Location filming at airports: Heathrow
From Die Hard to Love, Actually and from Casablanca to Catch Me If You Can, airports have been much more than just backdrops for film and TV for many years.
Location filming at airports has its own particular set of guidelines and restrictions. KFTV took a look at London’s Heathrow airport, which is, in terms of total passenger traffic, the busiest airport in the UK and the third busiest in the world.
So how do you go about filming at Heathrow? What kind of restrictions and permits apply?
Heathrow’s location manager Rachel Betts provides advice on the whole process, from application through to filming days, giving you plenty of food for thought when using an airport for your shoot.
As rules and regulations can differ from airport to airport, do check with each individual airport before you plan to film there, although the general points to look out for and take into consideration should be very similar.
If the project is small-scale, such as documentaries, corporates, drama-docs and basic commercials, then you give five full working days’ notice.
If you’re shooting a more complicated project, the notice period will be determined on more of a case-by-case basis. For example, this T-Mobile ad which was shot at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 Arrivals would have needed several weeks’ notice period, whereas feature films such as Gambit - which used Terminal 5 Departures - would need several months.
Although the Heathrow team will try to turn things around as quickly as possible, do bear in mind that it is always good to give as much notice as possible, as there may be a number of projects being juggled at any one time.
Remember that the security process is exactly the same as when you go on holiday; so location managers should always remind their crew of this.
Crew and equipment must be screened before going airside and adhere to all the usual restrictions. However, special permits may be obtained to carry certain tools and liquids over 100ml – without permits though, these are still strictly forbidden.
Very importantly, all crew must have passports with them at all times. These regulations come from the UK Department of Transport so they cannot be altered. Rachel advises having a runner on standby at all times for emergency dashes to collect forgotten passports.
It is the repsonsibilty of the production company to clear the rights needed to use another company’s branding, logos or staff. This includes any passing shots of airline check in-desks which can be seen clearly in the background.
The Heathrow team can supply you with the relevant contact details and can send an introductory email to the airline partners.
Fees and insurance
Insuring the entire film unit is the responsibility of the production company. Fees vary depending on the scale of the permit required – there are several types - and whether the permit is needed for landside, airside or both.
For example: a small scale landside permit, with a crew of up to 10 (for example for virals, idents etc) would be £2350 plus VAT for a full (eight hour) day. This would go up to £13,000 plus VAT flat fee for an airside, large scale permit, again for up to eight hours. The latter would be more relevant to productions with a crew of over forty, for example when shooting feature films or large scale commercials.
The effect on Heathrow
Unlike other filming locations which can be cordoned off entirely, Heathrow cannot simply close down large areas. Filming has to fit in around the day-to-day operation of the airport.
To aid production, a recce will highlight those areas which could be used to re-direct the passenger flow – this is open to negotiation depending on the size needed for filming.
Heathrow airport is constantly adapting to meet filmmakers’ needs, providing potential workspace to be used as production offices and offering Rapid Goods Screening, whereby large-scale filming equipment can be quickly screened in a designated warehouse to speed up the boarding process.
Special thanks to Rachel Betts for her expertise and assistance in compiling this guide.