I met with a Staff Officer and the Public and Administrative Affairs Officer from the Ottawa National Forest on March 10th. They were very helpful and gave me a lot of good information. One thing they informed me of is that I need a permit to do any filming on Forest Service land. I said I would fill out the proper paperwork and do whatever I need to make this film legally. And seeing as I’m blogging online for everyone to see, about everything I do during this film, I should probably be legit.
As I drove home (as it usually takes me awhile to digest information) I wondered if it is public land and it’s just me and a couple people out filming and I have the permission of the leaseholders to film inside and outside their camp, do I need a permit? I realize I should have thought about this sooner as I’m sure it’s something I learned in college in one of my film classes. I didn’t think about it since I would be filming with at most a 3 person crew, in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the U.P. What I pretty much consider my back yard. Who else would even know I was out there? If I needed to block off any portions of the woods so others cannot access for periods of time and bring in a lot of equipment, getting a permit is something I would have thought to do. This isn’t going to be a large scale Hollywood blockbuster with sets, actors, 100 person crews, heavy equipment, cranes, etc., etc. These woods and rivers would make for a beautiful setting for a film though…
So, do I need a permit? I went online to look for information about permits for filming on National Forest Service land and who needs one. I found this on some of the Forest Service websites:
COMMERCIAL FILMING: Use of motion picture, videotaping, sound-recording, or any other type of moving image or audio recording equipment on National Forest System lands that involves the advertisement of a product or service, the creation of a product for sale, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props, but not including activities associated with broadcasting breaking news. For purposes of this definition, creation of a product for sale includes a film, videotape,
television broadcast, or documentary of historic events, wildlife, natural events, features, subjects, or participants in a sporting or recreation event, and so forth, when created for the purpose of generating income.
Permits are not required for filming activities such as: News and gathering of news related stories and other types of documentaries not requiring the use of actors, models, sets, or props.
I wouldn’t consider my project “commercial filming.” I am not doing this film with any intention of making money off of it. The purpose is to get these stories told and find a way to keep these camps. I intend to send it to lawmakers and get it screened in film festivals in Michigan and the Midwest. If some distribution company wants to buy it and put it on DVD for millions to see, great more viewers! If not, no big deal. I am not making this film to get rich (or even make a dollar). I love storytelling and filmmaking and this subject is something I’m passionate about.
After a couple emails back and forth the Ottawa National Forest office sent me a Photography and Filming Request application to fill out to determine whether or not I need a permit to film my documentary. A lot of it was difficult to fill out as there is no company attached to this film (it’s just me!) and I don’t have a shooting schedule yet. Mother Nature will dictate that. Please don’t let it be a rainy spring!
If it is decided that I need a permit we will have to figure out if I need a permit for each day I plan to shoot or for the year. Then I need to insure the project and the United States and the Forest Service as additional insured. And there might be a fee(s) for this permit. Other National Forests out west charge fees of $150-$300 per day! Reminder this isn’t Hollywood filming a documentary here!!
My permit application says it can take 10 days to 3 weeks to obtain a permit. Let’s hope they decide my project falls under “other types of documentaries not requiring the use of actors, models, sets, or props” and determine I don’t need one!