The MDM Film Commission has made a checklist for all partners of the film business in Mitteldeutschland. Location owners and those in charge of granting filming permits figure prominently among these partners. Please note that, while we applied due care in gathering the information, the list is not exhaustive and its accuracy can not be guaranteed.
Filmmaking involves an enormous personal and financial effort. If you agree to have a feature film made on your premises, expect a team of about 35 people. Other shootings require up to 100 people working on the set. Apart from the actual actors, many productions require a varying number of extras. A lot of space is taken up by the camera and lighting equipment in order to make shooting from different angles possible. As far as vehicles are concerned, at least 120 square meters of parking space should be provided, as you must expect catering cars as well as make-up and wardrobe caravans, apart from the other production vehicles and containers or tents. Even parking space for buses must occasionally be taken into account. The production staff prepares a meticulous concept for each shooting, even if it doesn't always seem that way to a bystander. If you want to find out information about the person calling you about a location, visit the website of the Bundesverband Produktion e.V. for a German-language job description of film-related professions such as line producer, producer, associate producer, location manager, production assistant, production coordinator, and production manager. In addition, a production designer or another member of the art department, e.g. a location scout, could also contact you. For the corresponding English-language information go to this page.
Processing Location Requests
If you are contacted by a production company, make sure you ask for the following information:
Name and description of the company, name of a contact person (there might be two different addresses for the company and the production office); information about the film (ask for the working title and perhaps a synopsis, find out if it is a commercials, a TV or big-screen production); information about the shooting (shooting duration in days, set-up and take-down time, perhaps even ask for a script excerpt). If you are assisting the company in finding a location, you should ask for the time and place that the action is set in and have the company send you a brief written location outline. When recommending locations, many things must be taken into account. Apart from the concrete aspects a location must have according to the script, many less obvious factors are important, such as accessibility, size, parking, outdoor space for equipment, potential noise problems, and neighbors with a tolerant attitude towards filmmaking. The MDM Film Commission is happy to assist you when it comes to location requests.
These are some of the words filmmaking professionals use very often when they talk about shooting in a particular place.
- Take= a single continuously recorded performance, shot or version of a scene with a particular camera setup
- Set = the environment (an exterior or interior locale) where the action takes place in a film; when used in contrast to location, it refers to an artificially constructed time/place
- Scene = usually a shot (or series of shots) that together comprise a single dramatic event of film narration, the end of a scene is often indicated by a change in time, action and/or location
- Location = the properties or places (interior or exterior) used for filming away from the studio, often to increase the authenticity and realism of the film's appearance; exteriors are abbreviated as ext., and interiors as int.
If you are in charge of granting a filming permit, prepare a document waiving all potential claims for damages which may, in accordance with applicable liability laws, be made against you by the production company or third parties due to incidents occurring in the course of the shooting, including preparation and wrap-up time.
Films shot in a particular place have positive economic effects apart from the money spent in the region. They also strengthen local providers of film-related services and businesses of other industries. While it is true that production companies spend a lot of money at the location, there are limits and tight policies to each filming budget. Do not ask for a disproportionate amount of money, or you may not only put the project but also your city's reputation in jeopardy. Usually production companies will negotiate fees fairly; they may even be interested in returning for another project. Besides, keep in mind the positive impact of the publicity such a project can create for your location and your town.
Granting the Permit
When it comes to granting film-related permits, a shallow hierarchy, a fast and transparent decision-making process, and, even more importantly, flexibility are most appreciated by the film crew. Please keep in mind that a change of plan must be expected on a daily basis in film productions. Unfavorable weather, actors becoming sick, technology problems and other unexpected adversities can overthrow the predicted sequence of events any time. Expect last-minute requests or revisions by the production company. It is not always recognizable at first glance what a film production's request entails. For example, historic scenes require, apart from the usual sealing off of parking and set-up space for the benefit of production vehicles, entire streets to be cleared if these are going to be part of the back-drop, since modern-day cars would clash with the era that the story takes place in. Road signs will have to disappear, buildings must be hidden, façades patinated, stores concealed or redecorated.
If you represent the institution granting the permit, you can demand a compensation for all expenses and lost revenue caused by the shootings. These include overhead expenses (electricity, heating, cleaning) and personnel expenses (janitor, technicians, guards etc.) Note that requests for your personnel might be made to ensure your own safety. Lost revenue compensation refers to, for instance, the revenue from ticket sales lost due to having to close premises for a certain period as well as any other amount which equals the average daily revenue.
If you own the location, you should make an agreement with the production company containing a detailed definition of the property's usage for shootings. Apart from the rooms used for the shootings per se, you may be asked to make other facilities such as bathrooms or a lounge available. It is advisable to include an agreement regarding the set-up and take-down procedure as well as details on how to restore the location to its original condition. Specify how the property should be handed over to the crew and back to you. The production company is liable only for repairs and renovation work made necessary by the shootings. Photos taken during the preliminary inspection can be used as evidence of the original state of the property. In some cases, both parties renounce the restoration. Keep in mind that your location may have been chosen precisely because your house has a charming patinated façade or an overgrown garden. Thus, prior to filming, please do not change or embellish anything without consulting with the production company first.
More useful information: Association of Location Scouts in Germany
Charges for Utilization
As a location owner, it is at your discretion what to charge for allowing a film crew to use your property. Consider how long and to what degree the crew wishes to utilize the property and to what extent you will be inconvenienced; take into account your location's historical or artistic value. The more the production company has to invest in order to put your location into a useable state the lower your price should be. The production company will probably make you an offer. You can agree on either a daily rate or a flat price. If you are charging extra for set-up and take-down time, this should be a lesser amount in proportion to the time spent filming on the property.
Public and Media Relations
Film productions usually have a meticulously prepared concept for their PR campaigns. If you have plans of your own, check with the production company to avoid a conflict. If you want to inform third parties about the filming activities, you can ask the production company for some written information as soon as it contacts you. Do not inform the press unless you have conferred with the press relations department of the film production beforehand. Ask whether a press conference is planned that you could participate in before the filming begins.
An important part of the preparation phase is locating suitable hotels and apartment buildings which can comfortably accommodate the entire crew. Often the crew will want to set up a production office in or near their accommodation which needs to have several telephone lines and comfortable internet access. If you are asked to make recommendations, an establishment's reliable service should figure prominently in your considerations, as film productions often depend on 24-hour service. Despite this, try to convince the local hotels of the significance of the lowest possible rates for the film crew. In addition, guarded parking and safe storage facilities will be needed. The MDM Film Commission prepares individual address lists for film producers upon request, providing relevant information about the municipality.
When you grant a filming permit, make sure you have an agreement on eventualities involving liability and damages. Legally binding agreements such as those regarding expected services should be made in writing, otherwise it will be difficult to make claims after the fact. If you have incurred damages, notify the other contract party or its representative immediately so that insurance matters can be taken care of promptly. Notify the production company of any claims no later than at the time of the final inspection, which should also be part of the contract. Keep a log on the inspections and enter your claims into it. The longer you hold off on your claims, the more trouble you will have to deal with.
Visiting the Set
Filming involves twelve to fourteen hours of hard work every day. Keeping this in mind, you will understand that the set is usually closed to spectators and anybody else besides the film crew. If stunts are being filmed, entering the location could even be hazardous. If local politicians or other VIPs want to visit the set, try to arrange an appointment together with the production assistant. Note that photography on the set requires express permission.
Proof of Insurance
The production company should be adequately insured for damages and injury on location. If you represent the institution granting the permit, ask for a written declaration by the insurance company referring to this filming project and stating that it agrees to provide the required coverage regarding liability including fire liability and, if necessary, damage to props and costumes.