I’ve done hundreds of shoots in London, often learning the hard way that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Here’s my advice for ensuring your shoot runs on time, on budget and on brand message.
Have a plan
This is an obvious one, but London can be a logistical nightmare for the uninitiated.
Your call sheets should provide clear instructions for how the day will run, who is needed when and what will be required of them throughout the shoot, so make sure it has all of the basics covered:
1) Getting to the shoots.
Travel in London can be tricky, particularly if your crew are reliant on public transport. If driving, remember that London gets very congested (they’ll need to pay the congestion charge) and parking can be a nightmare. When filming around parliament square or other major London sites there is practically no public parking except for underground car parks which cost an arm and a leg.
2) Contingency plans.
Make sure you plan for things that could go wrong on the day: Crew or client no-shows, location or venue cancellations, or unexpected bad weather. Your back-up plans should be communicated to all the relevant people so everyone knows what to do when things don’t work to the original.
3) Noise interference.
London can be extremely noisy and this can cause huge problems if you are filming outdoors. Traffic, sirens, helicopters and construction works can ruin a shoot if they aren’t planned for.
Have permission to be there
If you’re filming outside or in a building that isn’t owned by you then you will need permission to do so. In almost every outdoor situation you need permission to film in the London Boroughs and in the City of London. There are of course grey areas where you can get around this – for example if you’re not blocking public thoroughfares or using a tripod – but you still run the risk of an awkward confrontation with police if you’re caught shooting without permission. If you want streets and landmarks of London to be a focal point of the video, it’s best to apply for permission to the correct borough council and ensure it’s valid for the full duration of your shoot.
Filming in privately owned locations also requires permissions from the owners. To film in Canary Wharf for example, you’ll need correct permissions from the Canary Wharf Group. The same goes for buildings, office spaces and residential properties. A handshake with the current tenant won’t cut it. You must obtain written permission from the landlord.
Make sure you don’t step on any important (or even unimportant) toes during the video production process. Everyone who comes into contact with the video production service should have their needs considered, no matter how small their interaction with your shoot.
If your CEO and the CFO of your best customer are being interviewed for the video, chances are their diaries are already pretty full. Communicate the process and timescales with them and their teams and stress that this amount of time is allocated in order for them to look as good as they deserve to on camera. Giving 15 minutes for what should take an hour will give the edit team less footage to work with and impact the quality of the final product.
Also extend a level of courtesy to passersby if you’re filming in London. Putting signs up that filming is in progress will prevent run-ins with those concerned with privacy (even if your video isn’t destined for public viewing). If this is for distribution into the public domain, have release forms for any member of the public caught in your shot so that they can be legally used in the final edit. If someone doesn’t agree to be filmed but they are in the final shot, ask for their picture so that they can be blurred out in post-production.
Beware the rubbish police
Finally, be tidy! Leave a location as you found it so that neighbouring residences and businesses won’t be left feeling sour about you filming on their turf. Also – there are some fairly big fines for fly-tipping in London – so dispose of any rubbish correctly and thoughtfully.
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