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Filming in Courts

Frequently Asked Questions

Who do I contact if I want to film in a court ?
Isn't it against the law to film in courts ?
When are courts available to shoot in ?
Are there any Restrictions ?
Do you have any decommissioned courts I could film in during the week ?
What's your ratecard ?
Do you charge extra for things like changing/makeup rooms, holding areas for extras and parking ?
Can I film in the cells area ?
Can I move furniture in the court and bring in props ?
What props can you supply ?
I want to use some special effects. Would that be a problem ?
Can I park unit vehicles at the court ?
Do I need insurance ?
Can we recreate a recent case ?
Can you organise visits to courts?
Can you advise us on the procedures in different types of court and what would it cost us ?
What if we have a question on the day. Who do we ask ?
Can we film in judges chambers at a court ?
Is there any sort of thing we can't film in a court ?

Who do I contact if I want to film in a court ?

The HMCS Film Unit is in

4th Floor (4.05)
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

Telephone: 020 3334 4044 or by Email

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Isn't it against the law to film in courts ?

Yes. But only when those films identify people involved in current court cases. Since commercial filming takes place outside court sitting hours when the courts are empty it's quite legal to use them as locations.

When are courts available to shoot in ?

Generally at weekends and on Bank Holidays but some are also available for a few hours each evening after 1700. Weekdays generally only after 1700 and before midnight. Short pieces to camera (5 mins or less) from an empty courtroom are the exception because they can be done in the lunch recess.

Restrictions

Because almost all locations are working courts, filming is usually done at weekends or on weekday evenings but we do have a few empty courts that are available any time.

Do you have any decommissioned courts I could film in during the week ?

Yes. There's Epsom Magistrates Court in Surrey (can also be doubled as a Crown Court) and Rougement in Exeter, a Georgian castle with Crown, county and family courtrooms. Occasionally we have other courts empty for a few months before we dispose of them and we can use these as locations. Contact us about any recent examples.

What's your ratecard ?

We have a fairly flexible approach to pricing to reflect the very different types of filming. We don't expect someone making a low budget student short with a crew of 2 to pay the same rate as a Hollywood blockbuster with a crew of 45. Our daily rate is £3,300 for a feature film and from £1,500 for a TV drama.There's a premium if you're filming on Bank Holiday to cover increased overtime rates for any court staff present at the shoot.

Do you charge extra for things like changing/makeup rooms, holding areas for extras and parking ?

No. The location fee covers any reasonable use of the court building on the day so things like that come as part of the package.

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Can I film in the cells area ?

Only in decommissioned courts. There are security reasons for restricting filming in other courts. However we do have empty courts where you can film in the cells areas (Epsom and Exeter). We also have some contacts in HM Prison Service who can help.

Can I move furniture in the court and bring in props ?

Of course. Anything moveable can be shifted as long as it doesn't get damaged and it goes back in the same place afterwards. Props are no problem either as long as they're not going to damage the fittings or fixtures.

What props can you supply ?

All sorts really. We can mock up court files for you using the real folders used in cases, provide real exhibit stickers and also provide all sorts of legal books for your shoot. And we can usually source things like evidence bags as well. Just tell us what you need. Once again, no charge.

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I want to use some special effects. Would that be a problem ?

Probably. These are working courtrooms, not purpose built sets. Many of them have oil paintings, tapestries and fragile fittings like Victorian chandeliers and antique furniture so we're not keen on anything that might damage them. Any sort of pyrotechnics would set off the smoke alarms so we don't allow those. Check with us if your script calls for anything unusual.

Can I park unit vehicles at the court ?

If the court has a car park, yes of course. But not all courts do so you may have to make other arrangements eg a local council 'pay and display'. Inner London Sessions House can easily park 30 plus large vehicles and Rougemont around 80.

Do I need insurance ?

Definitely. We'll ask to see a copy of a policy covering you for up to £10 million before we draw up a contract.

Can we recreate a recent case ?

No. Recent cases could be going through an appeal and we can't be part of anything that might affect that. Older cases don't have the same problem though. Every case is different so don't hesitate to ask us for guidance.

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Can you organise visits to courts?

Yes, and often at extremely short notice e.g. 2 hours. Technical reconnaissance with 15 people or more usually takes longer to organise though. These usually take place before 0930 or after 1700 on weekdays and we don't make any charge for them. Someone from the Film Unit will usually attend to answer any questions and pass on requests to the court manager.

Can you advise us on the procedures in different types of court and what would it cost us ?

Yes. Since our business is running over 700 courts in England and Wales we can always help and advise you. If we don't have an answer straight away we can always ask a judge, barrister or one of our court clerks for guidance. And the advice comes free, even if you decide not to use one of our locations.

What if we have a question on the day. Who do we ask ?

No problem. We'll usually have one of our Film Unit staff or a court clerk from that court on hand to sort thing out and answer questions. Again, no charge.

Can we film in judges chambers at a court ?

Not really. Since these are the private offices of judges they're out of bounds for filming. However we always have offices at courts that can be dressed as judges chambers with rows of leather bound books, wig stands etc.

Is there any sort of thing we can't film in a court ?

Anything we think might damage the court structure of fittings, scenes involving nudity or anything of an explicit erotic nature, animals, pyrotechnics or anything that might bring HMCS or the judiciary into disrepute. And no showing any security devices or alarm systems (for obvious reasons). Otherwise we're fairly relaxed about most things.

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