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Seattle Filming FAQ

Click on the question below to reveal the answer. For all information related to filming in Seattle, please refer to the Seattle Film Manual.

Can you help me find a filming location?

While the Office of Film + Music an extensive knowledge of the City and its neighborhoods, streets, and parks, we are not location professionals and we do not have a location database on file. If you are looking for location scout or location management assistance, contact one of the region’s location professionals or the State Film Office (Washington Filmworks):

Northwest Production Index (Location Scouts)
Northwest Scouts
Washington Filmworks

Why do I need to obtain a Film Permit?

Film Permits are a critical component of filming on public property, and for staging vehicles or equipment on public property while filming on private property. Film Permits grant you first right for the public location where you are working, as long as you follow the conditions outlined in the final film permit. The permit process also ensures that filmmakers respect the neighborhood they are working in, which in turn prevents location "burnout" and allows filmmakers better access to locations in the future.

Seattle-based Chase Jarvis, Inc. offers this explanation on why Film Permits are essential from a production standpoint on this blog post.

When do I need to obtain a Film Permit?

A number of circumstances may require your production to obtain a Film Permit from the City of Seattle. If your production meets any of the following criteria, you should apply for a Film Permit:

  • Pedestrian activity will be interrupted during filming
  • Vehicle traffic will be interrupted on City streets during filming
  • Public parking will be reserved or impacted
  • A dolly, jib arm, light stand, generator, and/or other equipment will be used on a sidewalk, alley, or street
  • Wires or cables will be run across streets, sidewalks, or pathways
  • You are filming in a City park (see question below for more information)
  • Your footage/photos are for commercial use

How much does a Film Permit cost and how do I pay?

All Seattle Film Permits cost a flat $25 per day regardless of your filming impact. If your entire production budget is less than $10,000, your total Film Permit fee will be $25 for up to 14 consecutive shoot days (additional shoot days after 14 will be invoiced at $25 per day).  Film permit invoices are generally issued after the production wraps, and can be paid by cash, check, or MasterCard/Visa.

In addition to the film permit fee, the production company is required to pay for any additional actual costs that may apply to your activity:

Uniformed Police Officers: Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers are required to assist film productions under several circumstances, determined upon review of your application. SPD officers are hired through our office, with the assistance of the SPD Film Liaison, at a rate of roughly $70 per hour with a four hour minimum hire. The most common instances requiring officer assistance are:

Vehicle Traffic Control: Production personnel are not allowed to control vehicle traffic at any time. Uniformed SPD Officers must be hired by the production company to perform vehicle traffic control.

Weapons Use: Any use of real or replica weapons on public property or in view of the public require the production to hire Uniformed SPD Officers.

Crime Recreations: Scenes that include depictions of violence, criminal activity, crime scene recreation, or actors portraying uniformed officers require the production to hire Uniformed SPD Officers.

City Department Staffing: Depending on the filming location and the filming hours, the production company may be required to hire staff to remain on site with the production. The most common scenarios are work in City owned buildings or in City parks after hours.

Reserving Metered Street Parking Spaces: Production companies are required to pay $15 per metered parking space per day when reserving metered street parking spaces during meter pay hours (see the FAQ below regarding reserving street parking).

How long does it take to obtain a Film Permit?

Please allow a minimum of 3 business days processing for low impact work, and a minimum of 5 business days processing for higher impact work. Some sensitive locations or unusual requests may require longer turnaround times. Do not put the film permit application at the bottom of your to-do list. If it turns out your requested public location is unavailable, or if you submit your application too late, the entire production will suffer.

Do I need a Film Permit when I am filming on private property?

You do not need a film permit to film on private property unless you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You need to reserve street parking spaces for working production vehicles
  • You will be staging a generator or other equipment on public property, and/or will be running cables across sidewalks
  • You need to work outside of regular business hours (7am-10pm on weekdays, 9am-10pm on weekends)
  • You are performing stunts or using prop weapons within view of the public or adjacent properties
  • You are depicting a crime within view of the public or adjacent properties
  • Your work on private property will have an impact to the surrounding neighborhood

If you are still not sure if you need a film permit, call the Office of Film + Music.

When do I need to notify neighbors or get neighborhood approval for filming?

Advance neighbor notification is always required, whether you are filming a walk and talk on the sidewalk or you are closing a street for a car stunt. The impact level of your filming activity will dictate your level of communication:

Zero Impact Filming (Walk and Talk / Interviews): Always let businesses or residents know what you are doing in advance. If you are not interrupting any access or existing activity, letting them know what you are doing once you arrive is fine.

Medium Impact Filming (Reserving Street Parking / Pedestrian Control): Written notification to affected neighbors 72 hours in advance is required. You can use the notification form in the Seattle Film Manual or create a similar form on your own. Contact the Office of Film + Music for a determination of your notification area.

High Impact Filming (Street Closures / Off-hours Work / Stunts / Resident or Business Interruption): Neighbor sign-offs are required from affected neighbors 72 hours in advance. Please contact the Office of Film + Music in advance to discuss how this work must be done.

When is my production required to provide the City with proof of insurance?

Commercial liability insurance is required obtain a Film Permit, unless ALL of the following criteria are met:

  • Total production budget less than $10,000
  • Five or less total cast and crew during filming
  • Outdoor production only
  • Traffic control not required
  • Pedestrian traffic on sidewalks not cordoned off
  • Public parking will not be reserved or impacted
  • One camera (hand-held or on a tripod)
  • No electrical generation, wires or cables run or light set-up
  • No dolly, jib arm, or crane use
  • No stunts, special effects, or other impactful work

Please see the Seattle Film Manual for specifics on insurance coverage requirements.

Do I really need to pay a $1,000 security deposit?

Depending on the impact and location of your activity, your production may be required to pay a $500 or $1,000 refundable security deposit. The deposit is normally required for larger productions that are reserving considerable street parking, or are hiring several SPD officers or City staff, or are performing stunt work, or are blowing things up, or have the physical potential to damage the public filming location. The deposit requirement is determined upon review of your application, and is normally waived for most low impact productions.

When do I need a permit to film or take photos in a City park?

Film Permits are required in City parks for filming or photography intended for more than personal use including commercial content, editorial content, student films, short films, and feature films. Film Permits are also required for personal projects that will have an impact to existing activity at the park.

Wedding photos, graduation photos, and family portraits are permitted directly by the Parks Department Event Scheduling Office, which can be found here.

I want to film in a traffic lane, how do I obtain a permit for that?

Permission to film in a traffic lane is granted with the Seattle Film Permit. Because production personnel and civilians are prohibited from controlling vehicle traffic in an active street, traffic control must be performed by uniformed Seattle police officers hired by the production company (see “How much does a film permit cost” above). A detailed schematic of your proposed lane or street closure and filming set-up is required along with your permit application. A minimum of 5 business days is required to process a request for a street closure.

Can I reserve street parking for my director/lead actor/executive producer/client?

No. Street parking spaces can only be reserved for working production vehicles.

How do I reserve street parking spaces for my production vehicles?

Street parking can only be reserved for working production vehicles (i.e., grip & electric, props, wardrobe, camera) or other equipment trucks.

In your Location Form, describe in detail the parking spaces you wish to reserve and show the exact spaces you wish to reserve in your accompanying map. If available, please also provide the meter numbers for any metered parking spaces you wish to reserve.

There is a $15 per meter per day fee when reserving metered street parking spaces 7am-6pm Monday through Saturday. There are no additional City fees for reserving non-metered street parking spaces, or for reserving metered street parking spaces after hours or on Sundays or holidays.

No-parking barricades are not provided by the City. The production company is responsible for renting, setting up, and "verifying" no-parking barricades. By City Ordinance, no-parking barricades must be in place 72 hours prior to your arrival, and must be "verified" 24-48 hours prior to your arrival. Barricades are "verified" via the online portal here once the film permit application has been processed.

What is a “roving” permit and how do I apply for one?

"Roving" Film Permits can be granted to productions filming b-roll, zero impact sidewalk scenes, and documentary-style footage at various public exterior locations throughout Seattle. Productions that qualify for the roving permit must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Five or less total cast and crew on-site at any one time
  • One camera on-site
  • Outdoor production only
  • No traffic control required
  • No interruption to pedestrian activity
  • No electrical generation, wires, cables run, or lights set-up
  • Public parking will not be impacted
  • Not filming in City Park

Roving permits do not cover City parks: Your production must submit a separate location site plan form describing the date and time you plan to be at each specific park.

Can I film in Seattle using a drone or mini-helicopter?

Unfortunately, drones are not currently allowed to fly in Seattle as part of film shoots unless the operator/company has been granted a Section 333 exemption by the FAA (also recent media explaining here). The City cannot consider any film permit applications involving drones, mini-helicopters, or other UAS (unmanned aircraft) without first seeing proof that the operator meets the federal requirements.