State Film Permits
Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to the most frequently asked questions about applying for state film permits, film monitor costs, insurance, special effects permits, and more!
Who needs a permit?
Anyone engaged in commercial (profit and sale) photography on state property – whether still, motion picture, or digital, for print, TV, theatres, or the Internet – is required to obtain a film permit from the CFC. Student filmmakers are also required to get a permit. If you are taking stills or filming for personal use without “commercial” equipment at a state park or beach, you don’t need a permit. When in doubt call the CFC.
How long does it take to get a state film permit?
All permit applications must be submitted at least four (4) business days prior to the first prep/shoot day. Caltrans ramp and lane closures require a minimum of twelve (12) business days; freeway closures require a minimum of sixteen (16) business days. A permit will be issued the day before the start of your activity at the latest, once all required documents and approvals have been received.
How much does it cost to film on state property?
The California Film Commission charges no fees to process the permit. State Parks and Caltrans charge review fees. If a state film monitor or inspector is required, the production company must pay the actual costs along with any review fees. These fees are determined by the coordinating department (State Parks, Caltrans, etc.).
I have to pay for monitor and/or review fees associated with my film permit. How can I pay?
The CFC accepts checks or money orders in United States dollars. The check is payable to the State of California and the check’s subject line should contain the actual state department (i.e., State Parks, Caltrans, EDD, DMV, etc.) at which you are filming. We cannot accept cash. Only State Parks accepts payment by credit card (Visa, Mastercard, and Discover only – no American Express). Your permit coordinator will email you a credit card authorization form along with your invoice for any park review or monitor fees and instructions for emailing it back to State Parks Billing.
I'm planning to shoot on a California freeway. Do I need California Highway Patrol?
When you request a state film permit for a highway or freeway, you are asked to contact the California Highway Patrol (CHP) a minimum of four (4) business days in advance (weekends and holidays are not considered business days). They will determine, based on your activity, if CHP is needed. The CHP is the liaison for filming on all state roads, freeways, and unincorporated county roads throughout the state.
Officer Ian Ramer
CHP Media Relations Officer
My script calls for pyrotechnics and/or explosions. Do I need a special film permit?
All special effects must be indicated on the state film permit. Any filming activity that will use flammable materials, explosive devices, or open flames is considered a special effect. The State Fire Marshal reviews these requests and may require local fire department staff to be on location to monitor pyrotechnic activity. Production pays for these monitors directly.
Deputy State Fire Marshal
Do I need insurance to film on state property?
Yes. Use the link below to view our insurance requirements.
I'm a student. Do I still need insurance?
Yes, students applying for a state film permit also must have insurance. If a student is currently enrolled in a university or film school, the institution normally provides general liability insurance for students. Students may need to provide their own auto insurance and should contact their school’s film office to learn how to obtain an insurance certificate for filming.
I want to film in a courtroom. Aren't they all state property?
Although state property, the CFC does not issue permits for the court system. Please use the link below for more information.
Is there an easy way to determine what is state property?
The following steps will help in determining what is or isn’t state property:
A. Perform a search using the CFC’s online location resource database CinemaScout.
B. You may phone the CFC’s location resource library at 323.817.4123.
C. You may phone the appropriate CFC permit coordinator:
Caltrans – roads, highways, Caltrans facilities – 323.817.4104
Non-Caltrans Buildings and Facilities – 323.817.4105
Central & Northern CA State Parks and Beaches – 323.817.4105
Southern CA State Parks and Beaches – 323.817.4107
I've wrapped my production. I want a signed release for film rights. How do I obtain it?
The State considers an approved, issued CFC film permit to be your legal approval to use the state locations and images in your project in perpetuity. The CFC film permit, in most instances*, takes the place of a location agreement or signed release.
*California Departments that require both a CFC film permit and a location agreement:
California African American Museum
California Science Center and Exposition Park
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Department of Fish and Game
Department of Mental Health Services
Department of Motor Vehicles
Department of Parks and Recreation – uses the CA Parks form DPR 245A
Department of Transportation (Caltrans) – uses an encroachment permit