16 Oct

You can't film here!

  • Written by 
  • submit to reddit  
Trespassing Trespassing RedShark/ Phil Rhodes


I wouldn't be surprised if a large proportion of the people reading this have been hassled either by the police, or perhaps more frequently by private security contractors, while working on a photography or film shoot

It's not my intention to provide legal advice here, which I'm not qualified to do, although most of the more reliable sources I've read indicate that in most of the free world, there is no, or almost no, limitation on photography in public places. Exceptions tend to be things like military and nuclear installations, and in the UK it's my experience that photography of even these subjects is generally tolerated.


There are downsides; egalitarian as all this may seem, it is one of the things which causes the paparazzi problem, with the undesirable side-effect of largely innocent celebrities being hounded for compromising pictures in a way that many of us would probably agree is a bit unfair.

Limitations to Shooting in Public

The other problem, which is what I intend to discuss in this article, is that while there's few limitations on what we can shoot in public, an increasing amount of modern cities are, quite simply, no longer public property. The political dimension of this is that land can be sold to a development company at no cost (and often some benefit) to the public purse, especially taking into account the reduced or eliminated future costs of care and maintenance.

The social dimension of it is that large amounts of London around, for instance, Paddington station, the Broadgate estate just north of Liverpool Street, and most famously the entire Canary Wharf campus, are privately owned by property companies. They have roads, they have buildings, they have footpaths, and they appear to all intents and purposes to be simply part of the city. However, they're not; they're owned by companies.

Identifying Affected Areas 

One of the key concerns with this is actually identifying the affected areas. In many cases, in London at least, a line of brass studs in the pavement, or a metal strip, will indicate the border of a property. The same approach is often used to mark out the area prescribed for outdoor seating outside a restaurant. However, this isn't always the case, it's incredibly easy to miss, and even if you do happen to notice what's going on there appears to be no requirement that any rules are actually posted.

So, within their property, companies are free to impose any rules they like. And boy, do they like. Those rules typically prohibit photography entirely (despite the absurdity of this in a world where everyone has a camera phone). Companies typically charge a hefty fee (often hundreds of pounds an hour, plus staffing costs of hundreds more) as a bare minimum for even the smallest of shoots.

What Companies Expect

It's unclear to me exactly what these companies expect to get out of these rules. There are clear and legitimate concerns over inconvenience caused to the tenants – typically large, international companies – of these office complexes. These are the people who are primarily paying for the complex to exist, the main customers, and if you want to get political bout it, you could point out that the people who really own the property companies are pension plans and share portfolios, and thus all of us, very indirectly. So, the concerns about inconveniencing tenants who pay handsomely for the office space are understandable, if you're talking about upscale feature film productions, or if it became a daily occurrence with dozens of crews working.

« Prev |




Not registered? Sign up now

Lost your password?

  • First, largely innocent celebrities, sorry contradiction in terms, they are not being hassled by papperazzi, they are in fact dealing with part of their job, what they are paid for, end of story, and part of that is pretending they are picked on, utter and supreme stupidness for you to even go there....

    Second, dealing with security/coppers is always an issue, I have worked in security a long time and the "I am authoritah" attitude of some of these idiots has always overwhelmed me to say the least, however a quick fiver and "We will be half hour" will normally always overide the self important ass hattery, no matter where you are.
    A much bigger issue is "Coppers" yes "Coppers" are a special sub breed of your normal and also normally very helpful "Police" and think they can tell you the law even though they are talking complete and total garbage, not only do they think they can tell you the law but also they are beyond the law (I have seen these idiots try to grab a camera before, only to be reprimanded by a real policeman)
    In these cases your only protection is to know the letter of the law where you are filming and point this out to the "Copper" and also make sure that every single person on shoot has pulled their phone out and is recording said "Copper" the threat of reprimand from you tube viralism is a very very powerful thing nowadays (It is definitely worth ringing the police and asking policy on areas too, just don't give them exact days and times hahaha)

    Overall i agree with most of your article and also agree that worrying about sites should be much further down the list than "Screw it we are filiming here"
    At the end of the day we are at the start of a backlash right now to the whole "There is a terrorist around the corner" PC crapola that we have lived in for the last few years (Believe me being a security adviser and seeing the absolutely stupid nay ridiculous levels of security being put into places at no risk whatsoever, and the cost being passed on to the public) and people are no longer happy to not just do what they want in their own (Paid for by our taxes by the way) country.

    Moral, Makes films and screw the authorities

    0 Like
  • Given a real public space, lets say a park with an event. Lots
    of people milling around and a band playing on a stage in the
    background. I'm by myself shooting for testing and fun. Half
    the people around me are holding up their smartphones capturing
    pics and vids. Not a problem. No one bothers anyone. Remember,
    video captured on the latest iPhones is pretty good.

    So I show up with my Smartphone and can shoot all day long
    with no problem at all.

    Same crowd, same event.

    I've got a Sony Action Cam on a hand mount. Sometimes people
    ask me what it is but for the most part no problem. If I
    put the Action Cam on my Flycam 3000, the interest jumps
    significantly. Some people ask, some people shy away.

    Same crowd, same event.

    My Canon DSLR, Cine Lens, Opteka CXS-500 X-Cage Pro and Rail
    System FancierStudio Follow Focus and Matte Box. People
    actually start hiding their children.

    Same crowd, same event. Only change is the perception of
    what I am doing. A ( Dirty Old Man ) with a camera?
    A Smartphone is ok I guess.

    1 Like
  • Bogota Colombia,seems the same as you in London. Whilst the Ministry of Culture is trying to encourage foreign film crews to film here, there is a sad paranoia in the city when a camera (other than a cell phone) appears with a crew. This is understandable considering the levels of terrorism experienced over the years here, but as you say, there is the same inconsistency here too. It is thought that filming may aid a terrorist or more common criminal act, but so can drawing on a bit of paper or using your cell phone. There is also the greedy building owner syndrome, and plenty of police and private guards who think they have more authority than the law. We are doing a low budget feature at the moment, and the hassles we have had on location in the city, have convinced me that if we do another feature, it will be in studio.

    0 Like
  • It all is a testament to public and government stupidity. Terrorists don't generally use professional photo equipment to pick and study their targets when a cellphone video goes largely unnoticed and produces good enough quality to suit their needs. For the government it is about CYA and controlling the sheople. The public can't catch you doing wrong and prove it if you don't let them film you committing the crime. The same for private property owners though they should be able to expect some privacy and consideration for their patrons' privacy. Now, companies with stockholders are not private entities but are public held enterprises and have very limited expectation of privacy unless they are committing crimes which they, like the government want to keep secret. Filming/photographing private property that is in the public view from public property is not illegal, though the owner may not want you to do it from there. If they want that kind of privacy they need to put up privacy fences or foliage to block the unfettered view. Of course all of this is relative, depending on the regime under which you live so your mileage may vary.

    If you are filming anywhere that you think you may get hassled for filming do the filming with equipment that streams the footage to somewhere else so when the "Coppers/Private Security/Corporate Thugs" confiscate you camera, erase the memory or smash your camera you still have access to the video/images. They may come in handy to prove what did and didn't happen that was reported in the "official police report" which is always 100% accurate and truthful unless there is a video that proves otherwise.

    One other reason for not using professional video equipment is the non-governmental criminals who just want to steal your equipment for the money they can get out of it on the black market.

    I have learned a lot of this through getting kicked out of many venues because my personal equipment looked like professional equipment. I use telephoto lenses now that do not look like telephoto lenses but perform adequately for the filming I want to do or I use small digital cameras that at casual glance appear to be a cell phone of some kind. Also when I am using dslr cameras I never raise the camera from my chest to my eye and I use a remote control to click the shutter so nobody suspects that I have taken a picture. If your hand does not touch the camera then you could not have taken a picture.

    As far as "innocent celebrities", when they are at a public function in their capacity as a celebrity then they are fair game and can expect no privacy or limited privacy(can't justify filming them answering the call of nature in a restroom). When they are with their family and friends or alone doing anything not related to their celebrity then they do have a reasonable expectation to their privacy and photographers should never violate that. I have been allowed to film in those situations because I asked politely and stopped when the subject withdrew their consent to film further. With celebrities it is often about mutual respect and trust which you can earn. Flexi is right, some of them are publicity hounds and act out whenever a camera is around because as long as your name and image gets out there, good or bad, it is all good. Miley gets that. She was the only celeb that got talked about after the awards ceremony. I don't even remember who got an award or for what but I do remember the performance she gave.

    0 Like
  • Yes, I've had a few experiences of this myself.

    The first was a music event featuring half a dozen soul artists of the 60s and 70s about 5 years ago. It was held at a dancehall in London. My DSLR (a Canon EOS300D at the time) was taken off me as I entered the building so I was prevented from taking any shots of the artists even though later on, nearly everyone present was taking shots of the artists using their mobile phones. The artists announced they would be available for a meet and greet after the concert and I had to really work to hard to retrieve my camera even though the artists said they would be happy to pose for photos. At a similar venue where I live in Manchester, it's never been a problem.

    Last year I was in the Philippines visiting my girl friend. I had no problems filming using my DSLR in the Asia Mall in Manila but was prevented from doing so by a security guard in her local mall on the southern island of Mindanao.

    And the day your article appeared I was in the "Triangle" a mall previously known as the "Corn Exchange" in Manchester. I'd read that the mall was due to close down and be refurbished at the end of the year but as I hadn't taken photos of the inside of the building I thought I would do so as a keepsake. Again the security guard stopped me taking photos with my DSLR, when pressed he said the owners of the mall did not all filming.

    Conversely, I have been many times in my favourite Manchester building, the Royal Exchange, which houses a theatre. I love photographing the unique interior which has a beautiful classical hall with a "space-age" pod in the middle where the theatre seating is located. I have never had any problems filming there.

    I can understand the some of these venues baulking at commercial filming going on, but what's the problem with people doing it for private purposes? Especially as nowadays, reasonable photos can be taken on a smartphone, without any challenge from those in authority. It's made me decide to purchase a smartphone with a decent camera for the sole reason of bypassing this stupidity!

    0 Like
  • Very interesting article. Several years ago while shooting a short film on Super 16mm we were filming very early on a Sunday morning across the road from McDonald's in a city centre. Incidentally it was a low budget production with minimal crew of about 20 and we had permission from the local authority and the police had been informed. The restaurant had only just opened. We were across the road and the scene was just a character walking on the pavement and was passing by McDonald's so they would have appeared in the background to the shot.
    Once the manager realised this (having seen the crew) he came out to try stop us filming, saying we didn't have permission. The AD politely informed him we did have permission and we carried on with the scene. Shortly after he returned again having spoken to head office and his intention was to disrupt our filming. For continuity reasons we couldn't really move to another location so we again waited for him to leave before continuing. A few minutes later he reappeared with a polaroid camera and began at least trying to take pictures of all the crew and particularly their faces, his intention he said was to fax them off to head off to be put on their database. No idea what database they meant or what it was for, but the whole thing was ludicrous that McDonald's would go to such great lengths to prevent 1 shot with their restaurant in the background. To this day i am astounded by their behaviour.

    0 Like
Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes is a Cinematographer, Technologist, Writer and above all Communicator. Never afraid to speak his mind, and always worth listening to, he's a frequent contributor to RedShark.

Twitter Feed