Permission vs Forgiveness

For a good solid 6 months or so, every week Sammie and I would turn our house into a film set whilst our Landlady was out at work. She’d leave at 7:30am and return at 5:30pm. During the time in between we filmed numerous short films, scenes and shots throughout the house and had it all cleared away by the time she walked through the door in the evening.

Naturally she had no idea and we don’t know if she’d have flipped out about it if she’d known that we had organized ninja fights in her hallway, shootouts in her kitchen and digitally exploded the whole house front. Our room was filled with guns, green screens, cranes and costumes and she was none the wiser.

Ordinarily I’d make sure correct permission was sought before engaging in a film shoot, but as tenants we knew we had some right to do it so long as it didn’t piss our landlady off too much. To remove the risk of her getting so pissed off that she forbade us to do it, we just made sure she never knew.

And that’s half the trick. Even if we were still hurriedly gathering the evidence away at 5:25pm there was not a speck to be seen when she arrived home. We never really asked what the rules were about visitors, but there was no issue with that so long as our sizable film crew were gone by the time she got back.

There’s a saying, and from what I understand it’s one that filmmakers take quite to heart: “It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.”

I’m not sure it’s really an appropriate mantra to live your life by, but when it comes to shooting films it applies quite well.

That said, it does often pay to check who owns the property you’re about to shoot on and just make sure it’s OK with them for you to use it, even if you don’t quite explain to them the full details of what you’re going to do.

There’s no finite rule, it has to be judged on a case by case basis. There’s always the chance that if you ask, you’ll be told no. But equally, checking before you just go on out there with your film crew does avoid awkward run-ins with the police.

We didn’t bother asking our landlady because we wanted to avoid the argument where she wouldn’t be happy about it, but we’d tell her to jog on because as rent-paying tenants we had a right to use the house for our needs. If we had no right whatsoever to shoot there, we would obviously have asked first. Probably.

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