I know, I know. You read the title of the article and started freaking out because you made the assumption that the author is a guerilla filmmaker out to break the rules in whatever way possible and forgo the well-being of her Crew. In an Industry where safety is often overlooked in a big way in the name of the Almighty Film God, film and location permits (or productions lacking them) have come under extreme scrutiny – and I say, GOOD.
So what is my angle when I preach that it is important to film without film permits? Does this mean that I never obtain a film permit when I shoot? Do I advocate that students and young filmmakers intentionally break the rules to see if they can “get away with it?” (Established filmmakers, you know better by the way.) The answers to the above are a big fat NO! But, I AM a huge promoter of learning by doing and doing by learning. Confused? How about this: A toddler is running on a cobblestone walkway, the frazzled parent lets the toddler run knowing that the only way to for the child to learn to stop is to fall and scrap his knee (or her, I am not biased). Sure enough, whether today, tomorrow, or the not so distance future, the child stumbles and falls like the Roman Empire – scuffing his knee. Blood, sweat, and tears later, the child learns to walk rather than run down the same path – knowing the consequences that could happen were he to run and fall again.
My point is that my young filmmakers need an avenue to express and learn from their art, to develop their skills in a safe environment at a minimal cost to them and their production. Many do not have the $25.00 to shell out to FilmLA every time they have a weekend shoot and my rookies who are not students have no way of paying the almost $725.00 standard filming permit for their projects. After all, in the state of California, a production is required to obtain both a Film Permit as well as a Location Agreement in order to be “zoned for” and “cleared” to enter and film on private property – you cannot have one without the other and expect to legally film or gain access to a location.
I teach my students the “rules,” the standard practices in the industry; the fact that yes, the film police could knock on your door at any moment and shut down the production, confiscate equipment, and possibly arrest you for trespassing. I also encourage my charges to shoot as much as possible; write short, two-character, two-page scenes that can be accomplished in a weekend; to stuff their reels with as much amazing footage as they can in order to kick-start their career in this Game of Thrones-lifestyle we call the Entertainment Industry.
For the love of the art, everyone starts somewhere and that pimply-faced, scraggly-haired, lanky kid you see with a camera, or the toddler with a skinned knee, could grow up to become the next Nora Ephron, Sophia Coppola, or Steven Spielberg (and no, I am not calling Nora, Sophia, or Steven lanky, pimply, OR scraggly). Promote tolerance over ignorance and educate rather than berate our young filmmakers. With compassion and a desire to learn and learn well (yes, there is a difference), following the rules becomes second nature and creates better, more-informed filmmakers for the future.