United States of America Film & Photography Production Services & Camera Crews
Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in the United States? Contact us for trusted fixers, producers, directors, DoPs, videographers, photographers, and full shooting crews tailored for the specific needs of your project.
Filming in the United States
For an introduction to shooting in the United States see below notes on film locations, permits, when to shoot, unique local stories, costs, tax incentives, crews, talent, fringes, premiums, equipment, communications, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits for filming, transport, film-friendly accommodation, and safety advice.
United States Film Locations
The United States offers a world of unique and international location looks of many epochs. Every state has something to offer ranging from Hollywood studios to Mid-Western towns, modern city skylines, coastal or mountain villages, famous landmarks and architecture, unique neighborhoods, mansions, sporting arenas, museums, amusement parks, national parks, salt plains, deserts, surf beaches, snowy mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, waterfalls, farms and ranches, stunning car roads and much more.
Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta are the main production centers but all states have some degree of locally based production service support.
Beyond the 50 states, the United states also has 16 territories, five of which are inhabited: Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Marianas, United States Virgin Islands and American Samoa. The 10 uninhabited territories are Palmyra Atoll, Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Wake Island, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, and Serranilla Bank.
United States Film Location Permits
Most locations are possible given enough money, lead up time and insurance coverage. Permitting in the United States is well organized and generally very film friendly. Several different film permits may be required. Each local area has its own permitting rules.
Filming architecture is not copyrighted in the US so filming is not subject to the same artists rights issues as architecture in Europe.
Drone filming is not allowed above national parks, military bases, within 5 miles of major airports, and within 3 miles of big stadiums during major sporting events. See here for an interactive map.
Please contact us for location specific information.
When To Shoot?
Los Angeles is noteworthy for its year-round sunny and dry weather conditions. Other than that, the US climate varies considerably depending on the region and time of year. The western states regularly experience a fifth-season in the late summer months of hazy skies brought on by wildfire smoke.
Hundreds of festivals and events take place throughout the United States every year. National events of interest include Super Bowl Sunday (February), St Patrick’s Day (March), Memorial Day (May), Independence Day (July), Halloween (October), Thanksgiving (November), Christmas and New Year’s Eve (December).
Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in the United States.
Unique Local Stories
Brands are looking for local stories that match their brand narrative. Our local teams are a great lead for sourcing those unique stories and characters.
If you are looking for stories for your next shoot, send us your brief and we will pitch you ideas.
If you have a unique story you would like to pitch to a brand anywhere in the world, pitch us your idea. We have well-established processes to ensure that your ideas are properly seen and protected.
Costs & Tax Incentives
Costs. Cost competitiveness depends entirely on the specifics of the project. If you are looking for high quality specialized work then filming in the United States can be a competitive option. On the other hand the United States does not generally attract low budget foreign productions. Urban centers are expensive with cities like New York charging around $400 per night for a standard 5 star hotel room. Professional crews and suppliers charge professional western rates. Remote locations require additional travel costs. Most commercial productions would only travel to the United States if the project required a specific location or celebrity access. There are of course ways to shoot smaller more guerilla styled jobs. As long as the shoot does not assert exclusive use of public property filming in the United States can be cost competitive, even compared to much less developed countries. In any case, our locally based service producers and fixers will negotiate local deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget.
Tax Incentives. There is no federal film incentive. There are many different state based tax incentives for foreign commercials and feature films shooting throughout the US.
Crews. Contact us if you are looking for a director, DP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, or any other film crew for your shoot in the United States.
The United States has a deep, world-class pool of directors, directors of photography and stills photographers. Likewise, the United States offers some of the best crews in the world and an abundance of them.
Both union and non-union options exist. Although the word “Union” is often read by foreign producers as “Unnecessarily Expensive and Restrictive” it’s important to understand the facts. In the United States, one of the main reason people join the Union is for Health Insurance. Because there is no national health insurance, people get it from their employers and since most crew are freelance, the Union provides their Health Insurance. So, the more experienced a crew member becomes the more likely they will seek Union membership. It is possible to work Non-Union but those crew are generally much less experienced. Occasionally you can get Union people to work Non-Union, but when they do they still want to be paid under the same rules and roughly the same money. All you’re saving by having a Union crew work non-Union is the roughly 5% you have to pay for their insurance benefit. Another disadvantage is a crew member may take a Union job even if you have already booked them for your non-Union job. The way the health benefits work is they are based on the amount of hours a crew member works so they are always looking for “Union hours”.
Fringes. The P&W (pension and wages) is the payroll tax that the employer has to pay on top of the crew salaries. The percentages are different depending on what they make and whether they’re union or non-union.
Both the employee and the employer have to pay:
Crew fringes, workers compensation, payroll tax, etc. averages to be between 22-30% for a blended rate of all crews and production staff. SAG Talent is closer to 36%. All crew payments are processed through a payroll service.
NON UNION – 22% PAYROLL TAXES – EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTIONS.
UNION – 32.5%. EACH UNION IS DIFFERENT.
SAG TALENT 33.5%
NON UNION TALENT 22%
Premiums. Crew work on a 10 hour day, Meal time is not included in the 10 hours. Time and a half after 10 hours. Double time after 12 hours. So if someone makes $500 for 10 hours, he gets $50/hr for the first 10 hours, $75/hr for the 11th and 12th hour and $100 for any hour over 12. A 16 hour day can end up being very expensive – our $500 man would make $1050. There are a few other rules such as we have to stop and feed people at least every 6 hours, but the time spent at lunch is not calculated in his time. If we work from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, with an hour lunch, that’s only an 11 hr day and our $500 man would make $575. We could start lunch any time between 12 and 1 without having to feed a 2nd meal. There is no limit to how long the work day can go. Turnaround time is 10 hours. Unions have holiday premiums. Any 5 days of work at standard rate pay, 6th day @ $1.5x pay, 7th day @ $2x pay. Non-union there is more room to negotiate. It is not unusual to negotiate 12 hour flat deals.
Union Talent is 8 hours, SAT $2x pay, SUN $2x pay.
The US has a very deep, multicultural and multilingual pool of talent, both human and animal. Specialist agencies exist to supply every kind of possible talent. Many of the world’s celebrities also live in the US.
Both SAG and non-union talent is available. The main costs and rules for talent buyouts are as follows:
One 8 hour Principal On-Camera TV Session is $627.75 (net) / $971.63 (gross)
***Please note, this assumes a weekday.
U.K. BUYOUT = 3 x $627.75 = $1,883.25 (net) / $2,914.89 (gross)
EUROPE = 2x
ASIA/PACIFIC = 2x
JAPAN = 1x
REST-OF-WORLD = 1x
WORLDWIDE = 9x (excludes all of North America)
INTERNET BUYOUT = buyout no longer available.
52 week internet use cycle – no buyout
$2,511.00 (net) / $3,886.53 (gross)
There is an internet extension which takes you from when the first 52 week internet cycle ends until the MPU, and those costs would be another $2,511.00 (net) / $3,886.53 (gross).
Made For Internet is 350% = $2197.15 and a Move Over To Internet is 400% = $2511.00 (Both are for 1 Year ONLY)
PRINT is not covered under SAG. At the time of the session, if you are going to take stills for PR/advertising purposes it needs to be negotiated separately.
SAG buyouts: SAG buyouts are for 21 months except for internet which is for 1 year.
The SAG foreign use fees are good through the maximum period of use of the commercial, which is 21mths from the session date. The internet is for 1 year (52 weeks) but it does not extend beyond the 21 month maximum period of use.
The top end models, though not union, tend to follow the same rules.
If requiring signatory, CPI co-producers fees apply.
Always negotiable, depending on the level of talent. We try to get 1 year buyout for TV, Print, and Internet for a flat $500-$1000.
United States Film Equipment
Equipment. The United States has a great depth of suppliers offering all equipment imaginable. Highly specialized equipment is found in Los Angeles and New York.
For those looking to bring in film equipment the US is an ATA carnet country. If you are bringing in gear from a non-member country you will need to hire a licensed US Customs Broker to put together a Temporary Importation Entry package.
Communications. Communication is key. Our agility and global experience allows us to customise the right communications systems for every shoot.
Web posted casting, scouting, and videoconferencing.
For clients that are unable to attend set we offer a virtual video village solution. This dedicated and secure high-resolution video streaming platform allows clients from one or multiple timezones to view setups without compromise and to participate in real-time with the team on set. Separate systems can be set up for the discrete conversations that are required to make a job run right. Working remotely with our local teams reduces your content production costs, turnaround times, carbon footprint, and risks associated with unpredictable global events.
Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production
Art department and set construction. The US offers the highest standard of art dept and construction as can be seen in the countless feature films produced throughout the country. The US has a plethora of experienced art directors, SPFX personnel, prop masters and riggers. Major set construction is very expensive versus some of the other options around the world but the quality is unmatched. All the major film studios have set and prop departments which rent to non-Studio productions, so we have resources at our disposal which are probably unrivaled in the world.
Studios and backlots. Many world renowned options to choose from.
Post Production. Very high standard.
Visas & Work Permits
Entry is subject to regulations from country of origin. Crew travelling on passports from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program can enter and film in the US for stays of up to 90 days. A valid ESTA is required prior to travel. Canadians can enter visa-free. Working media must enter under a Media Visa. Contact your local US embassy or representative for more information.
Transport & Accommodation
Transportation Infrastructure. Well established network of roads. The US is serviced extensively by several domestic airlines. Many international airlines service flights to the US.
Accommodation. Many film friendly hotels to choose from in the US. Please contact us for options and corporate rates. For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments.
Safety. The US is a very safe and reliable place for foreign productions to shoot. See here for up to date travel advice.
Projects. For an example of TV commercials, stills campaigns, online content, corporate videos, virtual reality 360 content, feature films, TV series and documentaries shot in the US, please see below:
Hire United States Production Support & Shooting Crew
If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in the United States, please contact us.
If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in the United States, such as a director, DoP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, please contact us.
We are able to provide you with answers, references and bids quickly.