Washington Filmworks strives to showcase the diverse looks our state has to offer production. Whoever said “you can’t be in two places at once” has obviously never filmed here. While your cast and crew are in Washington, they can also be in a snow-covered Bavarian village, a serene Japanese garden, or a wine country vineyard. No matter what setting you envision, chances are you’ll find it within the borders of Washington State.
Once you find that unspoiled location in the perfect town it’s time to secure permission to film there. But with nearly five hundred municipalities in Washington, where does a filmmaker start? Washington Filmworks can help connect you with a Film Liaison, the proper city authorities in most areas, but if you’re reaching out on your own, begin with a little research. Area Film Liaisons help to facilitate motion picture production within their jurisdiction. Liaisons are often an appointed staff member of a city or representatives of a Chamber of Commerce, who assist in communications between production and the host community to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties.
City permits are based on individual jurisdiction and are usually required if a production plans to film on public property. Some municipalities may not have specific procedures in place for permitting. They may alternatively issue a special use permit or special event permit.
Larger cities that are more frequented by production, such as Seattle and Spokane, have streamlined permitting procedures. If an area has a “Film Office” the municipality or the Chamber of Commerce generally manages it. If there is no “Film Office” or specific point of contact for filming, try contacting City Hall. The City Clerk is often a great starting place. Perhaps the town is a little more quaint; if that’s the case, reach out to an elected official, such as the mayor, or contact the area sheriff’s office to begin your inquiry.
When a production applies for a permit, a meeting may be required with representatives from the city, transit, traffic, fire, police or parks to ensure a smooth and easy shooting process. Cities may also require notifications to communities to ensure that residences and businesses are well informed in advance of filming. Depending on the budget and impact of filming, cities may have additional requirements. Remember to always allow adequate processing time.
Washington Filmworks offers assistance with inquiries such as permitting, and whether you’re working with one of Washington’s fantastic Location Managers, or doing your own research, be sure to sign up for the Washington Filmworks Location of the Month Newsletter. Each month we highlight a particular region of the state and share pertinent permitting information for that area. “The diversity of locations around Washington State are a valuable commodity for the motion picture industry,” says Executive Director Amy Lillard. “Washington Filmworks monthly Locations Newsletter highlights some of the most interesting filming destinations statewide and helps to drive motion picture business to all corners of Washington State.”
If you need specific information for an area, please contact Washington Filmworks, 206-264-0667, info@WashingtonFilmworks.org
Looking for information specific to Seattle? See our post all about permitting in the Emerald City, Seattle: Your One-Stop Shop.