Whether you’re shooting on-campus or off-campus, finding locations is an important step in pre-production.
Securing any location requires permission from either the College or off-campus location owner/manager, and in some specific cases you may be required to procure a shooting permit. Make sure that you start this process early and leave yourself enough time to complete all the necessary paperwork.
There are a variety of great locations available to you at right here at Occidental College, and many students over the years have made use of these in their films. Professional crews pay thousands to come film on Oxy’s campus, looking for closed spaces with mitigated noise and security issues, along with easy access to power and restrooms. Remember that all you have to see is what is in the frame. Think about how you can frame a space to look like your desired setting, use sound design to sell the space, and how you can suture different locations to seem continuous. For some ideas, check out our “Locations Book" in The Cage.
The first step for on-campus filming is finding a location. All student film shoots on-campus, whether interior or exterior, must be registered through Master Calendar. If you are in a course authorized to reserve campus spaces for class projects, your name will be provided to Master Calendar by faculty at the semester's start. You will then need to email Master Calendar (email@example.com) to make your reservation. This must be done at least two weeks in advance for traditional spaces. Please make the subject line of your email "MAC [Course #] Location Request - [Project Name]" Do not reserve a space through SLICE.
For on-campus filming, Master Calendar checks for availability of requested spaces. Representatives can alert you to potentially noisy or disruptive events going on near that location at the time you requested and suggest alternatives. Registering with Master Calendar also puts you on the schedule of approved events that Campus Safety receives, allowing officers to know you’re permitted to be where you are, unlock doors for you, etc.
Particular proprietary spaces on campus will require additional permissions from the location's supervisor or affiliated office/department. Shooting in a dormitory will require permissions from a Resident Advisor and the Residental Life Office. Shooting in the library will require permission from the library staff. Other labs, art studios, etc. should be secured by first determining the authorized supervisor of that space and seeking their permissions first, and then registering the shoot with Master Calendar. Plan ahead accordingly, to ensure you have enough time to secure such permissions and Master Calendar approval.
Filming is only allowed in Los Angeles County. Travel outside of Los Angeles is only permitted in the case of documentaries funded by external grants such as a Richter grant or a Values & Vocations grant.
The first step is to find a location. If you are planning on filming on privately-owned property, such as a house or restaurant, you will need a Location Release Form, which is signed by the person who owns the property. Do not get it signed by a manager or employee unless you are sure they have the authority to grant permission. Always keep a copy with you during filming.
Privately-owned locations, such as restaurants, will often also ask for a certificate of insurance. Download the Certificate of Insurance Request Form under Index of Forms. Fill it out and submit it to your professor at least two weeks in advance so that your professor can submit it to risk management. Your professor must sign the insurance request form. Provide your professor with all relevant permits, releases, or other forms. Note: risk management has the right to turn away anyone who doesn’t respect the Two Week window. Do not hesitate to contact your professor with any questions or concerns. You must notify your professor if the details of your certificate (such as the shoot date) have changed as risk management will have to issue another insurance certificate.
If you are planning on filming at a public location, such as the sidewalk in front of a building, you will need a Film LA Permit, which grants you the city’s permission to shoot in Los Angeles. If a police officer comes to your shoot, your permit is proof that you are allowed to show on that day at that location and will prevent your shoot from being shut down.
To get a Film LA permit, consult in advance with your professor, Director of Digital Media and Production Diana Keeler, or the Student Production coonrdinator. Review the Student Guide and create a FilmLA profile. Submit the form, along with a letter from your professor (on Oxy letterhead dated within the last 30 days and signed by your professor that states your name, class number or program of study, and a statement certifying that your project is strictly for “non-commercial educational purposes") to the Film LA office at least one week before your shoot (2 weeks is recommended). It will take them at least four business days to process your request. Film LA permits are location, date, time-window, and action-specific. If any of these variables change, your permit is rendered invalid and will require you to go through the full process again with a new permit fee assessed.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, they are temporarily NOT taking in-person appointments and everything can be completed online, but for future reference, the FilmLA office is located at
6255 W. Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
If you are shooting at a Park or a Beach, you will need an additional permit. The City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks deals with LA City parks. Most beaches are handled by the County Permit Office, except the Santa Monica beach. A lifeguard is required when there’s someone in the water for all beaches. When you meet with the representative at Film LA, he/she can help refer you to the proper office if extra paperwork is needed. If you are shooting in a large area, such as the Angeles National Forest, be sure to know exactly which section you’d like to use. Bringing a map that you marked will help them immensely and show that you’ve thought carefully about your location.
Different cities in Los Angeles county have different rules regarding student filming. If you’re filming in a city other than Los Angeles, make sure to go online and do a search before starting the permit process. Almost every city has their filming guidelines posted online, and it’s a good idea to call the number provided and find out more specific information regarding student shoots. Some charge extra fees while others require a police officer to be present if you’re filming near a public street. Start the process early, and do your research before presenting your proposed location to your professor. If you need any help with locations, you can set up a time to meet with our Student Production Coordinator.
Remember that wherever you end up shooting, you are representing Occidental College. Be respectful and courteous to those who have helped you secure locations, and make sure that your shoot stays on schedule.
Helpful Location Resources
The California Film Commission is a useful resource for students. They can help you find locations and other things. They do not charge application or permit fees – however you will be required to pay wages of any State employees required on the set. They’re online at www.film.ca.gov.
Peerspace is an online marketplace for finding and accessing unique locations for film shoots and photo shoots. It's free to browse - pricing is transparent and payments are kept secure via their online payment system. (Insider's Tip: many of the hosts on the platform are open to discussing student discounts - message them directly via their listings to inquire).
Different parks fall under different jurisdictions. The City of LA Dept of Recreation and Parks deals with LA City parks. The Park Film Office is at http://www.laparks.org/dos/ranger/parkfilm.htm, and (323) 644-6220. M-F 8:30-5:00.
Griffith Park, owned by the County of LA, will generally waive permit fees for students. If your shoot requires a Park Monitor (night shoots, generators, using restricted areas, more than 15 crew members), then you will have to pay the Monitor’s wage, which is $38/hour.
Angeles National Forest is also a good place, but have your site picked out first. They have a 72-hour turnaround. Call (626) 574-5271.
Most beaches are handled by the County Permit Office, except Santa Monica beach. A lifeguard is required when there’s someone in the water. www.Beaches.co.la.ca.us/BandH/Beaches/Main.htm
The Pier Restoration Corp handles Santa Monica Pier. They’re at (310) 458-8900, firstname.lastname@example.org and their office is in the Carousel Building on the Pier. They will waive the usual fees for students, but require a $50 refundable deposit AND INSURANCE.