Shooting in Abandoned Buildings

NegaMattNegaMatt Website User Posts: 11
I have a script I want to make, its about 2minutes long and it requires a abandoned building, lucky for me there is a abandoned walmart/ shopping center near me.  The garden both indoor and outdoor part is open, as in there is no door and all thats there is tarps blocking it.  I want to film there really gorilla style, quick in and out.
I went there to take test footage and the cops who were driving around saw me, I waved, and they did nothing.  I was carrying my camera with a light to test things and made sure they noticed the 6ft5 giant carrying a camera.
So here is my question to you, should I risk it and go for it, Get permission from the cops, or what?
Attached are some pics of the location I took10631080_10203160921642378_770713501127110446188_10203160919082314_538718224149710628916_10203160918322295_4790831242063


  • dancerchrisdancerchris Website User Posts: 76 Just Starting Out
    You are technically trespassing on private property.  It's not the cops you need to get permission from but the owner.  Someone is liable if you hurt yourself on the property.  The cops may be ignoring you now, but if you end up in the hospital there will be a different story.
  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,254 Ambassador
    What dancerchris said: technically, you need permission from the owner. Since the store is abandoned, that would be the property manager.

    What Tooshka said: as long as it's not a fight scene/gun battle where you run the risk of scaring passers-by, chances are, even if cops shut you down, they'll just tell you to leave. That said, you are legally open to trespassing charges. But, if you're not shooting anything dangerous, scary or destructive, chances are the paperwork isn't worth it and you would be let off with a warning.
  • KeeganKeegan Website User Posts: 294 Just Starting Out
    I shot a scene in an abandoned house this past Spring and stepped on a nail lodged in a board. It impaled my foot and I couldn't walk(or work!) for two weeks!!!! Worse yet, I LOST the SD card with the footage from that day. 
    Moral of the story: Quadruple check the location for safety before you shoot and make sure you have a First Aid kit handy.
  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,254 Ambassador
    It would all have been worth it if you hadn't lost the card. :(
  • SimonKJonesSimonKJones Moderator Website User, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 4,450 Enthusiast
    Yeah, Keegs raised the other point, besides the permissions issues: safety. Abandoned buildings CAN be extremely dangerous. In the case of this mall it probably isn't, looking at the photos, but you MUST consider that aspect carefully, especially if you have any other cast/crew on set.
    The permission issues are a separate thing. Personally I'd always try to get permission for shooting, but that's partly because the stuff I shoot tends to be action-based with people running around with prop weapons etc.
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    edited September 2014
    Definitely see if you can contact the owner/get permission.  Some states have very funny trespassing laws that may be worth looking into.  In my home state of California, Trespassing is as simple as coming onto someone else's property without permission.  In my new state of South Carolina there is a little more to it which would require signs being posted on all corners of the property, you hunting on the property, or being asked to leave.
    So its worth looking into trespassing laws in your state and for city or county ordinances if you do decide to be a gorilla filmmaker.
    If its a gun fight scene... look at your state's laws and city ordinances regarding guns.  Some places afford a very wide rights to carry firearms in public without it drawing attention.  Also, you could always talk to the cops to let them know before hand what you are planning on doing.  Its a great way to avoid cops showing up with real guns.
  • dancerchrisdancerchris Website User Posts: 76 Just Starting Out
    A problem with a "do it on the sly" operation is that it is hard to pre-notify the police as they will undoubtedly ask if you have owner's permission.  If you don't notify them you run the of them thinking "crime in progress" - especially if your scene involves a portrayal of criminal activity.  You really don't want them drawing their weapons on you.
    Just a thought.
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    @dancerchris well I wasn't saying do it on the sly and notify them.  Everyone thinks cops are super detectives who are gonna ask all the follow ups.  If you are letting them or dispatch know in advance what's going on, they aren't going to grill you.  Some cities are more strict on permits and permission than others.  I did say look up the laws where NegaMatt is.  That way you know if its Trespassing by his state's statues or not.  Most places outside of Hollywood are pretty accommodating to filmmakers as long as they know in advance.
  • KirstieTKirstieT Staff Administrator, Moderator, Website User Posts: 1,056 Staff
    MichaelJames raises some good points about different laws in different places. 
    Definitely check your own trespassing laws - in the UK I'd be seeking permission because trespassing rules are pretty strictly set out (and I'm a bit of a goody-two shoes when it comes to stuff like that). 
    But essentially it comes down to how bad you want it? Seeing as you've gone to the lengths of going in and taking preliminary shots, I doubt stories of nail impaling are going to put you off ;)
    The one thing I would definitely stress though is if you are going to be running around with fake guns or other potential weapons - you must contact the police to let them know. Just in case. You don't want to be found with what looks like an artillery. It's not worth the hassle. 
    If you're doing that, it's also possible they'll ask you if you have the permission of the owner, but whether or not you skip around that is your choice :)
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    I work as one of the people who would be showing up in my city for one of these calls ;)... he hasn't said if he is using weapons but either way its usually not a big deal to film. 
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