Need an Authentic-Looking Movie Premiere for a Scene in Your Indie Film? Crash a Real One

When you're a filmmaker with no money, and you need a location for a scene, there's a good chance you're going to be stealing some shots without permits. That's exactly what filmmaker Chris Schwab and his team did when they needed a movie premiere for a scene in his micro-budget film Look Closer. When you live in the LA area, there are countless premieres every week, so what could be more realistic than sneaking your actor into a real one and getting the shots you need? Don't try this at home (or do if you're aware of the consequences).

Here's the BTS video showing what they did for the scene:

The Director of Photography, Brian C. Weed, tweeted some more details about the film (thanks to Matt Jeppsen of FreshDV for retweeting this):

I think the solution was pretty genius, and while I know there are probably a number of you out there who hate this sort of thing, as long as people's lives aren't in danger, and you aren't calling attention to yourself, most of the time it can work out. When your budget is low, and you want to give your film a bigger look, stealing locations is sometimes the only way. I've stolen countless locations for my films, and plan on stealing many more, so you can probably guess which side of the fence I'm on.

The best advice I could give for stealing locations is to move as quickly as possible, act like you belong there, and if you get caught, be polite, play dumb, and move along. There are different rules for all sorts of areas, public and private, so check with your local government to see when permits are necessary -- as you may very well live in a place that doesn't really require them depending on what you're doing or how you're shooting. For example, New York City generally allows handheld-only filmmaking in public places without permits with a small crew (LA, on the other hand, is a different story). Many private businesses in smaller towns and cities are very welcoming, so it can't hurt to ask for permission if you're trying to do anything that requires more gear.

Check out the trailer for the film, as well as more BTS videos showing the guerilla nature of the production:

The movie is currently playing the festival circuit, and you can read more about it over on their website.


[via Brian C. Weed & Matt Jeppsen on Twitter]

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Your Comment


Bottles of water... this man is a legend!

January 16, 2014 at 2:14PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


What are the consequences for not having a permit and getting caught? Have people been fined? Arrested? I tried to go about getting a permit to shoot at the beach near San Francisco, but it became a huge ordeal so we just shot it with the smallest crew we could.
I'd love to hear stories about what happened to people when they did get caught.

January 16, 2014 at 3:08PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I've never heard of anyone running in to trouble after the fact but you make a good point. With ever increasing public 'security' and surveillance and technology advancements in general I wonder how long it will be possible to sneak under the radar in this manner or at least, avoid any consequences if you do manage to get away with it.

January 16, 2014 at 6:12PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


In LA you will get booted off/shut down if you have a tripod out on city streets or county beaches. The cops will pull over and ask to see a permit. They get VERY antsy in Venice BTW.
No tripod = no problems 99% of the time.
If you need beaches best to use the smaller coves in Malibu. We have shot a TON unpermitted in Malibu. Just be cool. Or if you want the cheapest permitted beach, use the State beaches - about $150.

/worst experience shooting without a permit (non-news): had a machine gun stuck in my face shooting GVs on the streets of Cairo. 5 young Egyptian soldiers screaming at us in Arabic. Me and my asst were cuffed, arrested and stuck in a military police station for 14 hours til they let us out, having confiscated all the footage. We got our kit back though! We were shooting a project about EU subsidies for Saharan communities. Mostly just proud I did not piss myself.

January 16, 2014 at 9:57PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

You voted '-1'.

What about if you're using a monopod instead of a tripod? ;-)

January 17, 2014 at 10:36PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


I got booted out of that same beach they were at; El Matador.

I was able to bust off some shots with a homemade jib before a park ranger came by and kicked us out. It was a Sunday. Also, I found out they don't give beach permits for Sunday.

January 17, 2014 at 1:55PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Overall I agree, just do it and if you're crew is like what you had in NY you can get away with a lot. The issue with stealing a location happens at the end when a distributor really likes your film and wants to purchase it and you need to get E&O. Not having releases from people clearly visible in your film and various location releases can hamper you ability to get E&O. Not having E&O insurance can kill a distribution deal and that would suck.

January 16, 2014 at 3:14PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


That is exactly the thing that keeps me away from stealing places. Having a movie with out any form of release papers is a double edge-blade. With out talking about the assault team pointing their guns at your face. Here in Manhattan is a no no oh God... At least I died doing what I love.

January 17, 2014 at 6:51AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Great! I love it!

January 16, 2014 at 3:16PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


This is a great post. Kudos to the crew for imagination and daring. Added some great production value by thinking smart. And I loved the VFX video, funny stuff.

January 16, 2014 at 6:06PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Legit. I love indie filmaking haha...

January 16, 2014 at 8:51PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Ian B

2 thumbs up! Werner Herzog is also an advocate for guerrilla filmmaking... in an interview I recently saw he talks about how he had to forge documents (before photoshop) to cross borders for Fitzcarraldo.

January 17, 2014 at 11:03AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


FYI you can get on any US military installation with a pizza box. :) They did some great location stealing in "Another Earth."

BTW "pier" is misspelled in the "LA" video.

January 17, 2014 at 11:16AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


cool stuff. What about if someone sues for not wanting to be included in your movie? Did you get consent from everyone or do you need it?

January 22, 2014 at 8:59AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Jake Jabbs

I learned a lot from this and reading ever ones post. Good work guys.

January 27, 2014 at 8:43PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


The cops are a third less angry lol!

June 21, 2014 at 7:31PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM