Filmmaking in America’s Finest City: Spotlight on San Diego
San Diego — home to idyllic beaches, a bustling urban center, and one of the most temperate climates in the United States — is also a city highly sought out by filmmakers and producers all over the world.
A frequent location for shooting commercials, feature-length films, and television programs, the city of San Diego has strict guidelines that producers and other industry professionals must follow to film within city limits.
To ensure compliance with the city’s requirements, especially for productions that involve a number of locations for shoots and may need to take place within a short time period, it is recommended that industry professionals seek legal assistance. An entertainment lawyer San Diego trusts can guide filmmakers, producers, and others on the steps they need to take to make their dreams a reality.
Public Safety Review Requirements
If a film production meets certain criteria that may involve the San Diego Police Department or San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, the production team must secure review from the appropriate public safety agencies. Some of the aspects of a production plan that may trigger the necessity for a public safety review include:
The need for traffic control or equipment, such as street or lane closures, “no parking” signs, or equipment that must be stored in public spaces
Pyrotechnics, open flames, special effects, or another activity that requires a permit under the California Fire Code
Weapons or gunfire, including shotguns, knives, tasers, swords, and explosive devices
Scenes within public view that a reasonable person would think constitutes a crime or would encourage them to contact local law enforcement for an immediate response, such as scenes involving abduction, car or foot chases, assaults, or robbery
Potential risks to public safety
If a film in which you are involved incorporates any of the elements listed above, an entertainment attorney San Diego trusts — like the experienced team at The Hollywood Lawyer — can provide guidance on how to seek the appropriate approvals.
Good Neighbor Guidelines for Filmmakers
Depending on how long a production will affect residential and business communities’ use of public property, San Diego has different guidelines for filmmakers to follow. These are designed to mitigate the impact on the public and protect their safety.
A film production crew must notify all residents and businesses within a 300-foot radius of the anticipated filming site in all scenarios. When the production will affect the location for less than four hours, the filmmaker may distribute the notice either via email, as a flyer, or in person. If the production will affect a location for four hours or longer, 80 percent of the businesses and residents within the 300-foot radius must demonstrate their support for the filming to take place. To determine support, the production team should distribute a survey in person and seek signatures from affected residents and business owners or managers.
If any community conflicts arise, the filmmaker is responsible for sorting them out before production begins. In the event that legal escalation is necessary, an entertainment lawyer San Diego trusts can provide guidance on how to manage the situation.
Filming Registration Form Requirements
Additionally, there are circumstances that would necessitate a filmmaker to file a filming registration form with the San Diego Film Office before production can begin on site. This can be the case for filming on both private and public property.
The city of San Diego advises that any required forms are filed as far in advance of when production is anticipated as possible to prevent any issues. In any event, if a production does not contain components that require public safety review, the filming registration form must be filed at least three business days before filming is expected to start. If the production does contain these components, it must be filed at least five business days in advance.
A filmmaker must complete a filming registration form when shooting on private property if the production requires a public safety review, as described above. Otherwise, filming that occurs exclusively on private property in San Diego does not require the production team to file.
When film production will occur at a San Diego city park, beach, or recreation center, the filmmaker must submit paperwork to the Park & Recreation Department’s Developed Regional Parks Permit Center. Likewise, any filming to take place on a public street or at another public facility must be registered with the Special Events & Filming Department.
Any production that requires a filming registration form will also require a certificate of insurance that names the city of San Diego, its employees, its officers, and its agents. The minimum required coverage is $1 million for each occurrence and $2 million aggregate, but San Diego may require additional insurance coverage on top of the minimums if the production will involve certain activities or equipment.
Incentives for Filmmakers in San Diego
Another reason why San Diego has become so popular with television and film producers is that the city incentivizes filming there. For example, the city of San Diego does not require any location fees to shoot at city parks, piers, beaches, or other public property. Additionally, the Special Events & Filming Department offers services to production crews for helping them seek authorizations and coordinate with all the required agencies to get approval.
There are also tax incentives provided by the state of California through the California Film Commission’s Film & TV Tax Credit Program 3.0. This program, which is in effect through June 30, 2025, provides up to 25% in tax credit to television and film productions shot in San Diego if they meet certain requirements.
How The Hollywood Lawyer Can Help
The seasoned attorneys at The Hollywood Lawyer, the entertainment and music lawyer San Diego trusts, have broad experience helping filmmakers and other industry professionals in California with the legal issues that matter most to their business. Using our thorough knowledge of contract negotiation, entertainment law, and the art of the deal, we ensure our clients’ interests are best represented in every agreement they enter.