Permits are important and always necessary. Whether it’s a group of students filming with handhelds in the local park, or the next big blockbuster closing your cities main streets; permission must be granted, T&Cs must be agreed and all relevant parties MUST know what’s going on.

The process of granting permission to film starts a long time before you issue the actual permit. As a local authority film officer, you will be acutely aware of the twists and turns an application can take. The endless list of ever changing contacts that must be informed of every action. The concerns of your data officers around document storage and generation. The difficulties of sharing such information confidentially and securely across multiple different departments as well as collecting and collating feedback from each one as you go. Even a medium sized film can require contact with the police, fire department, highways team, local residents associations and even external bodies such as transport authorities.

In the past, this process could be long and arduous, perhaps costing you that filming, or worst, large scale filming being interrupted or closed down due to miscommunication at an earlier stage. A council could find themselves in a legal dispute that can drag on for years … one that’s costly and difficult to win with limited resources. Whilst implementing software won’t rid you entirely of these issues, having a good quality online permitting system will significantly reduce the chance of them occurring.

The way good quality software achieves this is by reducing admin time prior to permit generation, greatly limiting miscommunication and allowing for every part of the process to be tracked, and therefore audited at a later date. It reduces debt, by making payments easier and systems should be available for payment prior to filming, rather than weeks afterwards.

Film permitting software should come with an online application for filmmakers, automated alerts for film officers and the ability to automatically generate application summaries that can be shared across multiple council departments and beyond. Online applications with automation options for repeated information will please your applicants and encourage them to use you again. Endless, different (and sometimes conflicting) PDF forms for multiple departments will have the opposite effect….

Once you have the information you need from your applicants, being able to distribute this quickly to the right departments is key. Use a piece of software that allows you to store and group key contacts, send information to these people with minimal effort and track their responses. A good system will have a built-in messaging function where all communication with each department is stored in the same place. It should be easily accessible at a later date. In fact, every little thing that you do with an application should be timed and dated and tracked, so that any legal issues, FOI requests or auditing can be done with ease, even years later….

Using a system that allows for invoice generation, online payments  and finance reporting is important. If a filming company has an invoice with a simple link where they can pay instantly by credit card, they are far more likely to pay instantaneously.  Certainly quicker than an invoice that comes six weeks later, potentially relating to a freelance location manager that doesn’t even work for them anymore.

Finally, you don’t want to be creating your own permit every time you grant one. You should look for a system where information is automatically added to a permit, along with your branding and any additional notes. This should be easily issued at the touch of a button.

Streamlined processes attract bigger budget filming, they encourage repeat business and they reassure other council departments who you want to be on your side. Whilst locations are the big pull for filmmakers, they will go elsewhere if your process is not appetising. In the modern world, you need to compete technically as well as visually… high quality film permitting software is the cherry, your awesome locations are the cake.