Filming in London
London has been the backdrop for countless iconic movies and TV shows, from James Bond to Harry Potter. One of the most popular filming locations in the world thanks to its iconic landmarks, diverse architecture, vibrant neighbourhoods and rich history, it’s easy to see why London is a popular location for filming.
However, shooting in the capital city can be challenging if you don’t have the right information and resources. In this guide, we’ll share some notes on what might come in helpful when filming in London, from location scouting, working with local crews to permit requirements and practicalities.
Benefits of Filming in London
London is a hub for the film industry and is home to some of the most iconic film studios and production houses in the world. Filming in London offers a range of benefits, including tax breaks, a diverse range of architecture and culture, a film-friendly culture, and access to a vibrant film industry.
Film Friendly Culture
London’s film-friendly culture is a major advantage for those considering the city for their next location. The capital has a long history of supporting the film industry, and the local authorities are well-versed in working with filmmakers to ensure that productions run smoothly.
UK Government Incentives
Another big advantage of filming in London is the tax incentives that are available to filmmakers. The UK government offers a range of tax breaks and incentives to encourage filmmakers to shoot in the country. These include the Film Tax Relief and the High-End Television Tax Relief.
An Existing Film Industry
London’s existing and internationally recognised vibrant film industry is also a major draw for filmmakers. The capital is home to a range of film crews, studios, post-production facilities, and film festivals.
Studios & Stages
Besides the film studios and stages, London also has a range of post-production facilities that can provide support for filmmakers. These include various options in Soho’s post-production district such as Lucky Cat Post or Curious Productions which is just a side step away in Farringdon.
London is also home to a range of film festivals, including the BFI London Film Festival and the Raindance Film Festival. These festivals provide a platform for independent filmmakers to showcase their work and can be a great opportunity for networking and building relationships within the industry.
Smaller Scale Productions
For smaller scale video productions studios such as the Drum Labs or Espero Studio could be considered, and if sound isn’t imperative and filming for more visual based content, Sunset studios in Peckham is a brilliant option as the studio is flooded with natural light and has a really distinctive look. But as they are located right next to the train line, there’s a fair bit of noise pollution. But our recent photography project at Sunset should give you a good idea of what can be achieved in this space.
Lastly on our short list of recommendations is the amazing Paper Mill, especially for food related films. With their incredible kitchen space, it’s hard not to fall in love with the place! Check out one of the films we created in this space below;
The Practicalities & Challenges of Filming in London
While London is a popular filming location, it presents certain challenges that filmmakers should note ahead of time. If you’re considering facilitating a video production in London, there are several practical elements ranging from insurance, having relevant permissions and permits, ensuring you don’t disrupt local communities and challenges such as traffic, congestion and, of course, the weather. Luckily, as mentioned above, the film friendly culture makes many of these easily manageable.
Where you film matters
Under UK common law, technically filming on public streets or highways is generally free and has minimal restrictions, providing you do not obstruct other users’ rights of free passage and respect the local community and general legal requirements. That being said, it is very easy to come unstuck and fall foul of issues you may not have considered. It is likely that you will need permission or, at the very least, to notify of your intention to film. Reasons include:
- Locations that may appear ‘public’ may not in reality be such. Examples include Trafalgar Square, Train & Tube Stations, Housing Estates, Shopping Centres or The Royal Parks.
- Depending on where you shoot from and the camera angle you opt for, you may have to seek permission from specific sources due to copyright issues, especially with certain identifiable buildings.
- The local authority may not manage certain streets, but they could be managed by Transport for London’s Street Traffic Control Centre and subject to restrictions
Luckily, each of London’s 33 separate boroughs has its own Borough Film Service to deal with all local authority managed locations including streets, estates, public or common land, schools, public buildings and more. They can also be a substantial source of information and help with obtaining necessary permissions or permits.
All filming and production for commercial purposes, including that of students, requires Public Liability Insurance. The amount required will vary on the location, size of production and what your filming will entail. Again, The Borough Film Services will advise on this.
Health & Safety
You will be required to adhere to UK Health & Safety Regulations and all that this entails.
General Legal Regulations
Your filming will be required to adhere to many other legal regulations. Luckily, the British Film Commission has a quick guide covering some of the basic legal regulations that may affect your production.
Traffic & Congestion
London is a bustling city with millions of residents and visitors, and this can make transportation and logistics for filming quite challenging. The city’s narrow streets, heavy traffic, and limited parking can make it difficult to move equipment and personnel around efficiently. You can work with experienced location managers and transportation teams to plan the most efficient routes and schedules for equipment and personnel, and to ensure that filming locations are accessible and properly secured. You should also work closely with the local authorities and their Borough Film Service to ensure that you have the permits and permissions to film in specific areas, and to avoid any potential traffic hotspots.
Community & Noise Restrictions
The millions of residents that live in London mean you may face noise restrictions or issues from the local community. After all, the capital city is home to millions of people, and you need to respect this.
No guide would be complete without mentioning the variable and unpredictable nature of the weather in London. The capital city is notorious for its rainy and cloudy weather, which can make outdoor filming challenging to manage. You should prepare and have contingency plans in case of rain or changes in weather, and should have alternative indoor locations lined up in case outdoor shooting is not possible, especially when the conditions are likely to be less favourable. We rely on BBC weather and Google weather for most accurate reports as well as using the sun position app. to give us the best chance of capturing the most flattering natural light.
Film London and the British Film Commission have some amazing resources you should check out, but for on the ground know-how you can’t beat the borough film services and local film partners and crews.
London Filming Locations
London boasts a diverse range of architecture and culture that can provide the perfect backdrop for any production. From historic landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London to modern skyscrapers like The Shard and The Gherkin, London has it all. The city’s diverse neighbourhoods also offer a range of filming locations, from the vibrant colourful street markets of Camden to the elegant streets of Kensington.
Below are some of the most popular spots for filming in the city:
Popular Filming Locations in London
- Buckingham Palace
- The Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- Notting hill
- Trafalgar Square
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- South Bank
- Covent Garden
Other cool filming locations in London
Our street photography takes us all around the more indie and urban parts of London, which you can read more about in our guide to the best street photography locations in London. So whilst the above are all popular, we wanted to give up a few more of our favourite locations to consider when filming in London. These might be great if you’re looking for something a little different.
- Brick Lane
- London Bridge
- London Underground
- Camden Town
- The Barbican
Filming in London presents filmmakers with a wealth of opportunities and support, with a range of iconic locations to choose from. Whether you’re shooting a blockbuster movie or a small-scale corporate or commercial video production, London is a city that offers a real abundance of options.
Whilst there are countless organisations out there offering support for filming in London our advice would be to head over to Film London, a not-for-profit organisation that provides a range of services to filmmakers, including location scouting, production advice, and permit applications. They also work closely with the British Film Commission, who can provide additional support for filmmakers looking to shoot in the UK.