spring for the permit and the insurance. Even if all you wanted were some snaps of the Times Square nightscene — or, like your Projectionist, some video footage of, say, Diane Wolkstein doing a Hans Christian Andersen story justice in Central Park.

Thankfully, the outcry prompted the City to try again. The New York Civil Liberties Union like what they see, but have also asked that City authorities get a proper and thorough schooling on how to apply the new rules.

For now, your Projectionist is satisfied with the talk. Now let's see how it walks.

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