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London Film Locations - Pass the High Vis

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

London, you sexy beast.

30 million people visit this city yearly. Where else can you wave at the Queen’s house, sit in Churchill’s war bunker with a cup of tea (stiff upper lip or stiffer drink, optional) then indulge in some world-class street food at Borough market whilst looking across the Thames to the Tower of London?

All within an hour of each other. Crazy.

London locations – a love affair shared by many Directors alike. Even Stanley Kubrick had to seek filming permission…


Shooting in London is very rewarding but don’t under-estimate the logistics, security issues, unit vehicles, crew/talent support, council permissions and then there’s the cost.

But do not fear… Kraken Films has asked the founder/owner of Locality Ltd, Emma Plimmer, for some top tips and helpful links when looking to film in London. Emma is one of Kraken’s favorites!

Emma has been involved in the film industry for 25 years, notches in her cap include camera assistant, production management, Film Officer and location management. Emma and her team have worked on Mission Impossible, Star Wars, James Bond, Paddington Bear, Killing Eve and many more so Emma really knows her field!

Q1: What is the most popular London location you have managed for clients over the years? Quirky unusual spaces are in great demand such as an underground theatre and pump stations but the appeal of London is really the diversity of architectural styles. You can film a French street, a New York loft and an apocalyptic scene within a stone’s throw of each other.

Q2: What is the average length of time required to obtain permission to shoot in central London? It really depends on what you are filming and where. Different boroughs/areas in London have different lead times to arrange parking and traffic management. That’s why you need a good location manager to guide you in the right direction as well as your Producer and core team.

My team at Locality will always try to facilitate your job even if its last minute.

Commercials - 4 to 7 days apx

TV drama - 3 weeks apx

Features - 6+ weeks apx

Q3: Can clients shoot famous London landmarks for their film?

Buildings in the public eye usually are not subject to copyright, so you are unlikely to need the owner’s permission to feature their building in your backdrop. However, some notable institutions trademark their imagery which can include an iconic building. It's best to check with the relevant owner.

Don’t forget that even if you are on a public highway, in a park or on the pavement you will still need permission from the landowner or local council to be there. For example, to film in Trafalgar Square you need permission from the Mayor of London.

Q4: Can you shoot with a drone in London?

Flying a drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in London is not impossible but it's tricky.

You need to get permission from:

  • Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and it is illegal to fly without registering and passing a theory test.

  • The owner or manager of the land used for take-off and landing. A full closure of the road or area to be used will usually need to be in place before the drone can be used.

  • Control over the area you intend to use the drone within. Drones should not be flown over people, vessels or vehicles that are not in control of the production. 

  • You need to ensure that the land below the flight-path is either clear of people and vehicles by the requisite distances, or that access to the area is restricted and any people and vehicles are under control of the operator.

For more information go to CAA or we can put you in touch with specialist operators.

Q5: Can you hire a tube platform to shoot in?

TFL (Transport for London) manages all permissions to shoot on the tube, overground, buses and some roads. You need at least two weeks' notice to organize even the simplest shoot and longer for more complex requirements. You will encounter restrictions on timings and access but Locality does have a good relationship with TFL and can get you onto empty tube stations that aren’t so limited.

Please contact Jo at Kraken Films for full production advice and help when looking to shoot in London. Kraken works hand in hand with key peers & members of the London film industry to help shape your production to your requirements.

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