LAPD Commissions Unit to Patrol Locations for Film Permits

LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles Police Department has commissioned a special unit of its downtown division to patrol known shooting locations to check for film permits, said veteran director Eli Cross.

“All day, every day all they do is cruise by known film locations looking for people to issue citations,” said Cross, who received a tip from sources familiar with the squad. “What this is all about is the city is broke. Apparently they know about all the places that have websites. Any place that they find out has shoots goes on the list and any place that ever had a permit pulled is on the list.”

Officials with the LAPD’s Planning and Research division which handles film permit enforcement on Thursday would not confirm or deny the existence of the unit.

Cross, who owns his own shooting location, The Fallout Shelter, wants studios and producers to be on the lookout for the relatively new squad that includes one sergeant and two patrol officers, all uniformed. If the unit finds that a movie shoot is happening without a permit, various measures could be taken by LAPD.

“It depends on how hardcore they want to be,” Cross said. “They can if they want seize all the equipment, anything involved in the shoot. They can seize camera masters, still photo equipment, pictures.”

Cross said various fines can be imposed, too. One producer he knows faced a $4700 fine for the lack of permit.

“It doesn’t matter where it is. It doesn’t matter what it is,” he continued. “Technically, it’s still for commercial gain and you have to pay for the privilege of shooting anything. And in order to pull a permit you have to have production insurance and certificates of liability insurance, and statements that you carry workman’s comp on file. And they have to be on file with the County of Los Angeles Office of Risk Management and City of LA, and with FilmLA, and then FilmLA issues permits.”

Cross noted that one popular misconception is that “my location is permitted.”

“You don’t permit locations, you permit productions,” he said. “Your production has a permit for each location it’s at.”

He said the squad knows the difference between the much cheaper photo permit (for a stills only shoot) and a film permit.

“These guys are totally hip to that,” Cross said.

“People should have a heads-up and there’s a lot of misinformation out there. But there’s going to be a lot of people getting spanked."